Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
To listen the sermon PRESS THE ORANGE BUTTON!
How did you, or how do you address your father? Father… Dad… It is a very emotion-loaded word, isn’t it? Because our fathers are so important in our lives. Fathers are different.
Some may have seen their fathers too little. Some may have not seen them at all. Some may have the most beautiful memories of their relationships with their fathers, some may want to forget them.
For many their fathers used to be the strongest person in the world, their shield and rock. For some their fathers may have been the reason of deepest hurt. Some may have longed to get away from their fathers. Some may long to have been able to spend more time with them.
Each story is different. Each story is very personal and emotional. Whatever your story and your memories are, good or bad, joyful and sad, there is no doubt that our fathers have a unique role in our lives.
If you were asked to describe what are the functions of fathers, what would you say? Why did God give us fathers? For one, to provide security and stability in family. Sure, were did we run when we were afraid?
Who did we look for when we needed help? Our Dads. And as a result, children who have grown up with their fathers around are more confident and more peaceful that those who have grown up without fathers.
Who do we expect to ensure order and obedience? That’s another one. “If you won’t stop… I’ll tell your father.” Sounds familiar? Fathers are the embodiment of the law in a household.
They teach that we live in ordered community and if you do wrong, there are consequences. Again, children who grow up without fathers are much more likely to end up on a wrong path or in a prison for they haven’t had the opportunity to learn those valuable lessons.
Another yet, – fathers teach with their own example what it means to be a husband and a father, how to take on responsibility and how to lay down their lives for their wives and families, how to think of others first.
All these are important functions of fathers. I am sure we could come up with others as well. And as we saw even from this short list, the influence of fathers extends far into lives of their children.
It is indeed a great privilege and a great responsibility to be a father. But today I want to talk about yet another function of fathers, which may be at least as important as those we mentioned before, perhaps even more important.
Can you guess what it is? Fathers as spiritual leaders of their families, who are responsible for the faith of their spouse and their children. They are here to give their children the greatest gift – eternal life. They are responsible to teach and speak to them the Gospel and to live it out in their own lives.
I think, I hope that Christian fathers tend to fulfil the duties of fathers that we mentioned earlier more, or less faithfully. But what about this one? What about being spiritual leaders?
What about teaching, speaking, and living out the Gospel? What about leading our spouses and our children to the Triune God, to Jesus in His Church? How well do we as fathers do that? How much are we even involved?
I guess one reason why we are not better in what is our, I dare to say, the highest responsibility, for it has eternal consequences, – is that it is hard, and we often don’t know how to do it.
And to teach and speak and to live out the Gospel of grace is not easy. It is much easier to be the voice of the Law in the house. I love it. When something goes wrong, it is almost a joyful experience when you can scream from the bottom of your lungs and call everyone to order.
Or when someone has done something wrong, to tell them how wrong it was, and to pronounce the terrifying judgement. No mobile phone for three days! And order and justice are restored. Good job, ‘spiritual leader’!
It is much more difficult to show grace. And by that I don’t mean to ignore the wrong that has been done. We tend to confuse it. We think that to be gracious and loving is to pretend that nothing wrong was done. No, that’s not grace.
We speak the Gospel, we live out the Gospel, when we forgive. When our child comes to us after they have embarrassed us, disobeyed us, brought disgrace to our family and now are broken under the joke of guilt and shame…
And we say to them: “I forgive you, I love you, I will always be with you, I will never give up on you.” It is hard to speak the Gospel, when the only thing you experience is anger and disappointment.
It takes the strength that comes from Jesus to be able to speak these words. But this is what we as fathers are called to do. It is hard to forgive those little bandits, whom you teach and teach… and they still manage to mess up and hurt you deeply. But you know what is even harder?
To ask for forgiveness. It is hard even to admit, that we, fathers, could make any mistakes, that we could actually sin against our spouses of children. Because we are the heads of our households and we are always right.
But we do sin, and we do make mistakes, and sometimes really bad ones and they hurt those who are entrusted to us. What do we do? I guess the easy thing is to pretend that nothing happened.
Time will pass, and everything will be back as it was. But what are we to do if we want to be spiritual leaders, if we want to teach about Jesus and our gracious Father in heaven?
We are to ask for forgiveness. I know, we need all the strength of the Holy Spirit to break our pride and to humble ourselves to ask for forgiveness to those who are dependent on us, even to our own children.
But remember this. Jesus took our sins. He didn’t hesitate to take our death. He, the Son of God humbled Himself till the death on the cross. He did for you more, infinitely more that you could ever do for anyone else.
And that’s Him who teaches us that if we do not forgive others their sins, our Father will not forgive us ours. We are to extend to our children, to our families, what we have received and continually receive from our dear Father and Jesus.
And not only that. We are to teach and speak the Gospel to them as much as we can. Both with our actions, and also with our words. The Gospel is the love language of the Triune God.
He loves us, His little creatures, He speaks His love to us through His Son, and He sends us to speak His love to one another. Fathers to their children, husbands to their wives, and all of us to all people in our lives. How do we do it?
I guess this is what we need to learn and practice. This is where we need to use the collective wisdom of the Church. We can begin by repeating what the Holy Spirit speaks in God’s own letter, the Bible.
We are to remind our children and to one another, that we are created in God’s own image and likeness. That we are infinitely precious in God’s eyes. That our Father Himself has formed us in our mothers’ wombs, that He cares for us and always watches over us. That we are accepted and valued by Him as we are.
That regardless of what others, or even what you think about yourself, you are His treasure. That He loves you unconditionally. That our God Jesus loves you so much, that He gave up His live for you.
That He has chosen you from before the foundation of the world. That He has chosen you to be with Him in Paradise. That nothing will stop Jesus from loving you. That regardless of how many times you fail, He will never, never turn away from you. That He will never forget you, but will always walk with you, rejoice in your joys, and be heart broken when you are heartbroken.
That He is closer to you than you can dream about. That He has bound you to Himself by His Spirit indwelling in you. That even if we don’t understand one another and our struggles, Jesus does and is here to comfort us.
That whatever attacks us or suppresses us, our Father is stronger and will shield us and protect us. That whatever befalls on us nothing will separate us from our Father’s love.
That as He has given you life, He also longs to see how you grow in His wisdom and become a blessing to many. He believes in you, for He knows what you are capable of in His power.
We are to practice speaking these things to one another, as fathers to our children, and as spouses to our best parts. And we are to practice treating one another in a way that expresses in actions what we say in words.
For this is how we begin to fulfil our calling as spiritual leaders. Is it easy? You know the answer. It is hard. It takes more that our flesh can give. This is why we as fathers fail so often.
We fail our spouses, we fail our children. We fail them by not living as Christian fathers, as people of the Gospel. This is why we as fathers also need to experience the support and unconditional love of our Father.
We need to know that there are no conditions for us to be loved. That we too are good enough for our Father. That He accepts us and forgives us. That He invites us and longs to embrace us.
We need to hear His encouragement that one day we all, ourselves and our children will stand before Him, and experience fully what it means to be loved by the Father of Jesus, by our Father who in heaven.
Till that day, may our dear Father in heaven strengthen us with His Spirit, with His life-giving Word, with His Sacrament and grant us patience and humility and grace, and whatever else is needed, so that we can lead our loved ones to the One who is the Love itself.