For Tom Steller on His 10th Anniversary at Bethlehem Baptist

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Founder & Teacher,

Of all the classes that I taught
At Bethel then, of all I thought
Would be remembered when the years
Went by, one class alone appears
More clear, more sweet, more precious than
The rest. I reminisce, and scan
Six happy years of teaching Greek,
But I can find no higher peak
Among the mountains of those days
Than this one class God set ablaze.

My back was turned to face the board,
And then, as if God struck the chord,
While I drew one last arc above
The history of sovereign love,
The brilliant class became a choir,
And to the light was added fire.
You sang the great doxology
To celebrate the mystery
Of God's design — to set aflame
Our joy, and magnify his name.

O depth of riches, wisdom, truth,
Unsearchable in age and youth,
Inscrutable in all your ways!
None counsels you from ancient days,
None gives you gifts to be repaid,
None has his own with which to trade,
From you alone comes everything,
Through you we live, to you we sing.

Of all we learned this was the sum,
And set a theme for years to come.
It is a priceless memory,
The first of what God meant to be
Perhaps a life of doubled praise
Together in the final days
Of this old age and dawning reign
Of God. I tried to make it plain
From early on that ample pain
And tribulation will remain
Until the King wipes every tear
Away. I tried to make it clear
The day in Nazareth Hall you stood
Before me with your bride, a good
And handsome pair as I have ever wed:
I quoted Jesus' words, and said,

"You will have trouble in this world,
But let your cheer be good; unfurled
There flies above the fallen strife
The flag of my triumphant life."

And so we've learned from early on:
The kingdom comes like rays of dawn,
The reign of God, already here,
Does not yet fully now appear.
The end has come for sin and pain,
Yet for a season they remain.
We've learned it well, I think, first hand:
The pressures and the power to stand.

Four years went by, and in that time
You gave your heart and mind to climb
The pinnacles where truth is clear,
Behind a master mountaineer,
And came to love with me a man
Whose weakness magnifies what can
Be done by sovereign grace alone.
The glory of the Lord was shone.
And from this earthen vessel we
Have taken more of verity
And love than from a thousand brooks
We've tasted in as many books.
It was a gift to me that you
Should know and love the man I knew.
For common joy unites our song,
And common love makes love more strong.

And then ten years ago we came
To Bethlehem. We shared the same
Big house for three good years. And there
God built a bond as deep and rare
I think as men may dare attain,
And still let Jesus Christ remain
The one on which our life depends,
The Treasure and the Friend of friends.
God built by day and built by night,
He built in darkness and in light.
He made the brotherhood increase,
In quietness and times of peace.
But gave us deeper love and more
In dangers and in times of war.
We've learned why Jesus sent his men
To battle two by two. And when
I think about the time we fought
With demons through the night, I'm brought
To bow and render God his due,
That you were there and prayed me through.

And I could name a hundred times
(And press the limit of my rhymes)
That you have carried me in hope
When you yourself could barely cope.
This is the Spirit of the Lord
Who when he suffered still implored,
"Forgive them, Father, every one;
They do not know what they have done."
And mingle this with holy dreams,
With global scope and mission teams,
With fire and passion for the Name,
And tenderness for all the lame.

And I am not surprised tonight
That you must now mount up in flight
And after ten years in this place
Enlarge your field with truth and grace.

This is what Christmas means, we know.
And so with hope we let you go
And light for you our candle one;
It will burn bright until you're done,
Then lead you home still full of grace
To send two thousand in your place.