“Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies – so the living should take this to heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:2, NLT
One of the most meaningful things I did this past week was attend the U.S. Memorial Service for John Stott, former Rector of All Souls Church in London. He was a true ambassador of Christ. Four things in the service stood out to me.
1. During the prelude, I paged through the bulletin, which was appropriately lengthy . A lot of people had been asked to take part in this service – Sara Groves, Michael Card, Timothy Keller to name a few . . . The most impressive thing in the bulletin, to me, was printed on the back cover.
John Stott’s Daily Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence
and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause
your fruit to ripen in my life:
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness,
Gentleness, and Self-Control.
Holy, blessed and glorious trinity, three persons in one God,
have mercy upon me.
Creator and Sustainer of the universe,
I worship you.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Savior and Lord of the World,
I worship you.
Sanctifier of the people of God,
I worship you.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever, Amen.
2. Part of this hero of the faith’s remembrance in the bulletin read: “John Stott loved Scripture, and for over 50 years he read the whole Bible through annually. It became a pattern to rise at 5:00 am daily to read and pray.”
[Personal reflection here. Do any of you remember that old television commercial where a few young boys, watching Michael Jordan – famous Chicago Bulls basketball pro – shooting baskets, said: “I want to be like Mike!”?]
Well, I want to be like John.
3. During the memorial service, someone shared one of John’s Stott’s [mischievous] quips:
The English love the Gospel because it gives them something to talk about
The Welsh love the Gospel because it gives them something to sing about.
The Irish love the Gospel because it gives them something to fight about.
The Scottish love the Gospel because . . . it’s free.
4. One of the last things in the program was a brief and thoughtful message by Tim Keller. He spoke about the example of John Stott, referencing Hebrews 13:7: “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.”
Tim Keller encouraged us to be:
A. Convicted by John’s Kingdom vision.
B. Cautioned by John’s cultural learning curve. As John traveled, taught, and invested eternally around the world, he was a man who listened, not a man who was myopic.
C. Chastened by his leadership controversies. Tim mentioned that although John was a humble man, not everyone agreed with him, and John – like anyone else who stands up for what they believe – sometimes became involved in controversies of one sort or another. Tim emphasized that even in a controversy, John was always gracious, diplomatic, and irenic. [That word irenic was new to me. I came home and looked it up in the dictionary. It means peace-loving and conciliatory.]
D. Instructed by John’s great innovations:
– John reinvented expository preaching. [I remember going to Urbana, 1970 and hearing John Stott preach on John Chapter 13 from the Bible. Powerful.]
– John was willing to create and organize institutions.
– John forced evangelicals to deal with social injustices.
– John created evangelicalism – seemingly halfway in between fundamentalism and liberalism – being orthodox in doctrine, abreast of scholarship, and accessible to all.
5. Empowered by the knowledge of his present glory. [I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:1-2 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”] Based on what the Bible teaches about heaven, I’m sure that John is worshiping Christ around that throne.
I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the memorial service for John Stott – a hero of the Christian faith to many. In the days to come, I’ll be pondering the things I heard . . .