A message for Sunday, June 18, 2017
Reverend David Melville
Francis Asbury United Methodist Church
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
[a message particularly for fathers on this special day in their honor; and for our member, Lewis Jones, who is moving this week to an assisted living center close to his daughter’s home in North Carolina]
This morning I want to particularly speak to any fathers in our midst; I want to speak to Lewis Jones, and actually, I am speaking to anyone who may be exiting one season of life to another. Now, if any of this doesn’t apply to you today, please listen anyway. Set it aside for a rainy day – which in Baton Rouge seems to occur quite frequently. Even though you are not a father, even though you are not Lewis Jones, and even though you may not be leaving or exiting for somewhere new, your day will come!
As always, I invite you to turn to scripture, and I invite you to turn to our ancestors for guidance. We can’t undo the past … we can’t live it over … but we can learn from the past, and from the saints of the past.
When Moses delivered and led his people from Egypt to the Promised Land it wasn’t an easy or clear path. We think it would have been – anything freeing us from slavery and bondage is good, right? But many of the Israelites grew weary and had second thoughts, and doubted the God of Moses. Why? Because of human nature.
Fathers, and those making an exodus from a comfort zone – or if not all comfort, an exit from the known … from the familiar – can grow weary and tired. If you feel tired or anxious this morning, join the club; you’re in good company. Since the time of God’s chosen people down to today’s refugees on a raft in the Mediterranean, men, women, and children have been tired and scared, and just a little suspicious of God.
But we have something from the past to help us. For one thing, we have assurances from God Himself to His people through Moses. God reminded the grumbling, questioning pilgrims, “You have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” [Exodus 19:4]
Lewis, fathers, anyone preparing for a modern-day exodus, remember who has delivered you from uncertain times before. That same deliverer will carry you on eagles’ wings again. That same deliverer will keep you close, and keep you to himself again.
Lewis, I know that our Heavenly Father has been with you in the military (Thank you for your service!), in marriage, ending marriage, and in aging. I dare say God has been with you in the form of Francis Asbury United Methodist Church, and in the persons of your daughter, Darlene, and Paula, who came into your life and stayed, and helped. Oh, Paula: our own Betty White.
Lewis, it is only human if you have mixed emotions about entering a completely new season of your life in a completely new part of the country. I’m sure sometimes you’re ready to go, and sometimes you’re not so sure. Again, no different than the Israelites, and no different than countless fathers who have accepted the good along with the bad, the certain and uncertain of being a father. Remember the past as you embrace the future. Embrace a new season of life as you embrace God in brand new ways. That’s what Moses offered to his people: the chance to embrace God in new ways. But they didn’t always get it.
Sometimes starting over is tiring. Sometimes being a father is exhausting work. Just when you think you’ve got fatherhood all figured out, BOOM! If a man is being the son, husband, father, (and in this church and in today’s world, the grandfather and even great-grandfather still with family responsibilities ), provider, church man and community volunteer that he should be – wearing all these hats at the same time—well, I’m exhausted just thinking and talking about it.
But let us not forget: God asks something in return for strength when we leave the known for the unknown. He asks for our obedience and for our trust; He asks that we place our hope and trust in the Lord … not in the world. Being a disciple is a lifelong process, wherever we are, whomever we are with, or regardless of our age. When we leave one phase of life and enter another one, we don’t check our baptism at the door. We must continue to remember and live our baptism, or indeed, we will grow tired and weary.
There’s another wonderful promise God gave His people as they were considering going back to Egypt: God promised them if they would continue their exodus He would consider them “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” [Exodus 19:5] Pretty special; pretty set apart. God trusted them to be His representatives, His witnesses in the world. He wanted to make the world better through this rag-tag bunch of nomads. Even with that awesome responsibility … that awesome opportunity … that pressure … the Hebrew nation would soar on wings like eagles … they would run and not grow weary. [Isaiah 40:31] They would not be weighed down; no, they would be lifted up!
Of course, God through Christ eventually called gentile and non-gentile alike to be His chosen people and offered the entire world the same covenant, the same commandments, the same strength He had originally promised the exiles. God’s people became a community … a nation … a kingdom … a priesthood … not merely a haphazard collection of individuals. And still, to this day, this community is to reflect God’s character at every entrance and every exodus. We won’t know if we have reached the Promised Land until we’ve entered it.
Lewis, all of us in this church became a people called Methodists, and we hopefully will remain so wherever we are, however old we are, however, tired we are. God will not give up on us if we do not give up on God. We exist to serve God’s purposes. Keep running the race. Bloom where you are planted and soar like an eagle!
Let me close by reminding us that one day we will have the opportunity to soar like an eagle all the way to Heaven, and to be safe in the arms of the God of Moses. Are you headed there, or have you turned back when you grew timid and tired?
We think moves and new seasons and changes in this life are momentous; just wait until the final move. As with each move in our life, we’ll be O.K. if we trust, if we obey and if we let God take care of us.
CLOSING HYMN: “God Will Take Care of You” #130