Monday, December 28, 2009

... but Joy Cometh in the Morning

How he would have loved this morning! Every tree turned into Christmas festooned with ribbons of sparkling hoar frost, lit by the glimmerings of a roseate sky. The intimate blanket of quiet resting lightly over this prairie town, the uncluttered peace of the horizon. And, just inside, sitting at the east window of the TH, the Monday morning men watching the sun rise and praying.

Our beloved Gordon departed from this world to enter into the next yesterday afternoon at 4:34, disappearing from our sight just as the sun slipped below the horizon. Deborah and Cathryn and his namesake Gordon were there, along with three of our aunts and two uncles.

As he was taking his leave of us, Debs held the phone to his ear and our Dad and their brother Clark spoke words of comfort and strength and release directly to his heart, that heart which had laboured long and hard over the previous 80 years and the past 17 days and was now about to enter its rest.

He left as he had lived, a man of deeply held convictions and strong opinions as to the correct order of things; but a quiet, unassuming man who didn't want to be a bother to anyone; a man who loved his family and his independence and his God.

He never forgot a birthday and called each year to wish us
He hated the metric system and daylight savings time
He spoke slowly but was a mental gymnast
He was a meticulous craftsman
He loved the outdoors
He would drive for miles to help someone in need

He was a good neighbour
He was a loyal friend
He was an attentive son
He was a devoted brother
He was a caring uncle
He was a faithful minister of the Gospel

Last night, at 6 o'clock, my Dad was scheduled to deliver the sermon at church. I took off from the TH's roast beef dinner hour to hear this other faithful man of God speak at such a difficult time. I know he had already been labouring and praying throughout the preceding Christmas week for the right message for this last Sunday of the decade. And now this.

The text he started with was John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." With God translated literally is face to face, nothing coming between.

And then he took us to Exodus and the detailed instructions for building the Tabernacle. Chapter 25, verse 1 lays the structure's foundation, not one of bricks and mortar but of willing attitude - "... an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering."

From thence proceeds the list of materials, the dimensions of the courtyard, the layout and furnishings of the temple. Dad brought us from the gates to the outer court, where the sacrifices for cleansing and atonement were performed on the brass altar; through the outer veil into the chamber that contained the table of unleavened bread and the seven-branched golden lampstand and where the priests would worship; and finally back through the inner veil to the most sacred area, the Holy of holies. The Holy of holies housed the ark of the covenant. Once a year the high priest would enter this area through the inner veil. No natural light penetrated the temple and no external sources of light were permitted to be brought in - the priest's way was illuminated first by the lampstand and then, in the Holy of holies, by the Shekhinah glory of God. The word Shekhinah means literally to inhabit, to dwell, a royal residence, the presence of God. I can only imagine how the priest so honoured would be forever changed by the inestimable privilege of being in the presence of God. Why would he ever wish to go back to the everyday world?

But as Jesus cried out on the cross, "It is finished!" this inner veil was torn from top to bottom, giving free access to that same presence of God to all who came to him. And there, with the ark of the covenant, was housed the mercy seat, something that - prior to Jesus' death - only one priest had access to only once a year. Romans 3:25 says, "God has set forth [Jesus Christ] to be a propitiation ... for the remission of sins." That word propitiation is exactly the same word as the word mercy seat in Exodus!

Only faintly now I see Him, with the darkling veil between;
But a blessed day is coming when His glory shall be seen.
What rejoicing in His presence, when are banished grief and pain,
When the crooked ways are straightened, and the dark things shall be plain.

Face to face I shall behold Him, Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory, I shall see Him by and by.
                                                    (Mrs. Frank A. Breck)

And Gordon, our dear Gordon, who so many years ago came with a willing heart and attitude to the mercy seat, is now face to face with the glory of God. No veil. No external illumination. Nothing between.

The sunrise I witnessed this morning was just a glimpse I was given through a veil of the first dazzling sunrise he experienced in the presence of the Son himself.

Although we miss him fiercely, why would we wish him back?

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