Sermon Message for Saturday, June 19, 2021 & Sunday, June 20, 2021
Prayer For Illumination: God of our Fathers and Mothers, God of us all, send now your Holy Spirit upon us to quiet our hearts, care for our souls, and open our minds to the Word of God and thy Divine message, we pray. Amen.
Scripture Lessons: Psalm 103:13-18 (Page 599), Ephesians 6:1-4 (Page 1177), and Matthew 5:16 (Page969)
Sermon Message: “Members of the Faith Family”
Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are times within the Church to celebrate and reflect upon the Christian faith and family.
Being a ‘parent’ is an honor. Our children remain gifts from God. Ours remains the privilege and responsibility to nurture, care, and provide for those we love and those who love us.
As parents, we grow to learn our participation in family is a cycle. We start out in life dependent upon our family. Gradually we grow and acquire family of our own. Eventually we are called upon to care for those who once cared for us.
God teaches us to acquire wisdom for life, for living, for family, and for faith.
Common-sense wisdom teaches us that while we may strive towards independence, self-sufficiency, and self-fulfillment, in reality we remain designed by our Maker to love one another, enjoy each other, and depend upon others. In short, we need to be ‘part’ of something that is bigger than ourselves. No man is an island.
My father used to flex his muscles before us boys and say, “Look at that! Rocks!” Then he’d smile. When I was in my teens and my own muscles were forming, I too would flex my muscles before my father and say, “Look at that! Weapons!” Then we’d both smile.
What my father, my mother, and my brothers and I grew to further realize is our need for others.
My father and mother sure had their share of ‘problems.’ Thus, my three brothers and I were raised on welfare. No shame in that, just some trials that were quite challenging.
There was a list of people that helped us through our trials. The welfare agency had a social worker visit us to be sure we still ‘qualified’ for government assistance. Local doctors, dentists, and the community police were a part of our evolving family. Teachers had compassion on us, slipping us a few freebies now and then. Of course, our local church family was essential to our ‘making it’ through those years.
We all have our ‘stories to tell’ regarding family and faith. God shows us that we must all learn to function in both our families and our faith. There’s a difference between ‘functioning’ and ‘surviving.’
For any of us, when our trials are at their worst, it feels as though we are barely surviving. God, our Heavenly Father, sends help, love, and others. FAITH makes a difference, often times, all the difference in the world. There is an analogy for this to be found in today’s scriptures. Within Psalm 103:13-18, it is recorded that “as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him, the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”
God consistently sends help. God, our heavenly Father has also given each of us free will. Even His Son, Jesus Christ, had free will to endure the cross or not. It remains our free will choice to respond to God’s help. Within our daily lives, sometimes our free will gets us into trouble. At other times it can lead us to make wise choices in our faith and for our families.
Sometimes dysfunctional attributes are present in ourselves, our family, where we work, even within the church and our faith formations. Whatever dysfunctional things we may have seen in our faith or our families, let’s choose to be functional instead. This will require some intentional effort, work, and insight on our part. Coupled with prayer and ongoing spiritual guidance. May our compassion and our participation in church and families reflect our precepts.
Jesus Christ has taught us, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25) God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. Look further to the example of Jesus; His life, time, and purpose. Jesus was sent by God to unite us. Jesus chose to obey His Father. We, too, are taught to obey and honor our parents and our God. Today’s scripture lesson warns us fathers “not to exasperate our children instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Let’s choose to be unifying in our families and in our church membership.
Across the years, I’ve shared lots of personal insights with you. One particular ‘insight’ I do not think I’ve ever shared entails a peculiar behavior I sometimes share with my personal family on days such as “Father’s Day”, my birthday, and so on. It’s something I learned from my father. When I was growing up, we were rather poor. So, purchasing special or significant presents was sometimes difficult to do. My brothers and I went to church and heard the Biblical teaching to ‘honor our fathers and our mothers.’ We learned much about ‘honor’ in church and how that relates to our parents. Another common way we chose to interpret that spiritual teaching was by procuring a present for our father on ‘Father’s Day.’ This one year, try as I might, I could not come up with much. So, I looked around outside and in my room for something, anything, that could become an appropriate ‘Father’s Day’ present. I think I ended up picking a few wild flowers and placing them in an old Coca Cola bottle that I had washed out and cleaned up to the best of my abilities. I think I even tied a piece of ribbon around the neck of that bottle. My Dad smiled, gave me a rub across the top of my hair and said, “Thanks Son!” Then he reached under the table and said, “I got a present for you. It’s something I made.” Turns out Dad had found an appropriately sized tree branch, cut out the part where the branch formed a ‘Y’ and hand scraped all of the bark off of it. He then used two pieces of bicycle inner tube. Each piece was first tied to a leather tongue from one of our old shoes. He then tied each end of those two rubber inner tubes to the Y-shaped tree branch. “Here you go son. I made you a slingshot. Just be careful. I don’t want you putting anyone’s eye out or breaking any windows!”
I’ve always remembered what it’s like to ‘not have enough.’ Especially so when your own daughter has used her pennies and borrowed from her ‘allowance’ to get you a proper “Father’s Day” present. So every now and then, when it’s really supposed to be about me, I tend to get a present for someone else, extend a favor, give them some money, and just ‘be a Dad!’
Family at home and family in the church are not supposed to be just about our preferences and desires. Just as we are to honor God and our parents, we also are to honor and not exasperate those we are privileged by God to care for. The Scriptural directive to ‘not exasperate’ also means to not annoy, agitate, anger, disturb, ‘drive up the wall,’ ‘get under one’s skin,’ inflame, infuriate, or irk. I think you ‘get the gist.’
We honor our earthly fathers. We are also to honor “Our Father who art in heaven.” Honor God in our families. Honor God in His church.
An example Jesus sets is to pray. Jesus prayed for guidance and for strength. Jesus prayed for his disciples and for his family. Jesus Christ even prayed for his enemies.
Honor God, our Father, by praying routinely, sincerely, and with devotion. Pray for those who lead us to become better fathers, good families, functional members of church, home, and society. Pray for me, please, as your pastor.
Fathers, pray for your children and continue to teach them the ways of the Lord. Even when they are all ‘grown up.’ I firmly believe we never quit parenting.
God inquires of us all to live in such manner that others will see who we are, how we live, and what we believe in and thus be drawn home to God, to faith, to love, and to Jesus. May our words and our actions bring honor to the Lord and life to our children as we lead them in His ways.
Let your light shine, the Bible declares. Fathers, parents, children, and church members, ask yourself: are our children learning to live in the stress of the world or the joy of the Lord? May your actions and my own reflect our prayers.
A further question: “What good are you?” By that, I mean to inquire what benefits are God, family, church, children, and faith gaining from ‘who’ you are and from the good deeds you do? Perhaps you were or still are part of a dysfunctional family. You may desire to change all of that. History does not have to repeat itself. Not in families nor in church. God remains the God of new beginnings. Hear afresh His assuring words, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5)
Choose, by your own free will, to change things for the better. Lead your family to be healthy and functional. You can do it. Not alone but with God’s help and the care, support, and help of other believers. Be a healthy father. Help your family to be healthy. Be a healthy church member. The processes involved in health require some extensive effort, growing, learning, praying, listening, and free will choices on our parts. Jesus inquires of us to “let our light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” One of the greater ‘good deeds’ you or I can perform is to treasure our families and our faith.
Today we affirm that we are members of the faith family. Amen.