The Most Important Thing a Father Can Do
June 17, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
The Baptism of Jesus
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
15Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.
16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
Brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! I’d like to do two things this morning. I’d like to say thank you to the dads in our midst. I’d like us to have the opportunity to say thanks to the fathers who have gone to heaven and are with the Lord now, as mine is. First of all, thank you, dads. On behalf of your children, on behalf of your church family, on behalf of myself, a big thank you. We salute you this morning. We salute you for all that you do to provide for your family, to encourage them, to uplift them, to be there for them. And it’s not just for dads; it’s not just for fathers. It’s for all of us. All of us need to fill in Dad’s love, because we can’t expect him to do it all. All of us take part in this. To all who are dads and all who serve as dads, a salute and a deep and rich thank you.
And I’d like to do a second thing today. I’d like to ask a question. And the question is this: What’s a dad’s most important job? What is the most important positive thing that a father can do?
What’s the most important job of all? I think we can take a cue from the Holy Scripture on this.
Let’s see what the scripture tells us about the ultimate Father. Jesus went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John, who was up to his knees in the water, baptizing people, pouring water on their heads, and giving them a new chance at life. John looked over and saw Jesus approaching. He said, “Look who’s coming! My cousin, Jesus. Oh, friends, let me tell you about that man! You people sacrifice lambs to the Lord, to take away sins. Let me tell you something – that man is the Lamb of God. He will take away all our sins.”
“Oh, Jesus,” he said, “I’m not worthy to tie your shoelaces, and yet you come to me to be baptized?”
And Jesus said, “It’s okay, John. Let it be so, because I want to be like everybody else. You go ahead and baptize me. It will be all right.”
John said hesitantly, “Okay, I will.” So he and Jesus went into the Jordan River, and John took a shell full of water and poured it on Jesus’ head, saying “I baptize you, Jesus.” And the clouds in the sky that day seemed to part, and there was a light that came down from the sky, a sparkling, glittering ball of light. It looked like a dove descending, lingering over the head of Jesus and surrounding Him with light. And then an incredible voice, strong and powerful, yet clear and comforting, a voice from Heaven, said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And Jesus took it to heart; His heavenly Father had spoken.
And His heavenly Father speaks for every one of us: “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” What does the ultimate Father say to His children? That’s what He says. “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” And we do well to take our cue from Him. Fathers, people who serve as fathers, everybody who makes up the difference of a father’s love – that’s our task, to speak the blessing, to say the good word.
That’s our task. What’s the blessing? A blessing comes from the Latin benedictio, benediction, good word. It’s the word that brings good along with it, the word that brings benefit. That’s what a blessing is. That’s our task, to share the good word, one with another. That’s the best thing we can do, to share a father’s love.
My dad couldn’t speak English very well. He was born in Poland, came over here and served in the American Army, but he never quite mastered the language. I’ll never forget one thing he did for me. We were in the car together. I was in high school. He was driving me to a speech club event. My dad always drove me everywhere. I wanted to be close to him, but he wasn’t a ‘get close to’ sort of guy. He was a very European sort of gentleman. So I’d always reach over and shake his hand. He was okay with that.
I shook his hand and said, “Dad, thank you for driving me to speech club.” And I’ll never forget what he said. He looked at me and said, “Jun” – that was his nickname for me, short for Junior – “Jun, I no mind to drive you to speech club. You learn things. And someday maybe you be someplace where is lots of people, and they come to you and they say, ‘Hey you, Anthony, come on and stand up and say few words to all the people.’ And you get training and you do it. You be able to do it. I never do it.”
I shook his hand and said, “Thanks, Dad.” I always will remember those words, that blessing. And that’s our task, to bless our children and to bless each other, to let the good word be said. Let something good be said, friend. You’ll be emulating God, and you’ll be doing the most important task a parent can do.
There is a movie called “You’ve Got a Friend” on the Hallmark Channel. Maybe some of you have seen it. At the end of the movie, there is a race between two boys. They’re racing soapbox derby cars down a hill. The two fathers are cheering them on, before the last big race. In one scene, one father said, “Come on, son, we’re almost there. You see that trophy? Oh, I can almost taste it.”
His son said, “Well, Dad, I’ll do my best.”
The father looked disappointed and said, “Do your best? No, son, that’s not the thing to do. The thing is to win.”
In the next scene, the other boy and his father are talking. Bobby says to his dad, “I don’t know if I can beat Tommy.” And his father says, “Well, you’ll never know until you cross the finish line. You’ll never know. But don’t worry about it. Just do your best. You’re already a winner in my eyes.”
We all know which kind of father, which kind of parent, which kind of supporter we want to be. My dear friends, may you have the gift of knowing that you are powerful. Dads, may you know that you are powerful, because you can speak the words of blessing. And you never know how many years that will be remembered for.
One final word – for those of you who can no longer hear your father’s words of blessing, may I remind you that you have a heavenly Father who is speaking to you today. And the word that He speaks is this: “You, [fill in your own name here], are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” Take confidence in that. Know that He is blessing you, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski