Faith of Our Fathers

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I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. On Father's Day I will be in the same place doing the same thing that I have done for the past 35 years. No, not in my church preaching a Father's Day sermon. Actually, though I have been in ministry for 35 years, I have never preached a Father's Day sermon. In fact, I have never preached on Father's Day. But I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

The little church is crowded, more so than usual. The brightly-painted white clapboard chapel is nestled on a mountainside overlooking the Pine Creek, one of the most beautiful valleys you could ever imagine. The sound of the church bell rings across the valley signaling the beginning of the service. The opening hymn is "Faith of Our Fathers" sung to the accompaniment of a foot-pumped organ that makes it sound more like an accordion than an organ. To my right I can hear the clear tenor voice of my Dad. Soon we will hear a simple, clear, heart-stirring challenge from the lay pastor about the need to take our biblical responsibilities of fatherhood seriously.

As I have sat in that pew over the years my heart has overflowed with gratitude to God for what I learned about Fatherhood from my Dad. The very fact that we were there reminded me of the importance of keeping my priorities in order. It was 10:00 on Sunday morning and we were on vacation. It was my parents' only Sunday away, but we were in church. It was never debated or in doubt. We were going to worship the Lord. Dad was the hardest-working man I have ever known but church attendance was never compromised all year long. The Lord was a priority.

We were also there because Dad saw the importance of making time for family.  Our annual trip to the mountains became an anchor in our lives. It was a time of fun and outdoor activities fueled by lots of fattening food.  But most importantly, there was extended time together in which longer conversations and laughter on the back porch echoed across that same valley. Relationships were deepened and mutual respect grew.

I suppose the bottom line is that Dad modeled these priorities. He was a good example to his four sons. The priorities of faith and family cannot not be caught by mere talk, but must be modeled. What makes us think that our children will take seriously things that we don't? Dad didn't talk a lot but his actions clearly communicated the importance of faith and family. Words from the last stanza of "Faith of Our Fathers" are appropriate here:

                       And preach thee, too, as love knows how

                       By kindly words and virtuous life.

I must admit that as I have sat in that pew over the years I have often been convicted of my shortcomings either by the pastor's message or by my own reflections that flood into my mind. But I am also reminded of the forgiving grace of my heavenly Father and the persistent presence of His Spirit to help me to become the Dad and husband that I ought to be.

So that's where I will be again this Father's Day. My Dad has now been with the Lord for some years. I know I will have difficulty singing "Faith of Our Fathers" as the tears well up in my eyes. My efforts to keep the tears from spilling down my cheeks are futile. I wonder if others have noticed. My wife is ready with an understanding look and a tissue or two. She is ready because she knows what this means to me. She knows what I am thinking. But she knows that my tears are not tears of sadness but tears of gratitude to God. Now there are the voices of my children and grandchildren around me hopefully learning the same lessons that I learned for so many years from my Dad in that brightly-painted white clapboard chapel on the mountainside.

"Faith of Our Fathers" is by Dr. Timothy Witmer. Tim is the author of "The Shepherd Leader at Home" and "The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church". He recently taught for the Alliance in a message he titled Persevering in Your Church and Ministry. Dr. Witmer is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he is Coordinator of the Practical Theology Department and Director of Mentored Ministry and Master of Divinity Programs. But those around the Alliance know Tim the longest as part of the Westminster Brass!

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Posted June 12, 2014 @ 8:07 AM by Guest blogger
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