This past weekend we had the privilege of going back to Switzerland to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Westlake Church, the church where we served for 17 years until July of this year. It was great to see old friends, to attend the party on Saturday evening and to participate in the two church services on Sunday, one in the original congregation in Nyon and the other in the new congregation in Lausanne.
At the party on Saturday night, I was asked to share a highlight of my 17 years at Westlake and some friends have graciously suggested I post it on my blog. So, for those of you who want to see it in print, here it is – perhaps a little bit different, since I didn’t have the printed copy with me when I spoke on Saturday night and also I have allowed myself the license to develop it a little bit with the hindsight of the weekend’s events.
My highlight of 17 years at Westlake is a collage, a mosaic – not of photographs but of word pictures – of people’s stories where I had the privilege of seeing God at work in their lives. Sometimes the story is of my own life or that of my family, sometimes the stories of the wider Westlake family. If you think you can see yourself in here, you might be right – or ot might be an excerpt from someone else’s story because in reality all of our lives are similar, we often struggle with the same things, we face similar issues, and sometimes we even win similar victories.
So let’s look at the collage and see what we can see.
- I think of a young woman who came to faith in Christ after a long intellectual battle with Him and stood at her baptism to testify to His work in her life.
- I think of a couple whose marriage was on the brink of breakdown and divorce. They decided to give it one more chance and God rescued them so that today they are seeking to work out what God’s call on their lives means as they live as a Christian husband and a Christian wife.
- I think of a middle-aged man who was very seriously ill, went through major surgery, and God restored him to health.
- I think of a woman held tight in the grips of a dark depression – God came alongside her and graciously released her from the stubborn tentacles of that dreadful disease so that she began to help others in similar struggles.
- I think of an older woman who came to faith in Christ and was forever grateful for the fellowship she found among God’s people at Westlake.
- I think of a woman who battled cancer and today rejoices in God’s touch of healing on her life.
- I think of a woman whose marriage broke down but God gave her the grace to persevere against all the odds and to continue to trust Him through it all.
- I think of a young man who came to faith in Christ, was baptised, and although he continues to struggle with difficult personal issues, he doesn’t give up but allows God to transform his heart, if not his circumstances.
- I think of a young man who heard God’s call on his life and is now in training to be a pastor.
- I think of a woman who battled cancer but God called her home to enjoy everlasting, eternal life with Him whom she loved and served.
- I think of a woman who has drunk in the water of the gospel message and allowed it to shape and transform her so that she is living a victorious life which testifies to God’s faithfulness in the midst of challenging circumstances.
- I think of a young woman who heard God’s call to make a difference in the world and has gone to serve Him in another country, in another culture very different from her own.
- I think of a couple who struggles in their marriage but who choose to stay together, to accept God’s plan for commitment to Him and to one another, and to continue to work out their issues.
- I think of a man who came along to church from time to time with his wife but resisted God’s call – he came to faith in another place, at another time, because God continued to pursue him.
All of these lives were entwined with mine, many of them were entwined with yours. The story of the Wilsons was entwined with the story of Westlake for 17 years. Each of your lives in entwined with one another’s now. What a blessing! What a privilege! And as Kerstin Mercer reminded us on Sunday evening, what a challenge! As we each walk with the pathway God has chosen for us, we have the immeasurable privilege of knowing Him and allowing Him to shape us by the gospel. We also have the tremendous – and sometimes daunting – privilege of being part of a community, a church, where God chooses to shape and transform us by our interactions with one another. For, as Paul Tripp is so fond of saying, ‘Change is a community project’.
So Happy Birthday Westlake! And may you continue to be a place where people can share their struggles, own their pain, admit their sin and allow the gospel to shape them and transform them — to the glory of God!’