Vaya Con Dios My Friend

bob

As we move through this funny thing called life, we become something to other people. There are words that describe the sense of the relationship that exists between us. I could use many different words to describe the relationship that I held with the man in this picture with me. Pastor, Teacher, Supervisor, just to name a few. Eventually, this shifted over to the notion of Mentor…and as the years went on we added Colleague to the mix.

But above all, the word that meant the most to me to describe this man…he was my friend.

Bob Vaage might have started off as my pastor, but over the years he became much more than that. Mine was one of many lives that Bob influenced, but looking back it is very apparent to me just how important he thought that this was. Bob recognized gifts and talents within individuals, and then he worked to find opportunities for that individual to put the gifts to work.

One of the ways he did this was to encourage a 22 year old kid to take on the role of Council Secretary…an opportunity that would eventually provide the chance for a joke “Hey Scott, go to seminary.” It wasn’t long after that meeting, that Bob preached a sermon illustrating how we are all called to be “pastors.” We are all called to make a difference and live out the gospel in our day to day lives. That sermon had literal illustrations as well, as Bob walked around the sanctuary placing his stoles on different individuals.

I got the blue one if you’re wondering.

That moment stuck with me…and after several years of discernment, and many…MANY conversations with Bob, eventually I began seminary and the process towards ordained ministry. It was a long road with a lot of ups and downs. But eventually that chapter came to a close, and in addition to preaching the message at my ordination, Bob repeated the action of placing a stole around my neck…this time in a more official manner.

stole

In the years since, Bob continued to be my guide. Whenever something came up that threw me for a loop, I’d call him. He had this knack for asking the right questions to help me talk my way through the situation.

In many different ways, and in many different situations, Bob modeled what it means to be a pastor. He has shown me how to be a caring leader. And as I sit here, it strikes me with a touch of irony that he taught me what to do in this situation…and yet my role today is not pastor…and so what Bob taught me doesn’t really apply. And so I sit here, confused and hurting…wondering just what I should be doing, and my first thought is “Call Bob.”

But I can’t call Bob anymore, and in realizing this I have to accept the painful truth, that death has claimed my mentor…death has claimed my friend. And that hurts and I can’t make heads or tails out of it…but Bob taught me that when you can’t make sense of a situation, preach the gospel. Get yourself out of the way to let the gospel be the gospel and let God be God.

And the gospel tells us that there is another name that applies to Bob…one that describes the relationship that he holds with the Lord…Beloved Child of God. This is a name given to him in the waters of his baptism…and that’s a name that death doesn’t beat. That name means that Bob joined with Christ in a baptism like his…and now Bob has joined with Christ in a death like his…but the promise tells us that Bob will join with Christ in a resurrection like his.  We might not understand how…but that doesn’t take away the truth…while we were sinners, Christ died for us…because of his great love for us.

The apostle Paul writes about this in Romans chapter 8. He opens up by asking the question “what then are we to say about these things?” I often ask myself that same question, and I pose it to begin most funeral sermons that I preach. I think its a good thing to ponder on…but the promise of the gospel is revealed in Paul’s words, and they apply here. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing separates us from the love of God…not one thing…not pain, not suffering…not anger or sadness or confusion…and most importantly, not even death.  And today I cling to the promise that God has given us, that is made real in the life and the death and the resurrection of Christ. That promise says that God will be with us and we will be with God and nothing will stand in the way of that. That’s what we say about these things.

That’s what we say, because that’s the gospel, even in moments when the pain we feel tries to hide it, it doesn’t change. And I cling to the hope that Bob is now in a place where he wants us to know that its true…I believe that Bob is held in the arms of his savior. He has now crossed a barrier, and we can no longer see him. But…we remember that death is not the end, because God’s love for us is bigger than that.

Painful as it is, we say goodbye to Bob…and as much as I hate the idea of moving forward without him in my corner, I know that I am a better person because of his influence on my life. I am proud to call him my friend, and I know that where ever it is that he has gone, that God is with him.

Vaya Con Dios my friend.

 

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kevin Frey on November 27, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Well put Scott! Thank you.
    Kevin Frey

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jon Miller on November 27, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Well said Scott. A great man indeed.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Jim Hitchcock on November 27, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Thanks Scott

    Reply

  4. Posted by Deb Brodersen on November 27, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Thank you for these words, I hope they bring comfort to many.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Carol Ayres on November 27, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Thanks, Scott! Well said.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Kathryn/Richard on November 27, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Beautifully said. Deeply felt.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Trish Underberg on November 28, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Wonderful reflection of your relationship with Bob and may you comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone during these days. Peace.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Rikki Norton on November 28, 2016 at 9:41 am

    AMEN

    Reply

  9. Posted by Jack and Cheri Eichman on November 28, 2016 at 11:46 am

    What a loving tribute to Pastor Bob. Thank you for your reflections and your advice to turn to the scripture for the answers to our “why” questions. We have found comfort in your words..

    Reply

  10. Posted by Dave & Kris Rowley on November 29, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Thank you Scott.

    Reply

  11. God bless…so sorry for your loss.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Theodore Savas on November 29, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    I grew up with Bob since first grade. He was a wonderful guy, and this is awful news. I wish him Godspeed, and his family all the best. Such a loss.

    Reply

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