Sermon for June 18, 2017 – Father’s Day

Sermon for Father’s Day, the Second Sunday after Pentecost

June 18, 2017, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Matthew 9:35-10:8

Sermon Theme:  “Preaching, Teaching, Healing, and Fathers”

(Sources:  Emphasis Online Illustrations; original ideas and examples; Anderson’s Cycle A Preaching Workbook; Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 27, Part 3, Series A)

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

I think most of us are constantly evaluating ourselves as human beings, trying to understand our strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures.  But, it’s probably just once a year, on Father’s Day, that we examine ourselves about being a father.  Or, if we’re not a father, thinking we’re either lucky, or we missed out on something really big.  As far as life issues go, I feel I’ve been quite a bit more successful at being a father than at earning a lot of money.  And I wouldn’t trade my two daughters for all the money in the world!

They turned out pretty good.  Neither one is in jail.  They each have a job.  Both live within their means.  They are both mature women.  But most important, they both love Jesus and are active in their churches.  One even married a Lutheran pastor, — though I guess that could be a liability, — you’ll have to ask my wife!

It’s appropriate, on this Father’s Day, that in our gospel lesson Matthew lists the names of the men who are Jesus’ twelve disciples, and we hear Jesus sending them out to spread the good news that the Kingdom of God – the community of God, the close-knit family of God – has come among us!

That’s good news!  You and I are not left to drift alone in this big universe; our lives have meaning and purpose!  We’re part of what God is doing:  gathering a community of people who will care, who will love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and who will try to love each other as we love ourselves.

In his book, Loving Jesus, Mark Allan Powell says, “Don’t wait for the kingdom – experience it!  The kingdom, that is, the rule or reign of God, is already here, and people who associate it only with heaven or with life after death risk missing out on what is available here and now.”

The greatest gift a father can give his son, or his daughter, is to introduce him to Jesus and the Kingdom of God on earth, and to raise him up in that kingdom.  Of course Jesus also spoke of God’s rule as a future reality.  He told His disciples to pray for the rule of God to come.  When that happens, the poor will be blessed, the hungry fed and those who weep will laugh.

In our text, Jesus chose twelve men for His team to work in His Kingdom here on earth.  Choosing the right team is essential for project management, obtaining financing for a new business, or winning the Super Bowl.  Jesus, too, had to pick a team and the success of His ministry in large part depended upon how the team would carry out His mission.  Of course, at Pentecost Jesus came to indwell in His team in the person of the Holy Spirit.

And of course, in choosing His team, He chose one loser, — Judas Iscariot, — but even Judas was used as part of the Father’s plan of Salvation for all mankind.

There is one Body of Christ, but each church in the Body of Christ is a team, and the leaders of that team have to be chosen, too.  Another thing that makes this text appropriate for Father’s Day is a good father would want to be on that team.  Not only does he want his child in the Body of Christ, but also he wants the child to experience the best that’s in the Kingdom of God.  His call to leadership helps to ensure that.

I grew up Lutheran.  My wife grew up Baptist.  When we first married, we weren’t sure about how we wanted to fit into the Body of Christ.  In fact, I remember being rather indifferent about the whole thing.  But then came children, and we got fired up about wanting a church home and wanting our kids to grow up in God’s Kingdom on earth.  Becoming a father awakened my need for a right relationship with God,  for a solid place in His Kingdom.

When I was growing up, my grandfather was always an Elder in the church, my father was usually the Financial Secretary, and my mother, the organist; however, as a young adult, I didn’t want a role as LEADER in the church, — attending church was my maximum effort!  Well, I wasn’t as devout as my grandpa, I wasn’t good at math like my daddy, and I didn’t have a molecule of musical talent like my mama.  So how in the world could I be a leader in a church?

Look at the kind of men Jesus chose to work for Him.  Those twelve were an interesting collection of workers.  Not a genius among them!  Common folks:  a few fishermen, farmers, even a tax collector who was a social outcast, and a political zealot.  They were not even particularly religious.

What they were was workers willing to be used to further the ministry  of a man they admired, even loved, despite the fact that He was a man they misunderstood.  Eventually they came to realize, even as a few others did, that “this truly was the son of God.”  And, you know, with the training they received from their Master, combined with the commitment they came to develop after receiving the Holy Spirit, those ragtag men turned the world upside down!

Jesus had a very specific purpose in His ministry.  Our sermon text tells us it was teaching, preaching, and healing.  He called the Twelve for specific purposes, — sometimes it was healing of broken relationships, not always physical healing.  At times it was for spiritual healing, — Jesus didn’t seem to separate physical healing and spiritual healing.  Much of the time, they were to preach and teach.

This is a huge task, especially when we realize that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  So, Jesus needed helpers, and He hand-picked and called those Twelve, — and He gave them authority over the negative forces of life and the power to heal.

Did you ever think that perhaps you, like those twelve, have been called to a special ministry?  Freely you have received, now freely give, is Jesus’ command.  If we take this seriously, we realize that Jesus wants our lives to count for something.  Every one of us, those who are fathers, and those who are not, needs to be alert to the opportunities that lie before us.

Don’t become like the old antique clock that has been in my family for over a hundred years.  Everybody loved the old clock; my aunt dusted it and polished it regularly, but it hadn’t kept the correct time for years.  Now I have it, with its unmoving hands.  Believe me, nobody would ever use it to regulate their life.

Just be yourself, filled with love for, and faith in, Jesus.  Instead of telling people about how Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins, many Christian people launch into a sales pitch for their congregation.  ‘Oh, you’ve got to come to our church!  Our pastor is so neat!  Our choir sings beautifully!  We have a gym with well-organized volleyball games.  Our Sunday School is super and our youth group goes on all manner of fun outings.  We have something for everyone in our church!’

Such an approach takes the attention away from the real purpose of God’s Kingdom on earth, and the real questions a potential Christian should ask himself, ‘What does Christ mean to me?  Where is Christ in my life?  What difference does my faith make in my daily existence?  What impels me to follow Jesus?’

Called to be workers on Christ’s team in your church, you must share those questions with the folks who come to our church for preaching, teaching and healing.

Called to be a father is one of the greatest callings of all, and if God blessed you with such a magnificent life-mission, don’t walk away from it, — embrace it, cherish it, even if your kids are thirty or forty years old, as it does indeed involve preaching, teaching, and healing.  With the Holy Spirit’s help, our lives will count for something.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.