June 19, 2005
5th Sunday after Pentecost
"Getting It, Together"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
It is not easy being a father. One cynic, speaking from his own experience, noted that children go through four fascinating stages. First they call you DaDa. Then they call you Daddy. As they mature they call you Dad. Finally they call you collect to borrow money.
I saw a Father's Day Card that read: "Being a father can be expensive, time-consuming, frustrating, confusing and emotionally draining, actually it's a lot like golf."
Today is Father's Day, a day we salute fathers. Now, I know every Father isn't a great Father. Mine wasn't. I understand that. But let me tell you, there are a whole lot of Dads out there who are doing everything they can to be the best Dads they can. And that's important because the world needs good role models. And the role of a Christian Father and a Christian Mother is more important today than ever before. It's no longer just about being a good provider.
Our passage today talks a little bit about what it takes to be a good Christian, a good follower of Jesus. And it implies some things about being a faithful Christian parent.
 "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;
 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!
 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.
 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
 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.
 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
 And even the hairs of your head are all counted.
 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
 "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;
 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
 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;
 and one's foes will be members of one's own household.
 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;
 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
At first glance, that passage doesn't seem to support the Christian family at all does it? But it really does. You see, what it boils down to is that we can't put family or any other relationship above our relationship with God through Christ. It doesn't disparage family, it just puts them in their proper place which is Second Place. God is in First Place in our lives. Individually, we come in Third. God, Family, Us. Or another way to remember is with the word JOY. Jesus, Others, You.
This passage teaches us a couple of things. WE'RE LOVED, WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER, WE ARE DESIGNED TO GET IT (OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD) TOGETHER.
A. One of the first things this passage reminds us, is that WE ARE LOVED. Look at verses 29-31 and what they say. "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without God knowing. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows."
That's a special kind of love. A love that will not let us be lost. A love that searches for us, seeks us out and cares for the most intimate details of our lives. You and I are loved by a God of redemption.
B. In Southern Africa, The Bebemba tribe has a fascinating ritual for combating feelings of rejection. Each person in the tribe who acts irresponsibly or unjustly is taken alone to the center of the village. Everyone in the village stops work and gathers in a large circle around the accused.
In turn, each person in the tribe, regardless of their age, speaks to the individual. They recount, aloud the good things he/she has done in their lifetime. All the positive incidents in the person's life, plus their good attributes, strengths, and kindnesses, are recalled with accurate detail. Not one word about their irresponsible or antisocial behavior is shared.
The ceremony and ritual, which sometimes lasts for several days, isn't complete until every positive expression has been given by those assembled. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the person is welcomed back into the tribe.
Talk about positive reinforcement. Can you imagine the flood of feelings during the tribe's welcome? Can you imagine the extent of acceptance that persons feels and realizes? Can you imagine how you would feel if a group of people affirmed you in this way? (1)
That's exactly how God works. Jesus said God didn't send Him to condemn the world but to save and redeem it. And God does that with love. The unconditional love as expressed on the Cross.
A. Not only are WE LOVED but WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER. One of the things modern parents have found out is that we are in this thing called parenthood, together. We can't do it alone. A Dad is no longer just "lord of the castle." And Moms don't stay home, watch the kids and coming running to serve Dad at the drop of a hat. Today, Moms have careers, just like Dads.
Being a Dad, especially, has taken on a whole new formula than in past generations. Today, in most households, Dads play more of a nurturing role in caring for the kids.
Now that may not have been most nurturing thing there ever was, but men and boys bond differently.
The chief thing is to remember that we're in this together. Just as God reminded us through Christ, that we are not alone, that God loves us so much that God even knows the number of hairs on our head, so too, those moments when we bond with our children, remind them that they are not alone and never will be. We'll always be there because we're in this thing called life together.
B. There's a fascinating story that comes from the 1989 earthquake which almost flattened Armenia. That earthquake killed over 30,000 people in less than four minutes. In the midst of all the confusion of the earthquake, a father rushed to his son's school. When he arrived, he discovered the building was flat as a pancake.
Standing there looking at what was left of the school, the father remembered a promise he'd made to his son, "No matter what, I'll always be there for you!" Tears began to fill his eyes. It looked like a hopeless situation, but he couldn't take his mind off his promise.
