Abraham came into the bedroom just before he went to bed Sunday evening after all the anniversary festivities and took me around the waist and said, “I’m glad you’ve been a pastor for ten years.” Karsten’s embrace after the evening service was firm and eloquent. Barnabas drew a picture of me shaking hands with him. Ben, I am sure, sank his pick and laid a brick with some extra zeal in Papua New Guinea.
One of the things that make this so precious is that I have met young men and women who are estranged from the church because of the way churches have treated their fathers who were pastors. They tell me horror stories of contention and meanness. I listen and I groan for the body of Christ. And then when I am alone, I get down on my knees, like I did again this morning, and thank my Father for Bethlehem. Nowhere in my life have I been treated with such grace and kindness—perhaps with the exception of the home I grew up in.
Everyone can imagine that this is a great encouragement. But maybe everyone doesn’t realize what it means to me that my sons can watch their father treated with such honor and love and mercy by a church full of people. Do you realize the power for good that this has in their lives? They went to bed thinking—and will go on thinking—people love my father; people value what my father has done with his life; people say they have been changed by my father’s ministry; people say the Word of God has power. Therefore, if my sons ever forsake the church, if they ever turn on their father and squander their goods in the pigpens of the world, it will not be your fault. You have loved them in loving me. And my heart is full of love to you for it.
Not only that. You gave them a golden occasion to hear their grandfather preach. Not to mention the pleasure it was for me. It was like the old days when I would go with him in the summers to hear him preach in evangelistic crusades. He has lost none of the fire. As far as I know he chose his own topic without anyone telling him what to focus on. This was God’s word for us I believe, telling us again what the need of the hour is. He called it the “upon ministry” of the Holy Spirit—the “enduement” with the Spirit, the filling of the Spirit. Beginning September 9 I plan to begin a series of messages from the book of Acts that will inevitably take up this theme of Spirit and Power as the Lord presents it to us in his word. So I believe God’s hand was in the planning of the 10th anniversary celebration in many ways, pointing us forward and strengthening us for the great work.
Very personally and earnestly Noël and I want to thank you all for how powerful and precious the day was last Sunday. A very special thanks to Liane Laurion for so much TLC with so many details right down to the symbolism of the magnificent flower arrangement in the sanctuary. (You and David are precious partners in the joy of this service.) And thanks to Marilyn and Randy and Rick and Marty and the deacons and Leah (for "A Mighty Fortress"!) and all who spoke and wrote letters. Now let’s keep doing this kind of encouraging for each other. If love can cover the multitude of my faults so completely, it can for all the rest of us too.