Pentecost 5 June 15, 2008 “Marks of a Faithful Father” Ex.

19:8 “All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.” In the Name of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and God our heavenly Father. Amen. All married men should be mindful on this Father’s day of the time when we, like the Israelites, stood before the Lord and made a promise. Our promise, though slightly different than that which we hear in the text for today, was nonetheless similarly well-intentioned. It went something like this: “I take you to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part.” Now I ask you, men, how well have you kept these vows? At first you might be inclined to think “I’ve done a pretty good job—after all I’ve remained married to the same woman for five, fifteen, or even fifty years.” But remember, keeping God’s Word involves not simply the outward observance, but also the inner intentions of the heart. So let’s carefully consider this promise that you made again: Have you loved your wife for the worse? And I’m not talking about the first time you saw her without make-up. I mean the bad times
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when you clearly saw the quirky habits that got under your skin—or when she didn’t let you watch the ball game, or when she insisted that you share diaper duty? Have you loved her even when you were arguing about money—either not having enough—or not agreeing how to spend it? Did you love her when she was sick? Or when she was sick of you? Honestly, now, how well have you kept your promise to God and to your wife? Truth be told, we are just like the Israelites in the text. Though well-intentioned we have failed miserably. Rather than being faithful, we have been faithless to God, to our wives, to our families, and to ourselves. As Christian husbands and fathers we are called to faith and faithfulness. But this does not consist of keeping God’s commands flawlessly, but rather in living in faith and under the grace of Christ. Just as there are marks that serve to distinguish the church—namely the preaching of the Gospel and administration of the sacraments—so too there are marks that distinguish a faithful Father. Based on God’s Word, let me suggest three: First comes Confession. After last Sunday’s sermon, does it surprise you that this would be named first? Among other things, confession helps to restore a right relationship with the Lord. But for as important as confession is in God’s House, it is equally important in our own homes, for it is the key to reconciliation and restoration. Wives, when was the last time you had an argument. Don’t answer that out loud—I don’t want to have to do more counseling. Now let me ask you another question; how was that argument resolved? Was it because your husband came to you and said, in words similar to those of David,
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“I have sinned against heaven and against you. Please forgive me.” If so, great! But if not, then perhaps we need to wonder why not? The Gospel assures us that we will be forgiven. A Christian spouse is called to live out that Gospel, and therefore they will forgive just as they have been forgiven. The Gospel allows us the freedom to be vulnerable—for we know that God will not punish us for our sins—but will continue to love us. The same holds true for the faithful spouse. And therefore living out a life of confession and absolution in our homes is nothing less than living out the Gospel. What a gift God has given us in this simple, straightforward way of dealing with conflict and living in His forgiveness. Yet, as Christians, and as Christian couples, we avoid it like the plague. Part of the reason, as we mentioned last week, is because we have this idea that we don’t really need to confess our sins to another person— that we can confess them directly to God, in private. Listen to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in his book “Life Together.” Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation. It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is a dreadful blow to pride. In the confession of concrete sins the old man dies a painful, shameful death before the eyes of a brother. Because this humiliation is so hard we continually scheme to evade confessing to a brother. But the cross of Jesus Christ destroys all pride. We cannot find the cross of Christ if we shrink from going to the place where it is to be found, namely, the public death of the sinner. In the deep pain of humiliation before a brother, which means before God—we experience the cross of Jesus as our rescue and salvation. The old man dies, but it is God who has conquered him. Now we share in the resurrection of Christ and eternal life.”
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Bonhoeffer makes it clear that in order to have a healthy relationship with God, we need to confess our sins one to another—and that applies to marriage as well. Imagine the following scenario— husband and wife have an argument, don’t talk about for a couple of days, then the wife says to the husband, “Honey, I think we should talk about our argument. There were some things that you said that really hurt me.” The husband responds, “I know I did—and I’m sorry--but I want you to know that I already talked to God about it in private, just me and Him, and we’ve got the whole thing worked out. He forgave me, and so should you.” How well would that work in a marriage? There is another component to confession—and that is accountability. Men, asks yourselves this question: “To whom am I accountable?” One of the problems with the society we live in is that it fosters anonymity. When the front porch disappeared from home architecture, so too did the sense of neighborliness—or being accountable to someone other than ourselves. We have the mentality that we can do as we please, without anyone noticing or caring. But Christ calls us to be accountable to one another. And men NEED this accountability. We need to have another brother with whom we can confide—and confess. Whether it be “harmless” sins of wandering eyes, or serious sins that seduce us to be unfaithful to God or our wives and families—the cure is being accountable to God by means of having a brother in the faith in whom we can confide. I would encourage every man here, regardless of your age, to purposefully seek out another man with whom you can confide, confess, and who will hold you accountable in your faith life.

