Biblical Texts: Deuteronomy 29:29-30:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 24:36-44
One of the questions that I like to ask the gathered family when planning a funeral is “what is your favorite memory of the deceased?” You often hear the things that eulogists will say. But there are also people who might not be willing to get up in a pulpit who will share memories in that more private space.
And the answers that I heard regarding John spoke about his faithfulness as a Father and a Husband. The Husband part might have included stories before the wedding, but stories that pointed to loving care. Stories like pushing a girl he was sweet on with a broken foot up and down hills. Stories like figuring out how on 9/11 to get away from the Pentagon that they had somehow accidentally stumbled toward. Stories of cross country moves and the reality of a fully wired house that makes sure the doors are locked for you in case you might forget. That loving care persists.
People often make fun of Fathers in our day. And one of the ways they do it is by making fun of Dads only having kids to continue being childish. But in a religion that includes the saying “if you do not receive the kingdom like a little child you will never enter there in”, we should be careful with that. That type of fatherly loving care is different. Maybe you liked football and your child likes soccer. As it was explained to me, John “learned to love” that new game. He loved big words, something that I could certainly relate to. But that might be an example of the love moving the other way and his children flexed that vocabulary. And Fatherly care extended to doing new things together. When so much of live just unhealthily shut down in the pandemic, John recognized how it wasn’t good, and hit the road RV’ing. There were lots of such stories of Fatherly direction and shared loved. Teaching to drive with a stick shift of all things. Developing an artistic talent through magical dragons. Boardgames, puzzles and intricate builds from clocks to a Lego millennium falcon. Maybe childlike, but far from childish.
Traditionally, one of those Fatherly loving care things is ensuring a foundation to answer big questions. Moses captures the deep reality of our existence. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” And those secret things are usually the “why?” questions. There are things that we just can’t answer from knowledge. But Moses continues, “the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” There is the Fatherly loving care. The things that have been revealed to us, are also for our children. And that Fatherly loving care teaches those revealed things.
For Moses that is the centrality of the LORD your God. We all wonder out, like prodigals. But when you hear the voice call, obey it. “Return to the LORD your God, you and your children…with all your heart and with all your soul.” The LORD your God is a Father who lovingly gathers and provides. “He will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed.” That is part of the revealed things. God’s love for us. Love for us as a Father.
Part of the secret things is our time. Not just our time but the world’s time. “As in the days of Noah.” We know the flood is coming. And even if it isn’t THE flood, we know out person day of reckoning is coming. But we do not know that day it will begin to rain. We do not know the day or the hour. These are the secret things.
But in God’s Fatherly care it has been revealed to us that this need not be our destruction. Noah entered the ark. And Luther’s baptismal prayer reminds us “God preserved Noah and his family, 8 souls in all.” That Ark today that has been revealed to us is that baptism. A baptism that John shared.
That ark today that has been revealed to us is what the Apostle Paul write – “having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ.
That is the foundation to answer big questions. That is the Fatherly loving care of the LORD our God. Christ died for us defeating sin and ultimately death, for death could not hold Jesus. He’s risen.
Our day and hour? The secret things. And those secret things, whatever our age, sneak up on us like a thief. But the loving care of Jesus and the Father is that this has been revealed to us. That “whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”
We live with God through faith.
We live with those awake or asleep, with what the creed calls the communion of saints.
We live with them in love and in that hope Paul preaches, and Moses spoke of, that we still reveal to you today. That God gathers his own in Fatherly love. And that today is the day of grace to hear his voice and follow, with all you heart and with all your soul. Amen