It was just a week ago Sunday, Pastor Chuck Smith, 86, pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa for 48 years, delivered his last three sermons before moving to eternity on October 3rd.
The text he taught from was Romans 4:19 and titled "Be Strong in the Lord."
Smith taught while breathing with the aid of oxygen tubing and looking physically much weakened.
"Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old ... yet with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God ..." - Romans 4:19-20.
But yesterday's Sunday 11:15 a.m. 3rd service, the first Sunday since Smith passed away, was standing room only in the 2,014 capacity sanctuary, with extra chairs set up outside to accommodate the overflow audience.
Assistant Pastor John Henry shared recent experiences with pastor Chuck, including one in which Pastor Chuck gruffly told Henry he was standing on his oxygen cord. Henry said he looked, and to the congregation he said, "You don't want to disagree with the boss, but I said, 'No, Pastor Chuck, you are standing on your cord.'" The congregation broke out in laughter.
Pastor Brian Brodersen, now the senior pastor, said he wasn't going to read the bulletin this morning, but the scheduled weekly events would remain as planned. He said a public memorial service for Pastor Chuck is in the planning stages for October 27th at the Honda Center in Anaheim (formerly The Pond).
Brodersen introduced his two sons and their friend who performed an acoustic worship set of songs including one Pastor Chuck had said is his favorite hymn, "In the Garden." There were tearful eyes in the congregation as they worshiped.
After the worship set which received warm applause, Brodersen said he was honored to share the pulpit today with the speaker Chuck Smith, Jr.
Smith Jr., the second oldest of Chuck and Kay Smiths' four children, then shared insights about their pastor, his father.
His dad was more comfortable around carpenters, plumbers, electricians, Smith Jr. said, than he was with white collar workers, but that Smith was comfortable around [anyone who was] "real people."
If you knew his dad, Smith Jr. said, he was not comfortable with "chitchat," but was comfortable talking about topics concerning the Bible.
He said his family each treasured the time spent alone with Smith. He shared a time when he was at a junior high retreat and the others were unaware he was a pastor's son.
Smith came up to him during a dinner and said straightforward, "Chuck, come with me." He said he thought the others at the table probably thought he was in trouble.
"I know I sure did," Smith Jr., said.
The congregation laughed.
But Smith showed his son a key and it unlocked the fence gate for the pool. They enjoyed a 45-minute swim, jumping and diving into the pool.
Photos the congregation sees of Smith with other pastors in other parts of the world, Smith Jr. said, meant his dad was away from his family, but his mom laid that sacrifice on the altar, and shared in the burden.
His mother believed those who stayed and guarded the supplies shared in the rewards of victory with those who went into battle, he said.
Pray especially for his mother, Smith Jr. said, because "this time her hero is not coming back to her," and pray her children will be able to return the love and care to her that she did for them when he had gone to battle.
Smith Jr., then seated himself as the congregation applauded.
Brodersen then shared how Smith had performed many weddings, baby dedications and memorial services throughout the 48 years of his ministry at Calvary Chapel, not including the years he spent pastoring other rural churches (includes a church in Corona, Riverside County) prior to Costa Mesa.
Smith had a formula he used for memorial services, Brodersen said, and Brodersen applied that formula as his message to encourage the congregation Smith's tent, his body, had worn out, but his soul, his spirit was now released and with God in heaven.
On another note, according to Brodersen, Smith had said when the church is in heaven and everyone is trying to find people around the huge crowd, Smith said, "I will be the one with the wavy black hair."
The teary-eyed congregation laughed and applauded.
A final song, "Be Still My Soul," was sung and then the congregation was dismissed.
Outside, tables were set up for signing memorial books and parishioners patiently lined up. Smith's surfboard was displayed behind three crosses with Pastor Chuck mementos attached to it. Some took photos. Smith was an avid water sportsmen and surfer.
Several tables were set up for AB1266 referendum petition signatures to stop the California public school transgender bathroom-choice bill from becoming law January 2014.
A private memorial service for Pastor Chuck Smith is planned.
10.09.2013 Correction: The final song of the service was "It is Well With My Soul," not "Be Still My Soul" which was sung earlier. We regret the error. The Sunday service can now be viewed: calvarychapelcostamesa.com