Sunday, February 26, 2006

Jack, God, and Love.

A Tribute To Jack Linklater, Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father and Friend to Many by Bob Stenhouse

I am humbled to be up here to speak of my friend and mentor Jack. You cannot help but speak of God and Love when you attempt to speak of Jack. Jack’s faith in our Lord Jesus Christ defined who he was, and determined what he did. Jack and I were friends and fellow students at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton. Last Tuesday was Valentines Day and I was scheduled to speak in our chapel service. I thought, what in the heck could a former hard-boiled, tough talking, rough around the edges undercover cop possibly have to say about love. And as I prepared my message, reflecting on Jack’s influence on me and in this world, I came to a an even deeper understanding and conviction in my heart and soul and mind, that God is love. There are many descriptors of God in the Bible, and many more yet in theological writings. But there is one so succinct, and powerful in it’s simplicity that is found in 1 John 4. God is love.

Jack knew this at his core. He not only experienced the truth of God’s love, but he understood what that meant for his life. And if there was ever a man who lived out the greatest commandment to love God and love others, it was Jack.

There is often times confusion, doubt, fear, apathy about who God is and what significance he has in our lives.

If there is ever any doubt about who God is, and what he desires for our lives, it seems to me to be perfectly clear in 1 John 4:7-21. God is love.

Jack was not always a follower of Jesus Christ. And Jack was no stranger to the dark and ugly and evil side of life. As you know, Jack worked in the correctional system for most of his life. He eventually became warden of the Edmonton Maximum prison.

Jack and I used to compare stories of God’s grace in our lives, and the dark valleys that we have traveled Jack also saw the dark and ugly side of life as the warden in the prison system. The stuff you see in the movies, the violence, the sexual perversions, the hatred, are all real.

But I want to tell you a story about grace and love. I hope you don’t mind stories, seems to me that Jesus taught in story; stories have a way of bringing the truth of the scripture to life. Some of you may have heard Jack tell a story about a man who was convicted of the most repulsive of crimes, the rape and murder of a child. In the prison system these people are ostracized and beat up often, sometimes killed. So Jack was making his rounds and walked into the woodworking shop and this man was standing alone in the corner a mixture of fear and hatred and loneliness on his face. By this time in his career Jack was a strong Christian. In front of all of the other inmates and several guards Jack said to this man “ you look like something is bothering you deeply”. The man told Jack that he knew his crime made him an outcast and hated by everyone. Jack felt prompted by the spirit and asked him if he could pray for him. The man started to tear up and nodded yes. Jack prayed for this man in front of all of the other hardened criminals. Praying for God’s mercy and love and forgiveness. This is a scene right out of a movie.

Now that is grace and love in action. My friend and your friend Jack, seeing this man as Jesus would have seen him. Jack would tell you that it is easy to love the loveable. If there was ever a man who we would see through our own fallible humanness that did not deserve of love and mercy it was this convict. But Jack listened to the Holy Spirit. We don’t know what horrific things happened in this mans life that brought him to where he was on that day. Jack’s mercy and grace and ability to allow God’s love flow through him to a man whose crime was repulsive, was God’s love in action. Our friend Jack chose to see this man as a child, broken and wounded, full of sin, not knowing what suffering and abuse he may have experienced himself that brought him to where he was. He chose to see him as Jesus would and at that moment he took a risk of love.

God is love. And Jack understood that radical transformational change that comes through a belief in Jesus Christ begins with a representation of that love and mercy and grace through other people.

It is God’s love, his sacrifice for us, the free gift of forgiveness through Jesus that brings hope and light into this often times dark and confusing world. Jack experienced this truth, spoke this truth, and lived out this truth.

Jack would want you to know this, and this is the legacy that he leaves. It is the love of Christ that transforms lives. It is the love of Christ that brings miraculous healing to the body and soul. Jack knew this and I know this. As I think about my own healing of a hardened heart.

And in a story that is too long to go into today, the message of redemption and love and grace that is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, pierced through the layers of my protection of my heart like a hot knife through butter. My soul awoke, my heart began to feel deeply again, I cried, and continue to do so, more than ever in my life. I am loving people again. And I loved the man we are here to honor and remember today. He showed me what it meant to be a man of God.

In the first letter to the Church in Corinth, the apostle Paul puts the proper perspective on life and love. And in there he tells us, that if we have all the knowledge, material possessions, worldly success, talents, brainpower, and have not love, we have nothing, and our words are empty.

Taylor Seminary is a place of learning, a place to become Christ minded. These last two years if I wanted to learn about deep philosophical theology or the mysteries of the Bible I would go and see one of our gifted professors to teach and guide me in the way of God. But for these last two years if I wanted to learn about love, I would go for lunch with my friend and mentor Jack. Jack knew love indeed Jack was love. And I am going to miss our lunch dates.

Jack would be the first one to point to the Amazing Grace of Christ that he received that allowed him to love.

One writer writes this about loving through death,

I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love. Though some day we all have to part with those we love, they are not lost. We are always better for having loved. In this way, love transcends even death.

What does God want from you and me? Does God want us to think the right thoughts or to do the right things? Of course. But above all God wants us to be involved in right relationships. When the Bible says, "God is love," it is saying that God is a relationship. Love has no value or meaning in a vacuum. Right relationships are not produced by right thoughts or right actions. Just the opposite. Right thoughts and right actions are produced by right relationships.
Leonard Sweet


Blogger Strawbari Gurl said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. I find it encouraging that you find comfort in your memories of him. I happened on your site from a search for: "widower, christian". Anyway, I have enjoyed your site so far and plan to come back.

10:31 AM  
Blogger naomi said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This man was instrumental change in my life. and he basically saved me from a corrupt system. I moved on and was hesitant to contact him , originally we had contact but we grew distant and lost that contact. I will remember that when i got out he had helped me like a father in my life and actually helped me with the purchase of my first new car, looking for that car and guiding me where i needed guidance. At the end of one of those days, he took me for a burger and fries and we sat outside on a picnic table and talked...
i never did get to say thank you jack, i mean i probably did but not heart felt and adequate considering what you did for me. i was really disheartened to hear you passed but you are with god now sir and he will take care of you. Joseph Harms thanks you sir and i one day look forward to shaking your hand again. you were a men among men, god fearing and honorable.

10:20 AM  

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