A Drive in the Country
Psalm 96: 1-7
MARK 10: 13-27
June 19, 2022
“Share the news of the Lord’s saving work … EVERY SINGLE DAY!” Hmmm
Did you hear … “People were bringing children to Jesus so that He would bless them … but the disciples scolded them. And, then Jesus grew angry … finally directing the ones doing the scolding and keeping the children away by looking at them saying, ‘ALLOW the children to come to me … DO NOT FORBID THEM because God’s Kingdom belongs to people like these children and He HUGGED the children and Jesus blessed them.”
Don’t you just love it that the Gospels share that Jesus hugged the children … don’t you want to be hugged by the Son of God … how lucky those kids were!
If you are like me friends perhaps you are wondering on this Father’s Day 2022. I actually wonder a lot but are you wondering, like I am, who out there is busy scolding others to keep not only the young children but also grown up children of God away from Jesus. And, away from church and worship and serving God in the world? WHO ARE THEY?
Have you ever considered how the noise and embracing of idols is a smoke screen that keeps God and Christ from being lifted up and praised? The psalmist reminds us that “the Lord God is great and worthy of praise” but even in those ancient times, just like today, there were false wanna-be gods and idols that people held close to their hearts and worshiped with more of their energy and time than they did God … “The Lord God is AWESOME beyond all other gods because all the gods of the nations are just idols but it is the Lord who created heaven and earth.”
Makes you wonder who is forbidding the children to come to Jesus, doesn’t it? Because Jesus is waiting to hug them with love. But then again, we have arrived at a time in our history when the very concept of sharing the news of the Lord’s saving work EVERY SINGLE DAY goes against the accepted concept of walking with God, which many relegate only to Sunday’s and only for in church moments … even people of faith who attend churches around the world are hesitant to even share their personal faith story with their friends and family.
I think most of us have discovered that time is a reality that moves faster than we would like and even if we turn off all of our time measuring devices the seconds fall by the way side and the hours vanish and the days and weeks blur into history whether we like it or not.
But in the midst of our journey … as well as at the start of our journey and yes whenever the very end of our journey occurs there is a constant … God. God’s love when we made that first cry …. God’s love as we laughed and ran about as young children … God’s Holy Spirit’s ever concerned presence as we trudge through our working days and God’s caring eyes as we slow down our pace. And, God’s call … God’s expectation … EVERY SINGLE DAY when we wake up we is to “Sing to the Lord a new song …” not the ones from our yesteryears nor even our yesterdays but a new song. God gets it that time does not stand still … that people change and with experience the old fades away so Scripture does not say sing the old stuff but rather sing to the Lord something new and exciting and fresh and real.
We are to share the news of God’s saving work … EVERY SINGLE DAY …
Children matter to God … families are God’s intended blessing although we humans all too often mess up the very concept of family but we heard in our Scripture of the day “Declare God’s glory among the nations … declare God’s wondrous works among ALL people … give to the Lord ALL families of ALL the nations … give to the Lord glory and power!” EVERY SINGLE DAY! A NEW SONG!!
It is Father’s Day … it also is Juneteenth … an interesting coincidence since both of those declarative determinants for June 19th of the year 2022 reflect a new birth or births. June 19th in 1865 was the date when the slave holding states and evil slave owning people finally lost their power to hold human beings created by God as animals to whip, sell, abuse and to do their bidding. As a nation, we have finally realized the importance of this day that has been celebrated by our black neighbors for generations.
JUNETEENTH matters in our history … we need to learn from our mistakes, teach the lessons to our children, and never again abuse people for the sake of power … we can never again allow government to make some people’s value less than others because of skin color or accent or religious beliefs or for whom they love or any other discriminator. God’s call … ALL … God’s love ALL … God’s directive GIVE UP YOUR IDOLS whatever they are … Jesus reminded the rich man ‘give up your worldly stuff … follow me.”
And, yes it is Father’s Day and it is so important to be reminded that this is not a day to glorify the bad … just like this nation should never celebrate the evil slave owners who whipped humans purchased for a price … Father’s Day is a day to thank God for the men who have made a positive difference in our lives. Men who directed us towards Jesus or God … or men whose efforts either directly or subtly made us better human beings so that we could be living each day to glorify God. EVERY SINGLE DAY.
This year, when I knew that Father’s Day was approaching I really started to get nostalgic. Dad has been gone for exactly 31 years. An ironic number of years for me as most of you here understand … a literal lifetime … nearly all of Colleen’s lifetime and over these last few weeks I have thought about dad and how he loved to go for a drive. A drive in the country … when we were kids and then just with mom once Mark and I were on our own. Out in the country … leaving the city to get away.
Perhaps many of you remember trips in the country with your dad’s and families. We sang together in the car … frequently songs from Sunday School and church. You see … friends … faith was an important element in my parents’ lives EVERY SINGLE DAY and they never hid it from my brother and me … they never kept it quiet from the foster children who shared our home with us … we went to church together as a family every week no matter where we were even when dad was working on weekends. Can you imagine … my parents even felt it was important to go to church when we were on vacation.
