June 15, 2014; Father’s Day
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Matthew 28: 16-20
Pass It On
According to the gospel of Matthew one of the last conversations that Jesus had with the disciples was his words regarding what we now call: “The Great Commission:” /Mat 28:18-20/ And Jesus came and said to them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
Being commissioned is very similar to being given an order. When someone is commissioned they are empowered to do a certain thing. They are assigned a responsibility. They are then sent forth to do as they have been authorized. As the gospels have been passed onto us and we are now the followers of Jesus, the words of Jesus are now meant for our ears, thus “The Great Commission” is our assignment; thus we have been commissioned to “Pass It On!” Pass on the teachings of Jesus. Pass on the privilege, the sacrament, the rite, of Baptism; and we are commissioned to pass on an attitude of obedience, and to pass on an attitude of gratitude as first taught by Jesus!
Today, being Father’s Day, it is fitting that we talk a bit about what our father’s passed on to us, as-well-as what we pray fathers throughout the lands pass on to their children. Also, I want to share a bit about what my father passed on to me.
Now, let me make a clear distinction here; fathers have two clear and distinct roles in human societies. We are talking about the physical and the spiritual role of fatherhood. A child inherits blue eyes verses brown eyes because of the physical pairing of his or her biological parents – and so forth – right down to the color of his or her skin. That’s the physical aspect, the least important quality of parenthood or that of being the “father” in the Twenty First Century. The truly priceless gift of fatherhood is being the adult in a child’s life that provides for them, protects them from harm and instills in them traits and qualities that are worthy of lifting up. Not traits that are only found in Saints, yet good wholesome qualities, that would make any parent proud when they are talking or sharing with others about their children.
Now the role of fatherhood can be filled by an individual that inspires and passes on: compassion, integrity and faith; or one that instills: hatred, treachery and distrust. This fact has been lifted up for all to see, over and over again! What’s that saying: “the apple never falls far from the tree.” Thus a good apple can only fall from a good apple tree. You want a trustworthy child, be an example of a trust worthy person. The loving father or mother, in like manner, passes on their ability to love. The parent that is filled with hatefulness and angry ultimately passes on hatred and rage, and the examples of this are too exhausting to list. The opportunity is for the adult that fills this vital role of fatherhood, parenthood, is to pass on through positive and clear expressions of the values most desired.
Twelve days after I graduated from High School I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I was seventeen. My father had to sign the papers, as I was underage. I was excited that day. The Sargent from the recruitment office picked me up at my home. Later that day, I joined up with a group of “men” like myself from the area and we were bused to a train that took us to the airport where we were flown to Texas for basic training.
I was the typical teenager, totally confused about life and way too oversensitive to the role of authority my parents played in my upbringing. Like all good parents, they were not perfect, but did their very best. And all too late, starting just after a few horrible and sleepless nights in boot camp, I began to doubt and regret my first of many bad choices.
Basic training was very much like the basic training we receive as Christians, with a few small differences. In Sunday School we are instructed about Jesus and all the things he taught. We are given the tools we need to make a decision to serve God through Christ. When we affirm our faith we confess our allegiance to Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ. After that it is up to us… to stay faithful. In the Air Force I was given basic instruction as to how an “Airman” was to live and how he was to serve his country. But, once I swore my oath of allegiance, my faithfulness was demanded, not simply requested.
Many times, over the years, I have pondered how to help fellow Christians to accept and to acknowledge that making a covenant with God is just as demanding as being sworn into the military. Clearly the two groups stand far apart, but I believe the commitment, the allegiance to God needs to be honored at all times and at any cost, just as clearly as the soldiers allegiance to one’s country needs to be honored.
Somehow, I survived basic training and I remember how relieved I was. I was transferred from Lakeland Air Force base to Shepherd Air Force base. Yet, I still had not left Texas. There I was to be trained as a Teletype repairman. But, the first thing I learned was… that basic training had been a picnic compared to what was in store for me at this technical school I had arrived at. I wonder how many Christians think it all gets easier after Sunday School is over… as they simply stand up and affirm their faith.
