February 28, 2018

Celebrate Parents This Lent

Lent Wednesdays 3

Matthew 26:36-46

Kids, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I know a lot of you ask yourself a question each May and June. “What should I get mom for Mother’s Day and dad for Father’s Day?” I have been in that position many times with my parents, and I always struggled with what to get them. But now that I am a dad, and since I am married to a lady who is a mom, I know the answer. Kids, you know what your mom and your dad want on their special days? You’re going to like the answer because it doesn’t cost you a dime. On their special days, what they want from you is to… do what they want.

I am not talking about mowing lawn or folding laundry. I’m talking about fun things (or things your parents think are fun). For me personally (two of you out there should be taking notes), I’d like more than to go fishing on Father’s Day. And the lady I married would probably like nothing more than to have her kids gladly, willingly, happily pose for pictures for at least an hour in a field when the sun is setting with absolutely no complaints. I like fishing. I like my kids. My wife likes taking pictures. She too likes those same kids. What better gift for them to give us than to happily do what we want to do? I firmly believe all parents think that way. (But if I am wrong, parents, let me know and I can plug what you want some other time.)

Two weeks ago we started our series about celebrating the holidays. Ash Wednesday was also Valentine’s Day, a holiday about love. What greater love can anyone show than the love Jesus put on display as we went to his cross for us? That, for sure, is a reason to celebrate, even during Lent. Well, you can probably guess the holiday/s we are talking about tonight – Mother’s and Father’s Day. And as I just said, kids, those days should be about doing what you parents want to do.

For us, that comes down to 2 days a year. When was Father’s Day for Jesus? Every day of his life. Every day it was all about doing his heavenly Father’s will. It started at his conception. Jesus left holy heaven to reside in the womb of Mary for 9 months. Imagine that. Going from unspeakably amazing glory and honor one second to the tiniest form of human life the next. But that is what his Father wanted. And since every day was Father’s Day for Jesus, that is what he did.

And as we said, this was the pattern for his whole life. I did a search on how many times Jesus used the phrase “My Father” in the Gospels. Fifty-five times. And that only counts those exact words. Add in any reference to his Father, and you are well over 250. So? Well, what does that show? Jesus was all about his Father. He was all about his Father’s business. He was all about what his Father wanted him to do. That included taking on humanity for us. That meant being baptized in our place. That meant never once succumbing to temptation. That meant always showing love in the face of hateful opposition. This is the way it was for the first 33 years of his life. And this is the way it was during the last week of his life. On Maundy Thursday, after leaving the upper room where he instituted Communion, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. That, by the way, was something else his Father wanted him to do – to pray perfectly for us, for all the times we haven’t. He took Peter, James, and John with him, and asked them to keep watch as he prayed. Likely this was not so they could look out for enemies. Jesus, a true human being, likely was asking for their support.

Then Jesus opens up his heart. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus knew the job that needed to be done, but again a true human being, the task was daunting. In humility and with respect, he asks if there is another way. We don’t know if the answer was no, or that there was no answer, a different way of saying no. Either way, Jesus comes back to find the 3 sleeping, lovingly chastises them, then starts round 2 of praying. 

“He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.'” This time Jesus did get an answer. Soon after he finished, he said, “The hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” And within minutes, Judas and gang are there to arrest him. And we all know what happened over the next 24 hours.

What did Jesus do? He celebrated Father’s Day. When it was clear that he was the one for the job, he did not hesitate. He did not whimper or whine. He did not come up with some defense, or offer other suggestions on how to complete the mission. He celebrated Father’s Day. He did exactly what his Father wanted him to do.

Let’s say my kids decide to go with me fishing on Father’s Day. I am sure we would have fun and make some great memories. Let’s say they pose for Lori on Mother’s Day. There will be pictures that remind us of the day. But Jesus celebrating Father’s Day every day, and especially that night in the garden, has such a profound impact, it is hard to really capture the enormity of it. Because every day was Father’s Day for Jesus, every day is Father’s Day for us as well. Every day is a day we can know that our God is not some strict, angry, wrath showing Judge who just waits for us to mess up so he can blast us. We know he is our Father. When we fail (which is sadly too often), he wants nothing more than to forgive. When we are scared (due to health, finances, family issues, etc.), he wants nothing more than to wrap us in his loving arms. When we are lonely, he assures us that he is always at our side. He does what a father does. And what a father does is what is best for his children. And the best for us – God’s children - was that our brother would pay the ultimate price. What was best for us children was that our brother would remove the burden of our sin on that cross. What was best for us children was that our brother would repair the relationship with our Father that we ruined. Because Jesus’ celebrated Father’s Day every single day, we know that every single day that same Father will look up us with mercy, compassion, love, concern, and so, so much more.

Knowing that, and knowing that every day is really “Heavenly Father’s Day”, what better to celebrate than to do what our Father wants? What better way to thank him than to do what he wants? And what does he want? Lives of appreciation.  Appreciation that shows as we gather in his house and around his Word. Appreciation that shows as we understand all our blessings are from him. Appreciation that shows we understand the forgiveness we have received as we freely forgive others. Appreciation that shows as we share with others the love he has shown and always will show to us. Truly, there is no better way to thank him than to do what he wants. And that we will do because we know what he’s done for us.

Father’s Day is four months away on the calendar. Let’s not wait that long to celebrate. Like Jesus, may God help us make every Father’s Day, a day we do what he wants, a day we faithfully serve because we know how much his love, his tender, amazing, fatherly love, means, each and every day. Amen.