CAN I ASK A QUESTION?

So I have this dilemma that I’m trying to work through, and I’m hoping that somebody out there can give me a bit of insight. A couple of weeks back I preached a message on being with Jesus, contemplating his last days as he was preparing to go to the cross. Naturally, a topic such as this leads to having an intimate relationship with Jesus, linking it to the intimate relationship Jesus had with his Father.

Now because I had a great Dad, I have no problem using examples from my boyhood of our times together…and it is so easy to transition right into my close relationship that I have with Jesus. On that Sunday I pointed out that Jesus actually calls us friends, and desires a relationship with us similar to what he has with his Father.  I then gave everyone a handout that gave step by step instructions on how to have those ‘contemplative’ moments with Jesus for four days during Holy Week.

So far so good.

I then walked everyone through a sample of what a contemplative time could look like. As I looked out over the auditorium, it was clear that people were encountering the ‘Father’s love’ for them. Perfect.

The service was slowly brought to a close. People were gathering their things up, others we’re chatting with their neighbours, and then there were others who were still engaged in prayer. And then it happened. A person came up to me with bewilderment and questions written all over their face. They shared with me that they have a really hard time with talking about God as their Father. They didn’t have that type of relationship with their dad as I did with mine. In fact, their dad abused them. As I listened to them explain the pain they experienced as a child, I couldn’t help but wondering how many others that morning had the same difficulty with me referencing God as ‘Father’. I prayed for them that they would experience God’s love this week. They left with some hope. I left with many questions.

We only get one father in this life, and if that father is a ‘piece of work’, then referencing God as ‘father’ probably isn’t a good thing. Or is it?

I’ve been thinking about this since that Sunday. If the Bible referenced God as ‘mother’, my perception of God (and maybe my relationship) would be different. I had a good mother, but she wasn’t like my father. There are a couple of ‘issues’ that I have had to deal with as an adult, and still have to work out in my more insecure moments.

So I put this question to my home group. One of them said that they couldn’t relate to God as ‘father’ because of their experience with their own dad. They suggested I could use ‘teacher’ because probably everyone has experienced a good teacher. But we don’t get to choose our ‘dad’ – what we get is what we get. And some of us are not that lucky.

I’ve wondered if I should not use any comparison of God’s love towards us? But the Bible does. What about if the only good example we have is an uncle, can people see God as their ‘uncle’?  Maybe, but at the same time, I want to be faithful to Scripture.  The last thing I want to do is stir up ‘bad memories’ or painful emotions in someone. More than anything, I want people to encounter the God who loves them with a pure love, like no one else can.

I’ve also wondered if maybe I should take the opposite approach – that God demonstrates what a true ‘father’s love’ looks like, not what our earthly father’s love looks like. But at the same time, I don’t want to put a ‘heavy’ on dads and make then feel like complete losers that don’t and never will measure up.

Any suggestions out there?

Stunned, Shocked, Surprised…and Speechless!

This past February, two significant events occurred: one happened in our church, and the second occurred in my life. In our church we have this tradition we do every February called Just Because. It’s all about our Vineyard family loving on our Vineyard family…tangibly loving one another. It all started with our late Assistant Pastor, Rob Hall. Rob had a way about him where he just loved to do things spontaneously…and this was one of those things.

So for three or four weeks in February we take a glass vase or jar, place it on a table which is in the middle of our centre aisle, and ask folks to throw change or bills in…whatever they have on them. It’s not planned…ya just give…just because. At the end of the month we take all the cash and buy various gifts – some big and then some just to say ‘we love you, just because’. On either the last Sunday of February or the first one in March, we surprise people with the gifts throughout our service. It’s fun and a great encourager for those receiving. This Sunday, we did that and had a blast!

On February 5, it was my 10th anniversary as a pastor. Ten years when I walked away from a career I loved and into my calling. January and February have been tough months for me emotionally. I’m not really sure why my emotions have been all over the map, but they have been. My lows have been very low. I’ve wrestled with so many things to do with my calling and have had to face some tough realities about how I’ve walked out these ten years.

So this Sunday, we worshipped, gave out gifts, and I preached my heart out. At the midway point of my message at the second service I had turned around to read the scripture off the screen – so my back was to the congregation. I heard what sounded like someone coming into the sanctuary with a noisy stroller…and I just kept on reading this passage with all the passion I had. I turned around and there in front of me was my son Zac and his wife, Sara, with my daughter, Autumn with a food cart that had this huge cake on it. 

I was stunned, surprised, shocked, and utterly speechless. My brain went into high gear trying to figure out what was going on. I think I asked out loud what was going on, and from somewhere, I heard the words – ‘Just Because’. I looked at the cake and written were the words, “Happy 10th Anniversary”. I was at a loss for words and had no idea what to say or do.

And then the most surreal thing happened. Zac and Autumn took the mic and addressed everyone. In front of my congregation they honoured me for all the years that I worked away on my degree while working full time and being a dad. They hi-lighted my perseverance and how I never gave up, regardless of how difficult it was. How I have been an inspiration for them. My wife, April, then got up and shared with everyone the demands of pastoring and how she is proud of me for how I have handled the past ten years.

I was presented with letters and cards from children and adults, gifts, a photograph of April and me signed by everyone in the congregation, and a photo album of various photos (early married years, policing, and pastoring).

Yesterday was absolutely amazing for me. I serve an awesome group of people who passionately love Jesus…and love their pastor. Jesus is good to me, and he sure puts up with a lot from this guy. I’m so thankful it was a cake on a cart and not a pie in the face!

Oh yes…I did find out who was responsible for pulling this off without me catching so much as a whiff of what was happening. But that’s for another post…I promise!