Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tom Carson: an ordinary pastor

How fitting--on the heels of my last post comes D. A. Carson's latest book, Memoirs of An Ordinary Pastor. It's a biography of his own dad's faithfulness in shepherding a small flock in once-predominantly Roman Catholic Quebec. Carson's closing words are about the life of his father Tom, but I am sure they ring true of many other men (and even some women) who trust more in the Holy Spirit to build and strengthen the church than in their own programs and appeal.

Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people … testify how much he loved them. He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book. He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday’s grace was never enough. He was not a far-sighted visionary, but he looked forward to eternity. He was not a gifted administrator, but there is no text that says “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you are good administrators.” His journals have many, many entries bathed in tears of contrition, but his children and grandchildren remember his laughter. Only rarely did he break through his pattern of reserve and speak deeply and intimately with his children, but he modeled Christian virtues to them. He much preferred to avoid controversy than to stir things up, but his own commitments to historic confessionalism were unyielding, and in ethics he was a man of principle. His own ecclesiastical circles were rather small and narrow, but his reading was correspondingly large and expansive. He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer lists.

When he died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on the television, no mention in Parliament, no attention paid by the nation. In his hospital room there was no one by his bedside. There was only the quiet hiss of oxygen, vainly venting because he had stopped breathing and would never need it again.

But on the other side, all the trumpets sounded. Dad won entrance to the only throne-room that matters, not because he was a good man or a great man—he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor—but because he was a forgiven man. And he heard the voice of him whom he longed to hear saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.”

If there was ever a life well lived, it sounds to me like Tom Carson was the one who lived it. It almost brought me to tears to read this about him, because it is just like the picture of the life I long to live, in all its humble beauty.

1 comment:

Ted M. Gossard said...

Wonderful, Andrew, and so very well said, by D.A. and by yourself.

May that desire of yours, in Jesus, be fulfilled through all your days 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12