Summary: God drew near. In the incarnation the King left His throne to draw near to His people. What does this say about Who God is?
So. You survived the apocalypse. Well done. I, for one, am glad to be here still, in the land of the living.
And, I’m very happy to be back with you, to be back in the community where I belong, to be back with my people, the church and the mission that I love.
You know, there's nothing like belonging. There’s nothing quite like being a part of something you believe in. There’s nothing like being known to another.
As some of you know I recently returned from a sabbatical, an extended leave where I was away from the church and from the mission for 24 weeks, nearly 6 months.
I had been looking forward to a break. I’ve been serving at Yonge Street Mission for over 27 years, and it was simply time for me to take a break.
The first 7 or 8 weeks away was camping with Barbara and family friends, and then getting ready to go with Barbara to the UK to celebrate our 25th anniversary.
We had an awesome time. 11 cities in Ireland, Scotland, England and South Wales in 20 days. It was intense, but it was great.
Then we got back from the UK and Barbara went back to work in her kindergarten class. And I was on my own.
Some of you know that one of my objectives was to get a good grounding in playing the cello, an instrument I’ve always wanted to play but never had the time to really invest in.
I started to learn the cello, taking lessons and practicing a lot. I did lots of stuff around the house too, and I spent time with my elderly mom. All things I wanted to do.
But somewhere around the middle of September I started to ache. I started to realize that the rhythm of my life was off. I felt a bit lost.
I really started to miss you all. And I realized maybe for the first time how much my inner life is tied to my work here.
So September and October were like that. Starting around the beginning of November things got better. I got back into a fresh discipline of reading lots of Scripture and, of course, prayer - fairly lengthy devotions that really had a big impact.
I prayed for you. I prayed for Pastor Lee who I knew was even more busy than usual because of my absence. Lee did a superb job in my absence keeping the boat afloat.
He deserves a break! I prayed for the worship leaders and the worship team. To each of you, please accept my heartfelt thanks for all your great service planning and organizing and leading worship.
It’s possible that some here don’t know all that goes into preparing and setting up and practicing and leading just one service. You guys led 24 services in my absence.
I couldn't be more pleased with the reports I received while I was away. A special shout out to Carny and James and Maryellen and Jan who were the worship leaders in my absence. And to William who’s continue to do a ton of work in the background for the church, and to Crystal, Corinna and Rio and again James for taking care, along with William, of all the set up.
And I prayed for the ministry and ops teams; but mostly I prayed for each of you by name as God led me.
Anyway, I spent a lot of time just thanking God for bringing me to the mission, and I started to long to return.
It’s funny. Maryellen told me before I left that 75% of people who take sabbaticals decide when they are away to move on.
As soon as I heard that I knew that wasn’t me. But it was good to be away, because I am refreshed.
I am extremely pumped about being back where I belong. I am probably a more disciplined disciple of Jesus.
So...belonging; and leaving where you belong. And returning. This got me thinking about what this season is about...it is about the miracle of God drawing near, bridging the enormous gulf that existed between the Creator and His creation.
It is about God choosing Incarnation over abstraction.
God choosing to be known by His creatures, not to remain distant and unknowable.
It is about God breaching all seeming kingly propriety, all normal kingly behaviour. It is about God using His divine prerogative, His authority and power, not just to rule from the heavens as is good and right and just, but to come down from his throne.
That is also good and right and just, but it also reveals something about God that the world needed to know. He is kind. He is kind.
Do you know that about God? That He is patient and kind and loving, as a good father is to his children. As a mother dotes upon and favours her children, God does with us.