FIRST LESSON Proverbs 1:1-9, 4:1-4 (p. 984 & 989 )
SECOND LESSON Galatians 3:23-29 (p. 1813)
SERMON “Our Father Who Art on Earth”
In every community, in every civilization, even in matriarchal societies, loving responsible fathers are a blessing to their families. So today we honor our Dads. One author has listed some ways to recognize if someone is a father:
You know he’s a father if he finds a Mutant Ninja Turtle in his briefcase, and he takes it around the office for “Show and Tell.”
You know he’s a father if he finds a clean house when he comes home from work and thinks he must be in the wrong house.
You know he’s a father when he takes a client to lunch and auto-
matically asks for a booster seat. You know he’s a father when he puts his wife in the back seat and fastens her seat belt for her. You know he’s a father if he keeps fighting the urge to wipe somebody’s mouth with his shirttail. My own dad was not perfect, but he was darn good. It seemed to me he could do anything. He once built a clock for which he even turned his own tiny brass screws. He played billiards with friends every week, and he got so good at it that he discovered he was unable to purchase a cue stick that was straight enough, so he took to making his own, turning them on the lathe in our basement. Making one wasn’t enough – he made at least a dozen of them and gave them away to other players. He could help me with homework in just about any subject, and because he loved to teach he would often tell me more than I needed to know to get my schoolwork done. When I took chemistry in high school I learned to tell him up front how much time I had: “Dad, I have 20 minutes to get this problem solved. . . .” Otherwise he would just keep going. And he stepped up to the plate when I went to Chicago to go to seminary, helping me and being a role model for my son. I could go on, but we would be here all day. Still, there was one thing my dad wasn’t particularly good at, and that was verbalizing approval. He was the kind of dad I could show a report card with 4 A’s and a B and his only comment would be about the B: “What happened there?” Then in 1993 my daughter was hospitalized for such a long time that insurance coverage ended. The facility advised me to apply for a grant from the State of Illinois to cover her expenses. So I did that – it meant filling out many pages of paperwork and a trip to Springfield for a personal interview. All worth it because we got the grant. The week I received notice that we got it was also the week I had the last conversation I ever had with my dad. I had kept them informed all through the application process, and when I told my parents that Kathryn’s medical would be covered by the State of Illinois, my dad said, “I know you worked hard for that, and I’m proud of you.” It was less than a week later that he died in his sleep from a stroke. I cannot tell you in words how much it means to me twenty-one years later that his last words to me were that he was proud of me. Imagine that you were going through a difficult time in your life, and you opened your Bible looking for encouragement. Imagine then that a letter fell out and that on it was this passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” If you didn’t know anything else about our Christian faith, there is enough encouragement and love in this one passage to keep you going for a long time. Who are we? Children of God. God loves us even more than our earthly mothers and fathers. God loves us without reservations, conditions, or limitations. If you have felt God’s love since the first time your parents took you to Sunday school, since the day you were baptized, or if you never felt it before this moment, please hear me this morning: You are a beloved child of God. You may have done some things you are ashamed of. God loves you anyway. You may have spoken harsh or untrue words. Still God loves you. You may have disappointed your parents, your spouse, your children, your colleagues and/or your neighbors. God loves you. Today we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy baptism. This is without a doubt the greatest honor conferred on pastors when we are ordained, to recognize and celebrate the unconditional love of God – of God who is present with us, loving us every moment of every day of our lives. Now and then in session, Bible study, Sunday school, the topic of what people are looking for in worship services, and particularly from the sermon. Most frequently I hear that people want guidance about how to live their lives in ways that are pleasing to God. So we go to the Sermon on the Mount. A pastor could preach from there for weeks, months, even years. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers You are the light of the world. Let your light shine. Be reconciled with your brothers and sisters. Do not commit adultery – even in your heart. Do not murder – or even call someone a fool. Love your enemies. Give to the needy. Fast and pray in God’s presence, not for others to notice. Do not worry. Do not judge. There’s a dozen messages right there, and it’s just the tip of the wisdom in one book about Jesus. Why did God come to us in Jesus? To teach us; to heal us; to reconcile us with God, to bring us life, and life abundant. Jesus came to reveal to us all who God is. Creation reveals God – in part. The Law reveals God – in part. The prophets told about God – in part. In Jesus Christ God is revealed as fully as it is humanly possible to understand. Do you seek guidance for living your life in ways that follow Christ? Then certainly be peacemakers; be reconciled with others; love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself. Give to the needy; decline to judge others and love your enemies. Beyond that . . . reveal the presence of God here and now. Show the unconditional love of God. Our Father who art in heaven is also our loving Father here on earth, today, this moment, right here and right now. There is a world of people around us who don’t really know that. Do you want to follow Christ? To be obedient to Christ? Then please hear his last words to his disciples: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) .