We have been told that John Stott passed from this life with the strains of the Messiah ringing out. I am sure that as he passed through the pearly gates an even greater chorus sang to greet him as he entered into the presence of the Messiah himself. And here on earth we are now blessed with multitudes of tributes to this marvelous Christian leader.
I did not know John Stott well. Others certainly are better placed to offer major tributes. But the times that I did spend with him were spiritual highlights. Especially the day he hosted me for lunch.
It was the late 1980s and I was teaching a summer course at New College Berkeley. During that two week session John Stott visited the campus for a few public presentations. I attended his first talk, eager to see and hear in the flesh this man who had so influenced me through his writings. When I arrived at the lecture hall, I had a difficult time finding a seat—the place was packed. And my hope for a chance to shake his hand afterward was not to be fulfilled. Long lines of people formed to meet him and have him autograph the books folks were clasping. So I left and went back to the room where I was staying, to work on my class lecture for the next day.
About two hours later, someone knocked at my door, telling me I had a phone call. It was John Stott. He had been told that I was in attendance at his talk, and he was sorry he missed meeting me. Was there any chance, he asked, that we could have lunch together the next day? “Oh, yes!” I replied. “I would love to take you to lunch!” No, Stott said, the lunch had to be on him. And then he identified a time when we could meet, at a New College classroom.
Before we met, I checked out a few Berkeley restaurants, fully intending to override his offer and pay for the privilege of spending some time with him. When I arrived at the appointed place, though, John Stott handed me one of two small paper bags, and led me into the empty classroom. We sat facing each other in the little desk-seats, and he prayed a blessing over the lunch he had prepared for us: baloney sandwiches, apples and orange juice. I came to see that event as a kind a eucharistic feast!
I know that the lines to meet John Stott in heaven will still be long ones when I get there. And I also know that we can’t take anything with us when we pass into the Beyond. But I am hoping somehow that the Lord will let me in with two baloney sandwiches, two apples and a carton of orange juice with two paper cups.