The True Comfort of Steadfast Fathers, by Jon Townsend

(Editor’s Note: Jon writes our “I Desire Mercy not Sarcasm…” column but there is no sarcasm in this post. I thought it would be a nice change of pace with all the legaleze we have been reading in the last few days.) To make it easier to publish this in your church newsletters, we have created a “short link” for this article.

“Not everybody is fortunate enough to grow up in a Christian home with parents who love each other.”

My own father said this to me last year. He was talking about me and probably about himself as a child.

Although I never experienced the comfort of having a father in my life who was a practicing Christian, I have been witness especially in the last year to the example of several Lutheran fathers in action.

I rotate with a few other men as Sunday School teachers for the high school/teen class.

All of the other men have kids in that class. Sometimes it is frustrating to the other men, because it seems as if only their children attend. Every Sunday we can count on 3 to 6 teenagers showing up, three of which belong to one of the men who is in the teaching rotation.

It was my turn a couple of weeks ago and for a few weeks leading up to this there were several conversations in the Board of Education and between the Sunday School Superintendent and me. “Why don’t the kids show up?” “What can we do different?” “Should we get the elders involved?” At the beginning of class that Sunday, I asked the kids the very questions we were all asking ourselves and one of the boys gave me the answer. “The kids will be here if the parents bring them.”

How simple and true an answer!

I ran into the Sunday School Superintendent after the Divine Service and conveyed the same answer to him. “Oh, I bet you that’s Dave’s son that said that.” he replied. “Dave also said, that we shouldn’t give his son that much credit for the answer because that is what he is always saying to his son!” The Superintendent also told me that this man always makes sure his children are in church, even when they are away and that on camping trips the father makes sure that the family has a devotion on Sunday morning.

During the Divine Service on that Sunday, I was busy during the offering chasing my two year old into the Narthex and I watched that same man, with a couple of the teenage boys giving them instruction on how to call the different pews up to the communion rail. It was fun to watch because a couple of the boys seemed reluctant to take on the responsibility and with all confidence he told them, “Well today’s the day for you guys to do this, let’s do it.” The boys proudly went out and performed their duty.

I can only envy such youth. I wonder if they know how blessed they are to have a Christian father. A few months back, I also saw the comfort that a Christian father, who is faithful to his vocation, has in the darkest of hours.

Every Sunday, without fail, a rather conservative looking gentleman sat near the aisle in the 3rd or 4thpew with his wife and his son, who was in his early 20’s. The father and son couldn’t have been more of an odd couple. The father: Short hair, sport coat, tie – very distinguished. The son: Long hair, a striped sweater, a goatee – he could leave the Divine Service and easily go to a Sevendust concert. Every Sunday they prayed together, sang the liturgy together and kneeled at the communion rail together. It was an image that defied all stereotypes on a weekly basis.

The young man died late last year in a tragic auto accident. At the funeral our pastor preached and looked to the pew where he sat and said, “He died because he was sinner and he knew it. He said it himself, every Sunday, sitting right there.” He went on to also say that, the young man who died also knew where to find forgiveness and that was in the Absolution, in the preached Word and in the Sacrament.

His father was so strong during it all. I walked in that morning and he shook my hand, with all manner of strength and thanked me for coming. And before the funeral began, I didn’t get it fully. How could he do it? How could he greet and thank me? I tear up to even think of being in his shoes and find it nearly incomprehensible that he could be so strong for his wife and other children. What I witnessed was incredible.

I get it now though. He fulfilled his vocation. His son was there, with him, each week, to receive what our Lord through His bride the Church and through His called and ordained ministers gives us – Christ’s saving Word and the Medicine of Immortality in His Body and Blood. And in this great tragedy, he has the comfort and true hope that his son is in the church triumphant, still singing the Sanctus with him every Sunday morning around 10:15 am.

To all Christian fathers I say this: Whether you are to be a comfort or to be comforted, the source is the same; Christ’s Word and Sacrament.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.