Saturday, April 16, 2016

I just heard some rembrances of Walt

Walt Gerber had been senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church for about 28 years before his retirement early in this millennium. I missed his memorial service a few days ago, but Carol and I watched part of the video recording.

I heard quite a few of Walt's sermons, though I attended MPPC for only about half of his tenure. To tell the truth, I don't remember a lot of what he said, apart from the phrase "hospital for sinners."

No, the biggest impact Walt had on me may have been through the words I heard today. Walt's colleagues recall his love and acceptance, his respect, his belief that God was at work in and through them. Walt always pointed people to Jesus; he talked with Jesus early and often. He knew many of his faults, and he went to Jesus with them.

One of Walt's "faults" was his reluctance to preach. He told us from the pulpit more than once (so I guess I did remember this) that every weekend was white-knuckle time. This became a blessing for the Church in that he would put other staff members into the pulpit quite often; he coached them and put them in front and eventually they graduated to become senior pastors, elsewhere in California, in Washington, in Houston (I think Doug F. has since moved to the east coast) and I don't know where else.

I can't imagine really being like Jesus or Paul, but I sometimes aspire to be like Peter. By this I mean I know I'm not sinless; I'm not self-sacrificial and I don't have as much love as Paul had. But Peter -- when he goofed up, he did it big-time. And when he repented, he did it big-time. I want to be like Peter.

And in the same way, I know I'm not as gifted in the ways I sometimes wish, but I can aspire to be like Walt. So that at my memorial, God willing some decades hence, there will be a few people who will say things like

  • I asked him for advice, and all he said was, "this is how you'll learn to hang on to Jesus";
  • I had written my resignation letter, and he called me out of the blue and said he loved what I was doing, and to keep up the good work;
  • I knew he was talking to Jesus then, because he was always talking to Jesus.
Walt wasn't perfect, but he was God's provision for MPPC--he was God's provision for the Church, and he used Walt at MPPC and turned his "faults" into blessings for the capital-C Church.

Why am I not like Walt today? One reason is that too often, I want you to think I'm clever or competent or something like that; therefore I say things or do things to try to get you to think that about me. If instead my aim were for you to think, "I'm loved" or "Jesus is watching over me to take care of me" or "God is working in everything that happens, so that I can grow up and be like Jesus," then I'd be further along the path toward Walt-ness.

Oh that my faults would become blessings for others through the grace of Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him!

No comments: