Sermon for Sunday, 9 August 2020
By Revd Ernesto Lozada-Uzuriaga
I grew up in a very traditional evangelical church. Everyone had their own Bible. We would read from our Bible regularly, as a family together and in my own personal devotionals every day. And I would carry my Bible to every church service, Bible study, youth group, summer camps, trips out, absolutely everywhere. My Bible would go with me. After all, we are the people of the book.
After my conversion, which was the day when I made a personal decision to follow Christ, in the summer of 1974, at the age of 13, I took the decision to treat myself by buying a new Bible. I had always wanted what I’d call it, the Missionary Bible. The Bible the missionaries used to carry it with themselves. However, I settled for what I could afford. And using all my savings, I bought a black, leather bound Bible with gold around the sides. It was a beautiful Bible, A5 size, not too big, not too small. And I remember well, I got it from the shop in the Bible Society.
I grew older with my Bible. I read it every day.
I memorized verses and I marked in colour key verses in the Bible. Red for sin, blue for heaven, green for salvation, yellow for promises, and so on and on. It was a rainbow with notes everywhere and many amens.
My Bible became my companion, accompanying me to many important and profound changing events in my life.
In 2005, I travelled to Cuba with my good friend Simon Lockett, a priest in the Church of England like me. We were invited by the Association of Evangelical Pastors to run a series of seminars over there. My friend Miguel, who is based in Miami, made all the arrangements and agreed to meet us in Havana, the day after our arrival. We were told that the delegation of pastors will meet us at the airport, and we were to accompany them. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we were tricked. Two guys pretending to be from the Association of Pastors holding signs with our names on, welcomed us. They took us to a bed and breakfast and then into town to change some money. They told us to wait in the lobby of an hotel.
And we wait, but they never came back for us. Instead, they went back to the B&B and stole absolutely everything we had – and I mean everything. We were left with nothing. They took our money and a lot of medicine we had collected for the people in Cuba and my much beloved Bible. It was a nightmare of an experience. The British consulate was on hand, thankfully, to help us to contact the real pastors who came to collect us to following day. We tried so hard to don’t let that one bad experience to spoil our time in the island, where we met so many wonderful people, hear so many amazing stories, and we shared so many, many wonderful moments.
It was only after we came back that I came to terms with what happened to us as the memory of what we went through sank in. I felt anger and guilt. Why I was so stupid? I asked myself so many times. I lost many, many things. But the loss of my Bible really hurt and upset me most. My dear Bible is gone for good. I lament it again and again. Something so important to me was taken away from me.
Still today, sometimes I wonder where my Bible is. Who could have it, will he or she read it? I wonder if my footnotes are of any help. Will my Bible bring comfort, salvation maybe? I want to believe it is well looked after. That it had found a new good owner, a new home.
If there is any place on the planet where it makes sense to lose a Bible, that place, without any doubt, is Cuba.
I pray that the person who has it will find comfort and wisdom in the Word of God, just as I did. So, from our gospel reading today, here are three thoughts for you to ponder upon when unexpected events turn your life upside down. Take courage. Don’t be afraid. Why did you doubt?