…was delivered by my dad, pretty much impromptu, almost two years ago. I was the one scheduled to do the sermon that morning, though. But the night before, a leader in our church (a church I’ve left since) very aggressively attacked me for proposing some unorthodox outreach ideas. I was well on my way of completing the sermon manuscript when I left for the fateful meeting, but I just couldn’t continue when I returned. It was such a blow. It knocked the wind out of me completely. I tried to pick up the writing the next morning, but found it impossible. We lived with my parents at the time and they saw how hard a time I was having. So my dad asked if he should do the sermon instead. I was a bit embarrassed to let down the church, but very thankful and relieved for his offer.
The sermon itself started quite somewhat obscurely. Quotes from the Psalms and various places in the Old Testament about the faithfulness and love of God. Then it moved unto Jesus, if I remember it correctly, as the embodiment of God’s faithfulness and love. About halfway through, though, I got what my dad was doing. How can we say that we worship and follow God, when we are less than loving towards our own brothers and sisters in church? Subtly, yet with the authority hard-won after years of faithful full-time work, my dad was disciplining the church, and perhaps a certain few individuals within it, reminding all the congregation to be holy as God is holy, loving as he is loving. At this point I broke down and started crying. My dad was defending me, and encouraging me. Yet, that was the least of it. He drew upon deep wells within himself – his knowledge of the Bible, his intimacy with God, his personal experience with and of the church – and he spoke into the situation, singlehandedly reoriented the church unto or closer to the narrow path again. He was protecting me to a degree, but in actuality he was protecting the church itself.
I remember one line in particular, towards the end of the sermon. “It’s a tried and true fact that some of the most bitter opposition a servant of the Lord will face, will come from within the church.” His voice was emotional at this point, betraying painful experiences in his past, where he had been betrayed and ostracised by people trying to use him and his situation to demonstrate their own superiority and self-righteousness. Many years later, having come through these times of hardship and trial with his faith and dignity intact, he was seeing his son going through a measure of the same sort of thing. And he was seeing the church of his birth and long life, or at least certain members within, turning into the same sort of people who hung him out to dry. And he was not having it. The fatherly love of Christ demanded no less.
I cried for some 15-20 minutes as my dad was preaching. I must’ve looked like crap, puffy-eyed and face flushed red, walking up to the platform to play bass for the last hymn before the end of the service. But I felt deep gratitude for what my dad has done – and I thanked him, awkwardly, afterwards. Part of it was because I just needed it so damn much. But more than that, I was thankful to have witnessed what true holiness and spiritual authority looked like that morning.