Mad Max and Glad Gord

I determined to return from my sabbatical last September in a posture of listening and co-discernment with the congregation. This was easier said than done as I logged over 60 hours a week for the first two weeks back. However I was soon able to find new rhythms so that my schedule became more manageable. I strongly felt that I was to give our congregation a rest and enjoy just being together. While there was so much to share from the sabbatical, I wanted to first listen. I was challenged afresh by the story of Elijah, who was so weary that he begged God to die. After he was nurtured by angel food, he was sustained, not by the drama of wind, fire, and earthquake, but by the gentle whisper of God. I resolved that listening for this gentle whisper would be our sustenance as we walked into our future together.    

Again, it was sometimes difficult for me to stay in this posture of listening. I grieved times when I saw “holes” in our programs that affected people. It took a lot of effort for me to restrain from trying to fill them. How was I to listen well with these gaping holes staring at me? Could our church be viable? Would people get impatient and leave? These are fears that pastors can feel. Remarkably, our church family seemed at peace, surrendered to God’s mercy in prayerful trust. I saw with fresh appreciation the maturity in our community and a commitment to each other that transcended the strength of our programs. We were not consumers looking for the flavour of the month to meet our own needs. Rather, we were a covenantal community who were on a journey together "for better or worse." 

On my second Sunday back in September, it was time to preach for the first time in over five months. It had been so long, I was actually a bit nervous! I felt a bit rusty! My task was to conclude “The Good and Beautiful Life,” book series and segue into “The Good and Beautiful Community” book series. Once I started, all nervousness evaporated. I felt a surge of joy and freedom. It was exhilarating! I had forgotten how much I love to engage a congregation in the Scriptures through teaching and preaching. I was born to do this. Not just anywhere, but here. Not just to anyone, but to these people. These are my people. I was home. Hearts were soft, hungry, and eager to receive the living word of God. We asked the Holy Spirit to come, and he came, as he always does when we ask.  

Then, that night, our wonderful adult son, Christian arrived. He was doing a Calgary-to-Vancouver Island delivery (Campbell River), and he stopped for a two-day visit on his way back. We had a tender visit with him, just hanging out together in this neighbourhood - the same neighbourhood that he had grown up in. VEV was his family of faith and he still feels more at home in VEV than any other church.

The future belongs to the... WHO?
While he was with us, we went for swims and workouts at Hillcrest and Temp pools and ate the legendary ice cream from La Casa Gelato. On impulse, we decided one night to go the late showing of Mad Max Fury Road in 3D. It was crazy, I know, but it was outrageously fun - pure eye candy with lots of action and special effects. The good guys won and the bad guys lost. I drank way too much sprite and ate way too much popcorn, but it was worth it. Oh, and I got at least one insight from the movie when Max asked, “Is Hope Cruel?” It made for a great sermon topic a few weeks later, during which Mason, one of our young adults, applied his spiritual gifts and drew a cartoon caricature of me, called, “Glad Gord.” 
A caricature designed by Mason, inspired during
 my Sep 27 sermon on Mad Max 

While Christian was here, he visited old friends. When he returned at night, he asked us to pray with him, for them. Do I dare say that I saw a pastor emerging? Then, all too soon, it was time for him to leave. He planned on driving through the night in his 1 ton moving truck through mountain passes, arriving in Calgary the following morning.  With a lump in our throats, we prayed with him one more time, and fought back the tears as he pulled away from the curb. 

I can’t describe the joy of our visit. As I thought of him driving through the mountains, anxiously watching my phone for updates, I wept much as I thought of him alone in his truck. I felt such an indescribable longing for him to see all of his dreams come true. 

After 300 samples at La Casa Gelato, we choose...

As I reflected on the sweetness of our time together, I realized in retrospect that he was no longer just my son whom I loved deeply. He was now my friend too. What greater gift is there than that?

We have escaped like a bird
    from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
    and we have escaped.
 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. 
(Psalm 125).