“What might ‘Father’ do?”
Matthew 10:24-39, June 21st, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“This morning our reading comes from the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter ten, verses twenty-four thru thirty-nine.”
24 “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
“Having heard the words of this ancient writing, let us now consider its worth in our day to day lives today.”
“What might ‘Father’ do?”
On this Father’s Day, we are challenged to uncover the truth, no matter where it is hidden or covered up! We are told not to fear, and to put our trust and allegiance in Christ, and that that trust must be solid and firm! What does this all mean and where do we go with this? In the proceeding verses, prior to our reading for this morning, we hear Jesus sending his disciples out among the people! Jesus sent out the twelves disciples with the following instructions: “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.” /Matthew 10:5a, 7-8/ These verses are instructions meant for the ears of his disciples. Strong, sobering words as they prepare to go out among the people. It seems these words were preparing them for what was to come; a very difficult time when they would no longer have the man Jesus by their side. A time when they would see rejection and skepticism of whom and what they represented! Jesus warns the twelve that their message could even be disputed amongst families. What he is saying is that following Him, following Christ is not necessarily going to be easy!
Yes, today is Father’s Day, a day meant to honor our fathers, just like it is written in the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother.” /Exodus 20:12/ Our discussion today, begs the question: how do we honor our parents; how do we honor dear old dad? On a day such as today, the answer ought to be easy! Yet, here we have a scripture that is really pushing the disciples and pushing us, as modern followers of Jesus, to consider exactly how we are meant to do this! When I was growing up, dad often got a new tie or two so he would look proper at church or a new hammer or tool he needed to get things done which he was working on. As I grew up, I bought him a tie or two myself. I may have even bought him a new tool or two or was it just a card. Mother of course would get flowers and breakfast in bed! Ha! That often did not work out too well. As I became an adult it was a gift card to a restaurant or some new piece of clothing or linen that I was told she needed. It was always easier to get a gift for mom than it was dad. I suspect most of us seek to honor our parents in some special way. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, that seems to be the custom and it is in that verse twelve of the twentieth chapter of the book of Exodus that started it all!
It was my mom who taught me what gift to get dad on Father’s Day, even if it was just instructions to honor him by mowing the grass without making a fuss. The best way I can honor him today is to remember some of the things he said. When we went for walks in the fields and woodlands, he would try to educate me on the beauty of nature. If we saw a bird or other creature, he often would tell me what he knew of it or believed about them. Unlike my brother, dad did not focus on things like snakes and spiders. But he would point out the sparrows or the mighty hawks and such when describing things: the hawk for his bravery or skills, the sparrow was more about beauty and such. What I miss is… dad did not tell me much about things that we struggle with today. Things like racism, inequality, and bigotry. He knew little about viruses and I had never heard the word pandemic. Schools did teach about our civil war and the world wars. Patriotism and honor and the cost of peace were often lifted-up. I never knew or understood the reference to the cost of peace… until I went into the Air Force.
Nothing like the ‘school of hard knocks’ to get a fellow to understand some of the more difficult things parents, moms and dads deal with. The military taught me a lot. In basic training we learned how to care for our cloths and personal hygiene. It is amazing how many of the fellows I bunked with did not learn these things at home! I was shocked to learn I was expected to shower and shave every day. Had never done neither. A bath once or twice a week was a lot. The Sargent, told me to shave better, but I was in my second year in the military before I ever put a razor (with a blade in it to my face!) It was not until I flew into Saigon, now ‘Ho Chi Minh City’ that I began to reprogram some misconceptions about life which I had picked up as a child. Seeing, firsthand, the spots where bombs had exploded in the airfield were more meaningful than the articles in the newspapers! After I arrived at my duty station in Ubon Thailand, I started to know what the costs of freedom, the cost of combat and other such realities truly was and are about! “Thank you, dear old Dad, for sheltering me from reality as long as you could!”
Nancy Rockwell, author of the book “The Bite in the Apple” offers us an uncomforting thought to reflect on. “Revelation is never a comfortable thing. When what lives in the darkness comes out into the light, a public outcry usually follows.” As an adult we learn the truth of life. Frequently, children are sheltered from life’s ability to be harsh at times. When we reflect, going back to the text of our scripture lesson today, we might want to view our reading a bit differently. Jesus was preparing his disciples to go out among the people and tell them about the love of God… from Jesus’ perspective. He was not preparing for a concert tour, rather he was sending his students out into the ‘real’ world. My technical training back in the states prepared me to keep the equipment I was trained to care for working. But I was not prepared for the reality of being part of the military support of war. The pieces of communications equipment which I worked to keep running, they carried news of war… real war! I learned to hide from the truth by leaning to skip over words, as I reviewed the equipment’s operations, so that, hopefully, I did not need to keep reading the harsh truths of war! Jesus, in his strong language in our scripture today, was preparing the troops, the disciples to be prepared for real resistance to the message they were empowered to deliver!
Let us not hide the truth from one another! We know that this is happening in our society, and it is a struggle. We are in combat with a virus that is invisible, yet deadly, and there is yet not a cure or antidote to protect ourselves from it. The harsh truth is the more open and active we are around one another – the more it spreads. Then there is this struggle, this battle… this imbalance, this unequal way in which members of our communities are treated – at the hands of those we count on to maintain law and order in our communities – this has got to stop! The only question is how? I am a preacher; it is my responsibility to speak about the scripture lesson of the day and how it relates to our journeys of faith. The scripture tells us “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” /Matthew 10:27/ Let us be certain we speak out loud about these current issues that are stirring in our lives as a people! Let us not be fearful of openly discussing these things as we seek out the best course of action, for ourselves and for others!
I am a pastor and I am urging us all to pray to our God for guidance, as we seek equal rights, for all our neighbors in and around our communities throughout this great country we live in! For weeks, for months, we have been praying for the first responders who have put their lives on the line for others. Let us be responsible as we continue to go back to normal activities. Wearing a face mask and striving for safe practices… honors those who have worked so hard to help so many. We are facing two major crises at the same time. Have we been prepared to do, the right thing? If yes, let us do so; if not, there is still time to learn! I pray your spiritual leader has at least encouraged you to pray about all this! God knows I pray every morning and every evening for a multitude of things and people. Adding a prayer for guidance on these two issues can only help. Let us stay ‘open’ to God’s guidance.
It is Father’s Day, and I want to honor my father’s memory. Together, let us join in honoring someone who has been there for us along our journeys, like a good parent or caregiver. Let us honor their efforts to teach us about life ‘on life’s terms’, as we seek to be good followers of the man Jesus. Jesus said unto all those who sought to follow him: “So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” /Matthew 10:31/ God loves you and me and has not deserted us. Yet, we are expected to continue forward, and we are expected to follow in the teachings of the Teacher!