Last night at the end of a long day full of celebration I walked out the church doors nearest to my study and heard the doors close behind me for the last time. I took a quick look at the stars in the beautiful night sky and then I drove out of the church parking lot carefully taking one last glance at the church sign and building before heading home. As I did this I was struck with the reality that everything was as it was supposed to be.
This is the end of a chapter not the end of the story.
My day started like most Sundays. I was determined to keep things in routine. I thought that might be the only way I could manage the emotion of the day. So I got up at my regular time, turned the kettle on for my cup of tea, settled in to my green chair and proceeded to do what I do every Sunday morning. I prayed over and through my sermon a number of times asking God to do what only He can do with His words. I didn’t need to familiarize myself with the outline of my sermon. I knew what I was going to preach on four months ago. When we knew that we were leaving Compass I began to think of what my last words should be. I was determined to do what I believe God wants every preacher of His word to do, lift Jesus high.
The text for the morning was Revelation 1:12-20. The presence of the risen and glorious Jesus Christ is the greatest unseen reality in our lives and the life of the church.
When I arrived at the church building at 7:50 a.m. I realized that even though I wanted it to be just like every other Sunday, it was clearly not that at all. When I arrived to my office there was a big Muchas Gracias sign hung up from wall to wall to wall. For some absurd reason we had kept this sign that we created ten years ago. And today it was coming out. When I made my way to the auditorium I could hear the worship team practicing and as I was about to walk in, it hit me. This was going to be the last time I did this. It didn’t help that worship team members on stage started waving to me and the sound tech guys were unusually friendly (put that in just for them).
Our two services on Sunday morning were packed with people and so full of worship. It was awesome!
When I was asked what I wanted for my farewell I made one request. My request was that past and present staff members be asked to attend and be involved in the day. Our staff team has been like family to us and we have cherished our time with each of them. It was great to have so many of them attend and some of them participate in the services. Having staff, elders and spouses commission us to whatever is next for us in ministry was such a moving experience for both Brenda and me.
I love preaching the Scriptures and I enjoy working with our worship teams in developing services that will deliver a big God honouring idea. When word and worship work together great things happen. And I had the sense on Sunday that great things were happening in the lives of many. Being reminded that Jesus is who he is wherever he is was poignant. Watching many wrestle with the fact that Jesus is in the middle of their lives with all of his majesty and power was priceless.
Some of our family members attended the 11:00 service. I was thrilled to be able to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to them once again. It was great to share lunch with them afterwards before Brenda and I made our way home for a very short rest and then it was back again for a time of celebration. Things were supposed to start at 5:00. When we got there for the staff group photo at 4:45 the parking lot was almost full. We were overwhelmed with how many people came out. As I told everyone there that evening, I was expecting my parents and a few friends.
We laughed and cried all evening. Hugs all around. Soul Collective brought us some great jazz. Ken Derksen and Julianne August were amazing mc’s. The staff and many who were involved in small group with us for years worked tirelessly on our behalf. We were overwhelmed with all of the love. I especially was moved by the video’s. The montage of some of the videos and video out-takes, especially the day we taped at the goat farm, had me laughing so hard that I was crying. Reading the many comments on Twitter and Facebook at the end of the evening made me realize how much we love this church and how much they love us. I am glad that we could leave celebrating our love for one another.
Compass is an amazing group of people who are on a mission to make disciples who make disciples across their region and around the world. It is only out of obedience to what we believe God is calling us to (as of yet to be determined) that we leave the church family that we love.
As we reflect on the words that people have written and spoken to us for days to come we do so knowing that things are indeed as they are supposed to be. Yesterday was like an exclamation point at the end of a meaningful chapter in our lives. It feels good to have an exclamation point at the end of this chapter.