Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Father's Day—Especially to You, Dad!

Having a baby has made me very reflective, just as I imagined it would. We found out she was coming on Maundy Thursday, and she was born just ten days before Christmas, which gave me such a new appreciation for both Mary's experience and to the pasch itself.

It's also, of course, caused me to think about my own parents. I was especially thinking about my father recently when I was playing a funeral. Bad theology always rears itself at funerals during people's remembrance times, and this one was no exception. I started amusing myself—rather morbidly, since it was a funeral—by, after planning my own funeral, thinking what I would say if it was my father who had died. But, I decided better to say (or write) it now, when he's around to appreciate!

I think my father is best described from the beatitudes, because growing up in our home I saw him demonstrate these teachings of Christ so well.

Matthew 5:3-11
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I've always understood this verse to be saying not to be too attached to material things. His ever-growing collection of books aside, I remember so many times that I spilled a huge drink on something (even books), only to be cheerfully told "that's OK!" as it was cleaned up. Later in my life, when my parents sold the house they'd been paying on for almost 20 years to move to their current farm, they forgave part (or most, I don't remember) of the down payment from the poor family that was moving in. Some called that naïve, but it showed me that gaining material things was not as important as helping people.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Everyone mourns sometimes, and of course my father is no exception, from deaths of family members, to difficulty finding jobs. Through everything he is strong, but not afraid to cry, too. And, as a pastor, he's done a great deal of comforting those who mourn, himself.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
My father is a very gentle person. To me, I can only think of one time when he yelled at me as a little kid, and he instantly took me in his arms and apologized profusely. As I've gotten older, I've seen his gentleness shown to others, too. While he was slandered by some fundamentalists, I've never heard a negative word about those people from him. When trouble was caused in his church by members who grew angry with him and other members, I never heard anything other than the positives in the situation from him.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
My dad is one who seeks righteousness, and encourages it in others, too. As an early teen, he always put me on the hot seat, asking how my Bible reading and prayer life was going. I always saw him deep in Bible study, and it was a good example for me to follow.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
I've mentioned above how many times I was forgiven without even asking, and how money was forgiven to the poor family buying our house.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
I can't know what's in my dad's heart, so I'll leave this one alone. I would direct you here, and say that I've generally seen only the fresh.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.
As I grew older, the neighborhood in which we lived was becoming worse and worse. When I was 12 or 13, I had a friend over on Sunday afternoon. We heard shouting at the apartments across the street, and saw a large crowd gathering around two men, one with a butcher knife and the other with a machete (or not, but it seemed that big then). My dad ran out of the house, ran right over to them, and talked them away from each other, and dispersed the crowd. I remember being scared to death, and then incredibly proud of him, as the police showed up to cart one of the two away.

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I combined these last two, because they're related. Another time, one of the knife-wielders was drunk and yelling outside our house. My dad went out, and the man started yelling at him, calling him "preacher" like it was a curse. My dad just listened, and, when he took a swing at him, ducked and then pinned him until the police arrived. It was never clear what exactly was going on there, but "Preacher" had something to do with it.

Also, before I was born, my dad left the United Methodist Church, because he stood for what he believed, and did not baptize a baby. Although he would soon become a Baptist, it was not just adult baptism that was the trouble, but also that it was not even a member of the church. He nevertheless got in quite a bit of trouble over this refusal, and left rather than cause divisions in the church.

Of course my father is not perfect, since no one is but God. But, Happy Father's Day to him, a wonderful example to me as a new father!

1 comment:

Sarah Merrill said...

You are right. Dad has been in all kinds of situations where he has had every right to defend himself against false accusers, and I would think to complain about their COMPLETE idiocy. However I have never heard a negative word from him regarding those situations. Will I ever be able to exhibit similar Christ-likeness? It's doubtful. But it is a constant example to me!