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The second mark of a faithful man is Communication. This is a major reason marriages fail. Husband and wife simply stop talking. I use the example in pre-marital counseling of the couple who has worked jobs and raised kids, and one day, after 20 or thirty years of marriage wakes up wondering who that person is that they are living with. Though living in the same house, they have not had healthy communication. That was the case with God’s people of old—they went to the temple— they knew His commandments—but they didn’t know God. Do we? Do we simply “go through the motions” of marriage? Do we do with our wives what we do with our God? Come to His house, be present in body but not in mind our spirit. A healthy faith-life, like a healthy marriage, begins with us LISTENING. What is God telling us in His word? Do we know His word? Are we giving His word a place of primary importance in our lives, and in the lives of our wife and children? God is communicating with you in His word, not only so that you may be blessed, but so that you may use it to bless your wife and family. Each husband and father is called to communicate God’s word to your families. They are to function as a pastor, and their family is to be their congregation. The catechism makes this clear—repeating the refrain: “As the head of the household should teach his family.” I ask you, men, are you teaching your family? Are you teaching your family to pray? Be it at the table or at bedtime. Are you teaching your family the catechism—or will you simply rely on the pastor for that? Are you teaching your family God’s Word—namely the law which disciplines us and the Gospel which forgives us—both in words and action. Are you teaching your family that church takes precedence over sleep, sports or
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other social activities? In this case, actions speak louder than words. While it is true that our vocation as father necessities us providing for the physical well-being of our families, it is even more essential that we provide for their spiritual well-being. Statistics support what God has said, that the one most important factor in the lives of their family is a faithful father. Finally, there is Communion. We are told that after God spoke to His people through Moses He called Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel to come up to Mt. Sinai. There they ate and drank and beheld God. In their eating and drinking they were in intimate communion with God. Men, this sends a strong message to us—if you want to be in intimate communion with God and your wife, you need to eat and drink. This is true in an earthly sense. Remember the TV Commercial that depicted a table and chairs—and the actor who said that this was the most important tool in keeping a family together? It’s no wonder marriages and families are scattered, because that is how we live day-today. We are in such a hurry to take our kids to piano or soccer or singing practice that we don’t take time to make a meal or to enjoy it as a family. Coming from New Mexico I have seen a drastic difference in the pace of people living along the Front Range. Life is SO much faster here—I can’t imagine what New York or Los Angeles must be like. It is time to put the breaks on, to slow down and smell the coffee, take time to taste the roses. Wait, reverse that. Fathers, this is your responsibility. Long after you have forgotten the score of your sons football game, you will remember the conversation you had around the dinner table where
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you talked to him about what it means not only to be a man, but what it means to be a man of God. Every year, at the beginning of confirmation, I tell the kids that twenty years from now the things that are most important to them will not be important any more—the team they are on, the boy or girl they like, the game they are playing on x-box. There is one thing that they can take with them into adulthood, and that will serve them well throughout their lives—and that is the very thing they will be learning in confirmation. As we know, in the Lutheran Church confirmation is preparation for taking the Lord’s Supper. For gathering around the table of the Lord with the family of Christ. When our children were little we used to have “family night”. Every Friday we would bake a homemade pizza —or as a real treat order one out—and watch a movie. It was something we all looked forward to. In the Church we have a direct correlation—It’s called “Family Day”—Sunday. When we come together as a family to eat and drink, to sing hymns and pray, to have fellowship with God and one another. It is God’s desire, clearly expressed in His Word, that you gather together around the marks of the church, His Word and Sacrament, which are also the marks of a healthy family and a faithful father. IN Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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