A Father’s Embrace from Victor
Today I conducted a family-only funeral for my friend, colleague in ministry, theological and pastoral mentor, and “father” figure: Dr. Victor M. Matthews, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Bonnie, Victor’s wife of 67 years, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were there. Before Monday at 11:00 a.m., there were four living Victor M. Matthews in the clan. Now there are three. Victor was born February 16, 1921 and met Jesus face to face on March 10, 2008.
The first time I met and heard Victor was in his seminary classroom. I went there invited by a friend. Trained in philosophy and theology, Victor was teaching about Jesus and the woman at the well. He made this statement, “Jesus gave her her rightful place in his life.” That is, Victor said, Jesus treated her as a human being who deserved his full respect. I never forgot that lesson or those words.
I think it is safe to say that Victor’s greatest joy, his most passionsate quest, and enduring theme of his teachings was “the love of God.” Victor was both thrilled and haunted by this massive divine reality. God’s love was the greatest experience and most intense challenge for Victor. He taught it, prayed it, preached it and lived it.
Victor taught many of us the disciplines of healing prayer and “warfare” prayer. He taught us well about the Spirit and the gifts. But most of all Victor infected us with an overwhelming passion to know and follow Jesus Christ.
One of my greatest memories is hearing Victor say to me in his rich, deep voice, “John, I am so glad you’re my pastor. Pray for me, John.” I used to think to myself, “I am like a flea on the lion here.” Yet, there was a gentle, humble reality in Victor’s voice. He longed to have a pastor.
One closing memory. I used to visit Victor at his home, in his study, to listen, learn and receive prayer. Victor always had a little symbolic ceremony. I’d sit in the chair next to his desk. Victor would turn toward his credenza and with great flare pick up his phone and unplug the phone jack and set the phone down and turn back to me. What was this little drama all about? His actions told me, “John, I am now giving you your rightful place in my life. The most important person to me right now is you.”
I think he learned these ways from Jesus.
I will miss you, Victor.
Note: the picture above is at Bella Vista Church on the evening the folks there gave me a farewell party.