But I think dad had more of a purpose in those country drives through Western New York’s rolling hillsides and rural communities … it was an escape to quiet peaceful places; dad’s eyes on the road singing off key and frequently he’d remind us where he was from by bursting out to sing ‘We’re the boys from Pennsylvania … God’s Keystone state’ and then laughing his beautiful laugh.
Sometimes we need to escape the world and take a drive away from the hectic insanity that the world puts before us. At times we need to go somewhere to once again sense God’s reality … God’s love … God’s saving glory and I think if we fail to escape from the world along with our families … then we will be consumed by the world.
Of course, I will argue that attending a special place like St. Paul’s … a church where we are willing to put aside differences to worship with joy … a place where love of ALL matters more than selecting those we don’t like for exclusion … a place where we can even celebrate a man who stands up before the children and the world to tell us knock knock jokes while his faith pours out not just on the kids who sit on the bench but how this one man’s faith blesses each of us week after week … what a wonderful respite from the world’s hustle, bustle and love of conflict and stress. A place to find God.
I will argue that Jesus was not just talking about the love of money in today’s Gospel lesson where he tells the rich man to give away and sell what he owns because then he will have his treasure in heaven … Jesus was talking to all of us. Jesus was asserting we need to get away from the world … we need to get out in the country … we need to follow Jesus … we need to experience the hugs and love of Christ. And, we need to be willing to stop acting like pompous self righteous adults who think we are “all that” and welcome God’s Kingdom like a child because Jesus reminded us that until we do that we won’t enter the Kingdom, which is difficult to enter.
We need God’s country … we need to live as an example and so in my closing moments I need to ask of the men … how are we being examples for the world … even though men actually make up 50.4% of the world’s population … sorry ladies there are more of us walking around … even though there are more men then women … the percentage of men attending church is far less than women … the number of men who set an example for their kids by saying go with mom to church far outnumber women not heading to church … far too many guys have apparently set a standard where God does not matter and church is irrelevant. On this Father’s Day 2022 I wish I had the answer to reverse that because our children … their children need the example of men valuing God and Christ as much as we do our sports teams.
Obviously, Robert Gordon Delaney, … BOB has been on my mind. My brother and I refer to him as Bob actually. But I would not be here today without some other special men and they deserve mentioning because I thank God for them. For John Tammaro, my second dad, for Dick Seifert who was our Primary Sunday School leader who led us in song before we went to our classes. I think Mr. Seifert is the primary voice who taught me to sing ‘Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and First and Second Samuel.” Sunday School teachers Jack Corbett, Art Banzhof, Dick Schoenthaler, and even Glenn Childs my high school Sunday School teacher whom I literally drove crazy with my Bible challenges and questions. Pastor Stanley Lewis … oh Pastor Lewis my friend, mentor, and life long teacher who made Holy Communion so special and holy to me, baptized me, and gave me his books from ministry before he went home to the Lord. Don Miller and Fred Murphy special teachers who did more than teach lessons. Lou Schriver, Jim Santella, and Birch Bayh who gave me the most important lesson on life outside of my faith walk (you can Google his name later). Men who molded me, took time for me, and made me who you see today. There are others …
And, yesterday when I was walking the dog … suddenly I remembered someone special … a name I haven’t thought about in all too many years … and a man who turned my life’s direction around. Bill Hoyt … he even has a lake named after him. When I got back to the parsonage I went to my closet where I knew I had this t-shirt saved … SPECIAL INTERESTS DON’T FLY with BILL HOYT. I smiled … men whom Bill guided included one who became the Mayor of Buffalo … another a NY State Supreme Court Judge … another a State Senator … another an amazing cancer researcher … one who is a leader of programs for the homeless … and this pastor before you. My friend’s lesson … don’t let the world’s special interests take away the person you are … do justice, love all with mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Bill lived those lessons … I learned.
Father’s Day 2022 but truly a day for God’s family to evaluate or reevaluate what matters to us the most. It is our skirmishes of disagreement … are we so self-focused and absorbed that we forget those around us? Are we allowing special interests … our personal interests and treasures … to be our focus in life or perhaps … are we ready today to be changed people whose future days just might lead a pastor in the future to share our names with those in worship … or that an incredible Sunday School teacher will remember how a special person guided them towards Jesus and away from the world. Or how a silly knock joke that they can never recall that they heard sitting on a wooden bench the man created made all the difference in their lives before they returned to sit with their mom and dad in church while giving up just an hour of the week to worship as a family?
SING TO THE LORD … BLESS HIS NAME … SHARE THE NEWS of God’s SAVING WORK EVERY SINGLE DAY!! EVERY SINGLE DAY … and then … when we do that I think the drive in the country will take us to church and then lead us out into the world serving the God of creation each and every day! AMEN