He remembered that his son's classroom was in the back right corner of the building He rushed over there and started digging through the rubble. As he was digging other grieving parents arrived, clutching their hearts, saying: "My son! My daughter!" They tried to pull him off of what was left of the school saying: "It's too late!" "They're dead!" "You can't help!" "Go home!"
Even a police officer and a fire fighter told him he should go home. To everyone who tried to stop him he said, "Are you going to help me now?" They didn't answer him but he continued digging for his son stone by stone. He needed to know for himself: "Is my son alive or is he dead?"
This man continued to dig for eight hours and then twelve and then twenty-four and then thirty-six. Finally, during the thirty-eighth hour, as he pulled back a boulder, he heard his son's voice. He screamed his son's name, "ARMAND!" and a voice answered him, "Dad? It's me Dad!"
And then the boy added these priceless words, "I told the other kids not to worry. I told 'em that if you were alive, you'd save me and when you saved me, they'd be saved. You promised that, Dad. 'No matter what,' you said, 'I'll always be there for you!' And here you are Dad. You kept your promise!" (2)
God's love for us is just like that. When we go astray, when we wander off, when we're overcome by some tragedy, God comes looking for us. That's how much God loves us. And that's how much God wants us to love each other as well.
That's part of what Jesus meant when he said, "Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." If we're only worried about ourselves then we'll lose everything that matters. But if we lose ourselves and put ourselves in Third place, then we will find the greatest treasure of all; God's love and we'll share it with our family because WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER.
And because WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER it's better when we GET IT, TOGETHER. Let me tell you what I mean by that.
Let me tell you about a remarkable young man named Rick Hoyt and his Dad.
Team Hoyt Video
Rick was born with cerebral palsy. Rick's condition was so severe that doctors suggested his parents send him to an institution. But the Hoyt family wanted Rick to live up to his potential, whatever that potential might be.
For ten years they searched for a way for Rick to communicate with them. Can you imagine that? Waiting ten years to hear your child say something, anything, to you? When he was ten years old, Rick was finally able to communicate with his family with the help of a new computer device. They soon discovered that Rick was an intelligent kid with a passion for sports.
One day, Rick learned that his town was sponsoring a 5K race to raise money for children who are paralyzed in accidents. Rick wanted to find some way to run in that race, so he convinced his father, Dick Hoyt, to run the race while pushing Rick's wheelchair. At the time, Dick was out of shape. But he was willing to try anything to bond with his son. So Dick began running every day while pushing Rick's wheelchair. At the end of their first race, Rick typed into his computer, "Dad, I felt like I wasn't handicapped."
Since that day, Dick and Rick Hoyt have run 371 races together. But listen to this: This young man with severe cerebral palsy, Rick Hoyt, now works at Boston University designing computer programs for people with disabilities. (3) Wow.
TOGETHER. Now, I'm certain Mom is just as much a part of that story as Dad, but can't you see Rick's father pushing that wheelchair in race after race, determined with all his might to watch his son succeed in life? What a beautiful and inspiring story.
We can GET IT, on our own. That's not a problem. We have to accept Christ as Lord and Savior for ourselves and on our own. No one else can make that decision for us. But when the whole family GETS IT, TOGETHER, what an awesome home that becomes. You see, we're stronger and accomplish more when we're TOGETHER. SO, GETTING IT, TOGETHER makes us stronger.
Not too long ago, the comic strip "For Better or For Worse" by Lynn Johnston's showed Dad changing all the clocks. When his daughter asked why, he explained carefully that putting the clocks ahead would give them an extra hour of daylight every evening. He also explained that the clocks would be changed back in the fall, and that it is called Daylight Saving Time.
The little girl replied, "Daddy, if it's called Daylight Saving Time, will you save some time for me?"
WE ARE LOVED. NEVER FORGET THAT. And never forget to tell your family that they are loved by you and by God. You see, WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER. AND GETTING IT, TOGETHER, the love and joy of Christ in our lives, makes us stronger and binds us closer TOGETHER.
1. Norman Wright, Real Solutions for Overcoming Discouragement, Rejection, and the Blues (Ann Arbor, MI: H. Servant Publications, 2001).
2. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, "Chicken Soup for the Soul."
3. John C. Maxwell. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work (Nashville, TN: J. Countryman, 2002), pp. 113-116.
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