June 17, 2018: Father's Day Meditations (English)
Genesis 6:9-14, 17-19, 21-22
These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.’ Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
Noah lived at a time when society around him became more and more godless. There was corruption and violence all around. And yet, Noah remained faithful to God.
Isn’t that a feeling we can related to? We who are faithful so often feel alone in our obedience to God. There was a time when churches were filled on Sunday mornings, when people wanted to be in worship or were expected to be in worship, when bosses would ask an employee why he had missed service the day before. Stores were closed on Sundays; sports didn’t happen on Sundays, nor on Wednesday nights, because that was family church night.
Those days are past. Like Noah, we who still worship faithfully are in the minority. Putting our faith first is a struggle, for time and time again we have to swim against the tide of society. It is hard for us.
It is even harder for our children. Noah has three sons. They are the only kids in the neighborhood who worship God. Can you imagine the discussions around the Noah family’s dinner table? “Why do we have to go to church? Nobody else is going. We get laughed at. We feel like such outsiders.” Many of us parents have heard these complaints, right?
Noah’s story can give us hope. Noah was undeterred and remained faithful no matter what. Through his faith, he steered his family through the disaster of the big flood. Due to his obedience to God, Noah saved his family - and a whole lot of animals besides. At the end of the flood, Noah became the founder of a new nation.
I like that image. Noah was the only faithful person around, yet because he kept the faith and listened to God above all else, he and his sons were the beginning of a new faithful nation.
Isn’t that a nice image to hold on to? When we feel like the odd one out because we are still faithful Christians, and when our children and grandchildren complain about having to go to church, we can imagine that we are starting a new tribe of faithful people. By raising faithful children against all the odds, we can be the new beginning of faithfulness in our corner of the earth.
So, people of God, hang in there. In spite of the way society is developing, remain faithful to God. In spite of everything that pulls you the other way, keep coming to church, keep worshipping and praying and tithing, keep sharing your faith with your children; for you are raising a new faithful people for the Lord. Amen.
1 Samuel 2:22-25a
Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. If one person sins against another, someone can intercede for the sinner with the Lord; but if someone sins against the Lord, who can make intercession?’ But they would not listen to the voice of their father.
Eli is a high priest in Israel at a time before there were kings. His leadership is vitally important for the wellbeing and the faith of God’s people. Additionally, he is the mentor of Samuel, the last and greatest of all the Judges in the Old Testament. By all measures, Eli is an amazing, faithful, dedicated man of God.
And yet, his sons are not. Hophni and Phineas are scoundrels. When people bring their animal sacrifices to the altar, these two young men snatch the best meat for themselves to eat. They go after women serving in the temple. These two are the exact opposite of Eli.
I can only imagine how this must have grieved Eli. It is a grief I have witnessed in many parents: They have raised their kids in the faith, brought them to worship and Sunday school, introduced them to a living God, modeled a joyful faith, and yet the young adults don’t want to have anything to do with church. It is heartbreaking.
What can give comfort in this situation?
One comfort is that God is still speaking to Eli. Eli’s connection with God is not undermined by his sons. Likewise, we parents need to focus on our own faith first and foremost. It’s like the announcements in airplanes: Put your own oxygen mask on before you assist your children with theirs. No matter what our kids are up to, we must pay attention to our own faith and keep it strong.
Another comfort is that though his two sons don’t turn out the way Eli had hoped, he does mentor a young boy to become one of the greatest faith leaders in the Old Testament. This must have comforted Eli and have given him a lot of joy. Likewise, God offers us the chance to be important in the lives of many people. Our own children aren’t the only ones we can influence. Think of all the lives of young people we touch here in church, through Sunday school, catechism classes, youth events, and countless conversations at coffee hour. Each one of us here has the chance to help a young person grow in faith. That is a privilege and a comfort, no matter how our own kids turn out. Amen.
[Moses said to the people:] Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Moses had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. Beyond that, Moses was a father figure to the whole people of Israel. Under his leadership, they left slavery in Egypt and began the long journey towards the Holy Land. Along the way, Moses introduced the people to God; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who heard their cry and set them free; the God who loved them and gave them rules to live by; the God who promised them a Holy Land.
Doesn’t all this sound a lot like the work we do as parents? When our kids are little, we hear their cries and try to free them from whatever burdens them. The teenage years at times feel like we are all wandering in the desert. And yet we know that we are on the way to the Promised Land, the development of a young adult who will become a contributing member of society.
Throughout all of it, we try to instill in our children a knowledge of God. Luther said that fathers and mothers are the bishops in their homes. It is our job to teach out kids who God is. Even more importantly, we are to model for our kids what it looks like to have faith and to live a faithful life.
I love all the specific things God commands his people to do in order for the next generation to become a generation of faith:
First: A Creed. The people are given a creed to recite: Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. To this day, this is the creed of the Jews. They recite it daily. What creeds have you taught your children? Things we memorize in childhood stay with us forever. They are a blessing long into adulthood.
Second: A Rule to live by: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might. What a simple rule to give a people. As Jesus points out later, all other laws can be summed up in this one. If we always ask ourselves what action would demonstrate love for God, we would not need any other laws. So what rules are you giving your kids? What rules are you modeling for your kids?
Third: Faith conversation. Moses tells the parents to talk about faith all the time, from sunrise to sunset. Make talking about God a natural part of your family conversation, so God becomes a natural part of your children’s lives.
Fourth: Visual reminders: The people are to write the law in places where they can see them, like doorposts and gates. Imagine, every time you leave or enter you home you see a reminder of God’s love and God’s presence. That would surely shape your faith, wouldn’t it? What visible reminders of your faith are present in and around your house? A cross? Paintings? Bibles? Blessings? Think about items that could remind you and your children that your home is a house of faith.
Moses had to “father” the children of Israel for forty years. His faith and the four gifts mentioned in the Bible helped him on this long journey. May they also help you, so that you and your household may get to enjoy the blessings of the Promised Land. Amen.