Father’s Day 2016
Two weeks ago, our middle boy, T. J., came running up to me after New City’s worship gathering concluded. “I’m going to preach!” he yelled. Of course, I had to learn the context of what he meant later and from others. (That’s how my kids communicate. They shout headlines at me).
What I came to find out was that Delonte Gholston, who has been serving as our interim Children’s Pastor while Christine Dilworth has been on maternity leave, was organizing a “Kids Sunday.” In the process of discussing possible roles with the kids, T. J. apparently volunteered himself to preach. As Pastor Delonte told the congregation as part of the introduction of the kids’ role in the service: “When a kid comes up to you excited and asks if they can preach, you say yes!” Delonte was 7 when he first delivered a message to a church congregation, and he’s been serving in ministry ever since.
This gave T. J. and I an opportunity to talk about what and how he would be sharing his homily. He’d decided in advance, he was going to speak on the book we were learning about as a congregation. As it happens, we’re in the middle of a sermon series on the book of Revelation. Yikes! And it also just so happens that we’re up to chapter 11, a chapter that might be one of the most fraught with puzzling symbolism.
As we sat down together to prepare T. J.’s notes, we read the text together. Then I gave him a quick hermeneutics lesson on the book of Revelation. “All of this is symbolic,” I assured him. “The important thing to note here is that the ‘witnesses’ follow the way of Jesus. They testified faithfully like him, but were persecuted. But, like Jesus, they were raised from the dead and ascend to heaven.” This seemed to capture T. J.’s little imagination. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head.
What we ended up with was less a commentary on Revelation 11, and more an exhortation for the church to be witnesses for Jesus—to tell our testimonies. As he was dictating, and I was typing, he had me write that he had become more interested in the Bible because of a comic book themed version called the Action Bible (shout out!). Then he talked about how Vacation Bible School at CCFC (Cambridge Community Fellowship Church) had brought him closer to Jesus. (Shout out to Pastor Larry Kim the fantastic volunteers of CCFC!)
Then, T. J. melted my heart. I asked him how he would describe the way Jesus has transformed his life. I said, “What are some ways Jesus has given you hope or joy?” T. J. said, “Jesus has given me hope that I can grow up to be a great pastor like my dad.” I literally stopped typing and turned to him in awe. I said, “T. J., I didn’t know you felt that way. You know you don’t have to say that just because it’s Father’s Day, right?” To which he said, “It’s Father’s Day?”
We completed his homily together and he practiced reading it several times. The next day, he did a fantastic job.
My daughter, Trinity, also ministered during Kids Sunday. She and her friend Anna co-presided over the Lord’s Supper, reading the words of institution together.
It was a fantastic Father’s Day gift!
Father’s Day hasn’t always been easy for me. I’ve never met my biological father. As a teen, I felt adrift in the world, searching for identity. I’m certain this quest contributed to many of my self-destructive choices, habits, and lifestyle. I felt alone and defenseless.
When I encountered the love of God in Jesus, I discovered a God who embraces me unconditionally and adopts me into a family. Christian men and women who aren’t biological family have cared for me in ways that have healed my heart and propelled my life. The Psalmist’s praise has been demonstrated in my life, and I am eternally grateful.
Thank you to all the men who have shown me God’s father-like love!
“A father to the fatherless… God sets the lonely in families…” – Psalm 68:5a, 6a