Let me just stop here for a moment and make sure I have not lost you in my little sojourn into military life. We are still talking about the Great Commission that Jesus spoke about; we are still talking about passing it on! I believe our military men and women are ‘willing’ and ‘able’ to literally put their lives on the line for their country: because they honor the freedom that has been passed on to them! The same is true for Christians, or ought to be! Jesus passed on to us the opportunity to be freed, from all that holds us back, thus allowing us to be ushered back into the Garden of Eden!
As Christians, we are pushed and pulled in every direction. Often times we are simply following the crowd. No, we will not receive a court martial ‘if’ we fail to live up to our vows, and fail to hold up our end of this our holy covenant with God! But, we do risk losing our place in the kingdom of God. Simply following orders is not always enough. Sometimes we are called to live up to a higher standard. For the military man this can cost the forfeiture of rank and possibly expulsion. It can even cost the loss of one’s life. The consequences for the Christian at first seem less demanding, but one must reflect on this carefully.
Christians sometimes do not understand that they too are ‘oftentimes,’ called upon, to work without ceasing, and yes, even to risk losing everything, for God’s sake. It is an overwhelming feeling at first. But, once you get into it… you begin to understand what joy can come from fully serving God. This is virtually the same as what fully serving one’s country can feel like. In both – it can feel great – it can feel wonderful and even exhilarating – to pass it on to others; pass on the faith; pass on the freedoms that we have inherited from those who came before us.
The call to Christians needs to be understood with as much enthusiasm and respect and honor as the call to arms by any President of these United States. The enemy we face is as real as any enemy this country has ever faced. The enemy is as real as the terrorist threats against our societies and those of all the nations of this world. We must begin to take the call to be a disciple of Christ with more allegiance and more loyalty. We must fully embrace and commit to ‘passing on’ the teachings of Jesus and all that we know about God; especially through Jesus, and also through our personal journey’s, as-well-as: our own personal interactions with the Living God through the Holy Spirit; that very breath of God that blows through us as we find ourselves doing and saying what was once thought to be impossible! Yes, we must pass this on!
In our excitement to get at it, to get it done, we must continue to fully embrace the teachings of those that fathered and those that mothered us. But we must do this as adults, not children! Children blindly pass on the bad lessons as well as the good ones. But you and I, we are adults; we need to take time to clarify if what was passed to us is right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate. The bad needs to be dealt with and discarded, while the good is raised up, praised, and then passed on to those who come after us. It really is that simple.
You and I, we need to know and acknowledge that there is wrong leadership and wrong judgement within the Universal Church of Jesus Christ. We must not shrink back from our responsibilities to the greater good! We must continue to right these situations and to reapply the teachings of Christ! And we must reapply the learning’s from the early Church to the Church of the Twenty-First Century! We must be willing to pay the price and stand up for what we know Christ stood for. This is what “The Great Commission” demands of us!
When Jesus committed to lay down his life for us, he did not go half way! If you truly are committed to following the teachings of Jesus, you must embrace Easter just as fully as you embrace Christmas. Light comes after the darkness, morning comes after the night. There always is a morning after… but we must first endure and make it through the night.
My father, as I came to know him in my adulthood, gave me a lot of good things. He passed them on to me. I pray someone in your life has fathered you and passed good things on to you as well. In the same manner Jesus has passed on to all who are willing to follow him, a rich and deep understanding, a real glimpse actually, of the One True God: the God of love and mercy, the God of compassion and forgiveness, the God of companionship and fellowship.
Stay close to those who clearly have come to know God; cling to them as they pass on what they know to you; then reach out to those surrounding you offering to pass on the blessings and the peace of God through Christ to them. Do this, just as Christ has commissioned you to do!