I am just about impossible to surprise. For instance, I usually always manage to figure out, even when I am not trying, what my Christmas presents are. However, I was had this past week. The wily Buz Graham and the small group leaders at Christ Presbyterian were in cahoots to keep me in the dark on a most wonderful scheme.
This past year we have been making our way with Christian in John Bunyan’s classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, as a united small group effort involving the whole congregation. It was a thrilling, sanctifying journey together to the celestial city. I created a curriculum based on Crossway’s beautifully crafted edition and lectured regularly to the small group leaders on the life of Bunyan and the theology of Pilgrim’s Progress. Every other Sunday night we met in one another’s homes and studied together. We called our season together An Ancient Journey to a New City.
Well, last Wednesday night, as Buz had gathered the small group leaders to orient them to our new united small group study of Dr. Philip Ryken’s King Solomon: The Temptations of Money, Sex, and Power, he insisted I attend. At the end of the meeting, he kindly mentioned that he and the small group leaders were grateful for the work I had done over the past year in Pilgrim’s Progress.
I had no idea what awaited me.
It was glorious!
You see, a few months ago, I mentioned that a particular illustration in the Crossway edition was my favorite. All the paintings by Mike Wimmer in that book are marvelous. But, there is one that touched me in a unique way, as it spoke to my own heart’s desire to be a shepherd after God’s own heart (Jer 3:15). You can see the picture on p. 168 in the Crossway edition. Christian and Hopeful are in the delectable mountains, which represents the church. They stop for while to be comforted by the shepherds, the pastors, who are pictured holding the sheep and watching over them at pasture. That’s what we do as shepherds – we comfort the sheep and the battle weary soldiers of Christ.
As Buz expressed his and the whole team of small group leaders’ appreciation, he presented me with a large present, wrapped in plain brown paper. I could tell by its shape, it was a picture frame.
I bet you can see where this is going.
I tore the paper away, to find a one-of-a-kind framed and matted Giclee of the original.
I wept over the beauty of the gift. I wept because of the people giving it to me. I wept because of the privilege of being a shepherd among Christ’s flock.
I can’t take my eyes off of it.
Thanks you to all who contributed and worked with me on this remarkable journey with Bunyan. Thanks to Buz for pulling one over on me and so thoughtfully and creatively contacting the artist to obtain a reproduction of this painting. Pray that, by God’s grace alone, I would be a faithful shepherd as long as the Lord gives me breath.