6/18/2000, Fathers Day, Year B
Leader of His People
"Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews." (John 3:1)
In many ways I am much stronger than Marilyn, and in many ways she is much stronger than I. Together we make a pretty good team. She has become something of an expert on gardening, at least her many library books have made her much more knowledgeable than I. So, when she says its time to water or fertilize I do not contradict her. And when she asked me to lift the heavy bags of fertilizer out of the trunk I feel honored to be able to play a role in making our garden grow.
Times change but eternal truths do not. A biblical principle that we have lived by all during our marriage is found in Ephesians 5: 21, "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." The life plan for a happy home is for everyone to submit to each other, as we all submit to God.
And then along came daughters Lyn and Candi in a baby carriage. Very soon we realized how much we had to submit to them: 2:00 a.m. feedings, cars and college. And the girls submitted to us. Everyone always knew each other's business. We still talk things out as a family. Everyone's opinion is respected. We laugh together and cry together.
When all else is said and done, it's your immediate family that matters most. If we don't earn the respect of our spouses and children, little else matters.
Every parent wants to have an impact on their children's lives, and all do in one way or another: some for good, some for bad, and some are cruising in neutral.
Three young brothers wanted a puppy and they begged their mother to allow them to go to the dog pound and adopt a little friend. She told them that having a dog was a big responsibility and that the three of them would have to do all of the feeding and cleaning, a job she knew they would be reluctant to do. They promised and she finally relented. They named him Danny and did all of the work, for a while. However, soon all of the care was on her so she called them all together and announced that Danny was too much work for her alone and that she had arranged for him to go and live someplace else. To her surprise none of them showed hardly any concern. Finally, one spoke up and said, "Well, I know that he is messy and eats too much, but if we could get him to not eat so much, do you think that he could continue to live with us?" Then the mother spoke more forcefully, "No, absolutely not, Danny is just too much work for me!" Then there were tears of joyful relief in the children's eyes as they with one voice said, "O, you said Danny, we thought you said Daddy!"
Some Dads are around the house some of the time, but are just not involved too much. But, I think that most guys really want to be a part of "bending the twig" in the direction toward God, and the right way to live.
Maybe you saw the national public opinion survey in our "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" last Friday on "Some Facts About Fathers." Dads stay at the same address longer than Non-Dads. They work harder and make more money. They identify with a major religion more often, and attend church much more regularly. Most Dads want to do it right.
John the Beloved, friend of Jesus, tells us the story of a man, a religious and political leader of his people, who came to Jesus by night. He came to the right one. Jesus perceived Nicodemus' need, and every person's need. Jesus told him that he needed a New Birth, and new spiritual beginning in his life. As brothers and sisters of Jesus we have each come to our own experience that we can call a new birth. Some of us may have not heard until we were old and grown, like Nicodemus. Some heard the story in Vacation Bible School, and experienced it then, and you still live daily by it now. Christ made you the man, the woman, that you are. Your faith made you the Parent that you are. Because of Jesus you have a direction in which to bend the little twig and you are producing, or have produced, some straight full grown trees.
Nat Long retired from full time ministry this past Wednesday at our North Georgia Annual Conference. He gave his speech, along with nearly thirty others, in which he spoke highly of the influence that his Father had on his life. Because of a birth injury, Nat has a slight case of cerebral palsy. His Dad had a more difficult task than most in bending, encouraging, and, in love and kindness, applying firm discipline on his precious boy. I knew Nathaniel Harrison Long, Sr. as my first District Superintendent and recall well the twinkle in his eye, and how much all of the preachers loved and respected him. He should have been elected a bishop in 1964 but missed it by only a few votes. I recall wondering, after my first interview ever with a D.S., what made him such a strong, yet kind, old man. Now I think I know. I suspect that he grew as a strong tall Cedar Tree, a giant among men, as a result of the patience, and love he learned from rearing that special son into a man who has also been a giant among men. Nathaniel, Sr. had a new spiritual challenge, much like that of the Rev. Dr. Nicodemus who made that late night visit to Jesus, and subsequently became a leader in the Early Church.
Judy was telling me just this week how her Dad never really met Christ until she was away in college. He had been a kind of absentee parent sitting in front of the TV sipping beer. Every now and then he would holler out a command; but he wasn't really there emotionally for the family. Then he surprised them all by agreeing to go to a Men's Retreat with The United Methodist Men. Away from it all and isolated, his ears were opened to hear the Marvelous Gospel of our Lord, and his heart melted. He had always wanted to be a better man but somehow didn't know how; now he met a Savior who showed him the way. Fifteen years later he is Lay Leader of his local church and has made up for a lot of lost time with his wife and daughter. "Truly," Judy said, "My Dad was Reborn from Above!"
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor