Third Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 10:24-39

I want to begin by wishing a happy Father’s Day to all fathers this morning, as well as all who serve as surrogate fathers, stepfathers, mentors, teachers, coaches, and friends. Happy Father’s Day to all who have endeavored by precept and example to show another the way and what real manhood looks like.

I have been thinking a lot about my own father these past days, and how we are shaped by people, experiences, and circumstances – good and not so good.

We have not just arrived at this present moment, but we have come from somewhere. We are a compilation of days, years, decades, and centuries. We are products of experiences, systems, choices, decisions, and legacies – some of which we had nothing to do with at all. Yet they are as much a part of who we are as the hair upon our head.

My father passed away at age 84 on March 21, 2005. The odds were against him from the beginning. He was a poor, uneducated black man in the south, growing up during the Great Depression. He was orphaned at an early age when both of his migrant parents died too soon, leaving him and his brother to be passed around from one relative to another.

And yet, he defied all odds. Over the years I have come to fully appreciate just how much of a superhero my father really was.

Anyone making bets would have gambled that he nor any of his offspring would have ever amounted to much in this old world. But the odds makers would have been wrong. He was a simple man but one of virtue, hard work, and faith.

He had the good sense to marry my mother and for 61 years they poured their lives out as a libation unto God, trusting and believing, depending on God for what they themselves could never do. My siblings and I, our family, were their “why” – their reason for existing, their motivation to keep trying no matter what.

We were poor, but my goodness, like many poor people we were not aware because in some ways, we were rich beyond compare.
I am thinking of all those fathers today for whom life was also not easy; those who have struggled to make ends meet and yearned to provide for their families but because of unjust systems were not able to do so. And those who disproportionately ended up in places that challenged their humanity and manhood.

I am thinking of all of those who have tried and tried, and their efforts looked or still look like failure. They lack the emotional tools, spiritual resources, the wherewithal to get it right. Some may be sliding in on broken pieces, but I want to encourage you to stay the course. Do not give up because children need their fathers as well as their mothers. We are never too old for a daddy’s love, is that right? Never too old for kindness and affirmation, lessons and examples from those who know us best.

If you are breathing and possess enough faith to be listening this morning, it is not too late. If there are fences that need to be mended, work toward that. Give love another try. Here is the thing: God still brings order out of chaos and every act of love gets us one step closer to being removed from the chaos. I don’t know how it works. I cannot explain, but I know it’s true.

There is a great hymn of the church and I love it so. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.” I was blind back then. I did not know any better, had not lived long enough, couldn’t see my way, had no clue about what I was doing – but now – now I see.

I once was comfortable with blurred vision, skewed priorities. I once was blind to my own self and to other people. My vision was obscured with anxiety, worry, ignorance, greed and fear, but now…

I once was willing to deny some things: that systemic racism still exists, that things are not fair and justice is not just for all.

I used to be willing to deny my own biases and prejudices but now I see, I understand.

Because once we see, once we know, once we understand, we do. That’s what faith gives us, my friends: faith gives us the strength to do and to do better. It pushes us further. It gives us power to change and a reason to change.

It pushes us out of our comfortable zones and hiding places and confronts us where we are. And if there is no discomfort in the midst of all that is happening in our world right now, if you are not being bothered one bit, I want to encourage you to take another look, go a little deeper, ask something else of yourself, something else of the Almighty.

In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus lays out the blueprint of discipleship for the twelve and also for us. It is not a pretty picture.

He invites us to not read these lessons from afar but to lean in close and listen in light of the challenges that face our modern world. So many have asked of late, “Pastor what can I do? How can I help?” Jesus invites us to lean in so that we might understand and be pushed out to do.

“There is nothing that is covered up that will not be uncovered, he says. “There is nothing secret that will not become known. Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear the ones who can destroy both body and soul. Even the hairs on your head are counted; so do not be afraid. You will not fall to the ground for you are of great value. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” [1]

And get this: “The time will come, when a man will be set against his father; and a daughter against her mother; daughter-in-law and mother-in-law against one another and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Here is the point: Jesus is not advocating family squabbles for the sake of squabbling over this or that. He is laying out a blueprint of what it means to follow him. To be a true disciple.

He is reminding them and us of the magnitude of this work. And sometimes even those who are closest to us will not follow or understand. One must have his or her own convictions. There are times when we may have to walk alone, but alone we must walk. Mother may disagree; daddy may not understand. Best friends and sweetie pies may be reluctant, choosing to play it safe.

But love without conviction is no love at all. And radical love always demands taking sides: we must choose. Jesus said, I did not come to bring peace but a sword and the sword is used to cut out and root out and attack that which is not fitting for the kingdom of God.

And there will be consequences – yes, this will not be a free ride and it is never free where truth is involved.

Do not be afraid, Jesus says as he pushes us out into rough terrain. The God who tends to the ugly little sparrow also cares for you. How much more valuable are you than they? Even the hairs upon your head – though many – are numbered and precious.

For those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. Do not be afraid.

[1] Matthew 10:26b-34