6/16/02 Father's Day, P4A

“Then Jesus…”
Matthew 9:35-10:8

"Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages,
teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news
of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd."
(v.35-36, NRSV)

In order to rise to any high calling or position of leadership we must first have worthy mentors. Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to mentally picture the many who have steered us in the right direction. I count myself fortunate to have had so many fathers in the faith.

One of the best parts of attending our North Georgia Annual Conference last week was having the opportunity to visit again with so many of my fathers. The first one that I spotted was Dr. Bob Taylor, my first District Superintendent, who made it possible for me to get a toe into this great conference in the summer of 1968. He phoned and said that he had a circuit for me in the LaGrange District. I asked if he didn't need to meet me first and he said, "If you are good enough to get into Emory University you are good enough for the Manchester Circuit!" He met Marilyn and me on the square the following Saturday and we began a long tutorial ship with him as the master. He saw his position of authority as an opportunity to shape young preachers. I was proud when he called me, "One of his boys!"

Dr. Gordon Thompson missed conference this year so I will go out to Marietta soon to catch up with him. He was the father figure that taught most of my preaching courses at Emory. In fact, I enrolled in every class he taught. He took me under his giant wing. When it came time to seek ordination he was Chairman of the Board of Ministry and guided me through the process with love and concern. Actually, I was a few days late getting an application in but he made a way for me. Marilyn counts on his Sunday School Lesson Comments in "The Advocate." He just barely missed being elected a bishop, but that did not seem to set him back for he had a mission in Georgia turning protoplasm into preachers.

Two other former superintendents were standing near the book tables spinning yarns and they greeted me warmly when I walked up. I could not have failed with Larry Bauman and Randall Williamson keeping me in line. Marilyn spent an afternoon catching up with Martha and Jean. We have seen each other in our high moments and in our low times too and they have been our fathers and mothers in the faith, all the way.

Some of my earliest memories are of visiting with my own Dad in homes and hospitals, or plundering through his desk in his study. Looking back on it, I suppose he was babysitting, but for me they were times that turned me into a young man that would respond positively when I heard the Spirit of Jesus calling me to become his minister. I wanted to be like my Daddy. He was my first hero in the faith. Although he has been in heaven for fourteen years I sometimes feel him standing beside me whenever the road gets bumpy. I ask myself, "What would Daddy do?"

Ultimately, there stands the man who is the supreme mentor of all who would attempt to follow in his ministry. Today's story reminds us of how Jesus went to the cities and villages of Palestine proclaiming the good news that salvation had finally come to the Jews who were expecting it and later to everyone else who would receive it. He had compassion on the people and cured their diseases and afflictions. He loved them and wanted the best for them. He taught them what it meant that a new life of faith was being opened for them. He extended hope to a people caught in the grip of generational poverty and the oppression of foreign military occupation. Words like grace, repentance and salvation came from his lips and the people experienced God Almighty alive and working in their humble hearts.

Jesus is every person's greatest mentor, guide, counselor and trusted teacher. He is worthy of imitation. He is the Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep. He is the one who has made all of our human fathers and mothers in the faith worthy of their high calling.

Jesus is also the one who calls each of us and will empower us to become worthy guides of others in his kingdom. In chapter ten of Matthew's gospel we find Jesus sending those he had taught out to minister to others. He shared his authority with them.

In today's world Jesus wants to share his authority, his ministry, his work with each of us. We practice the Priesthood of all Believers. All believers are called to brighten the corner where we are. We are called to minister in the patch where we live. If you teach school there are children that desperately need a positive role model; a substitute father or mother. If you work in a store or business you are going to encounter many people tomorrow with whom you can be a positive example of the redeemed life in Christ.

Two of the Lay Delegates at Annual Conference had been our mentors in the faith when we were sent to County Line Church in West Cobb County, our first full time local church. Marilyn and I are still amazed how wise Dean and Shirley Purcell continue to be. Perhaps in heaven we will get a count of how many folks they have influenced to become followers of Christ by the witnesses of Dean at the mechanics shop and Shirley at the insurance office. They used to work with the church's youth and now work with the same people who are older youth, as mentors and guides in the faith. Dean especially spends a lot of time helping his young pastors to learn the practical aspects of actually leading a local church. He has become a spiritual father to many. Jesus is calling us to share in his ministry. "The harvest is plentiful!" Will you become a laborer?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

6/16/02 Father's Day, P4A