What can you say to someone who has always been one of the most essential parts of your world; someone who took you by the hand when you were little and helped to show the way?
What do you say to someone who stood by to help you grow, providing love, strength, and support so you could become the person you are today?
What can you say to let him know that he’s the best there is, and that you hope you’ve inherited some of his wisdom and his strength?
What words would you say if you ever got the chance?
Maybe you just say "I love you, Dad..."
and hope he understands.
-- Carey Martin
Many of you may have heard me say this before, but I must say it again. I mean no disrespect to those who have come before me, nor to those who shall come after me. To all my brothers and sisters I share with you the utmost in love, however, there is something I must declare. I have the world’s greatest father. My heart saddens right now, for I love him and so desire having the opportunity to share this special day with him. My father was not perfect: sometimes he beat me when it was my brother’s fault; sometimes he yelled at me when my sister did it; sometimes he punished me when I had a perfectly good reason; sometimes ...
The Bible tells the story of perhaps one of the most loving fathers in the world through a story called “the Prodigal Son”. Of all the stories in the Bible, many of us may perhaps know of this story. In it we find a young son who goes to his father and requests his portion of the inheritance. Without question the father gives the son the proper share after which the son travels to a distant, not house, not city, but country, where he squanders all that the father has given him until none is left. As if being broke is not enough, the son finds himself also in a country where there is a great famine, where he is forced to work feeding pigs. Sadly enough, even the pigs eat better than he does. The son then remembers that even the servants in his father’s house have food to spare, yet he is in another country starving. He then decides to make better of himself by traveling back home to see his father.
Strangely after all that has happened, the father sees the son in the distance, runs to him, welcomes him back, and throws a party greater than anyone can ever imagine.
As I looked at this story I began to think, as some of you may have, as well: why did the father so eagerly help him; where is the “tough love” that children are supposed to have when they don’t do right; where is the lesson learned that the son is supposed to have; where is the punishment and discipline that the son is supposed to be faced with when he returns home after loosing all that the father had worked so hard to achieve; where is the condemnation for misusing his talents? Are you confused? I am. This “father“ is not acting like a father! He’s just giving everything away to this unappreciative boy.
Thus as a result I began I “Bible dive”; diving deeper into the word to find out why perhaps it was that in three different areas it was that the son was undeserving, but he received anyway.
It was not until I looked at this “father” in light of my own flesh and blood, in light of my own father to truly begin to realize what it could be that made the Father act the way in which he did.
“Love, I didn’t deserve it, but my father gave it to me anyway”
20So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Do you know what real love is? I’m sure you do. When I look at the father and I think of real love, I think of my experiences as a young 11/12 year old. It was around this time that I really began to pursue my love of cooking. I even began to mock the recipes my mother would make. I recall having dinner one evening and my mother made tomatoes stuffed with a tuna salad. The next day after school I was determined to make the same dish myself. I slaved in the kitchen until my masterpiece was ready and it was presented for dinner. It was “almost” like my mother’s; I just happen to forget to drain the tuna fish of all the oil. It was almost like my mother’s; I just happen to use mustard instead of mayonnaise in the tuna salad. It was almost like my mother’s; I just happened to add hot sauce. And after we had said grace that evening, my father ate it.
But it did not stop there. I began to read my mother’s cookbooks on a regular basis… looking, searching, striving to find that perfect recipe—and I found it—the chocolate mariegn pie with a peanut butter graham cracker crust. Now mind you I could not even pronounce the word, I just knew it was what I wanted. And what better time to present the pie but as a gift to my esteemed father for father’s day. So I arose early that Sunday morning, and following the receipe began the pie. By twilight the pie was complete and I slowly ascended the stairs to my parent’s bed room where I presented the gift to my father. It was almost like the receipe; I had just not realized that when baking a pie that uses pudding, there is a notable difference between “instant” pudding and stove top pudding—instant pudding just gets runny in the oven and does not get thick. My filling had become a thinning. It was almost like the receipe; I just had incidentally used all peanut butter and no crackers and the crust seemed to float throughout the glorious river of filling. It was almost like the recipe; however, having prepared the masterpiece so early a time in the morning and not desiring to awaken my father, I had chosen to use a hand powered mixer instead of the electric. And getting too tired of having to continually twist the crank I did not realize that miriegns just don’t “puff” up in the oven; but they must be puffed before they enter the oven. And so this concoction that I was so proud of was presented before my father, and I still vividly recall the memory of him lying in bed spooning the first “slice” into his mouth smiling, as he ate it. If that is not love, I don’t know what is.
How so much is that like the love shown in the story? How so much is that like the love that our Father in heaven shows us? You may say but I don’t understand; it doesn’t make any sense. Well let me tell you.
We go through life of ours with some very nice and perfectly good ingredients; 2 cups of salvation, sifted with ½ cup of a Life in Jesus, then we fold in 4 tablespoons Holy spirit, 2 teaspoons God’s grace, 2 teaspoons God’s providence, with a dash of walking in His will. But just like I did to my father, we don’t follow the recipe that He has written up for us. And so we end up substituting things in our life that weren’t supposed to be there. We end up taking a dash of this and a dash of that not realizing that it’s messing up this great thing called life that God has for us. Or better yet, we don’t even follow a recipe as when I made the stuffed tomatoes. we just figure we can do our own thing and it’ll turn out just as good. And we end up all greasy, nasty, having our lives not even remotely resembling what it should through Jesus Christ.
And in the midst of all this having destroyed the recipe of a spiritually abundant life we show up; just as the child did in the story, having messed it up as bad as you could have messed up. How must the boy have smeled; how must he have looked? And in the midst of being so repulsive that it makes some of us like my mother almost vomit, we present this messed up life at the foot of Christ and ask Him to partake of us… and He does. Not only that but just like the father in the story, He stands off in the distant, knowing we aren’t doing it right, waiting for us to turn around and get it right, but even if we don’t and we mess up all that He’s given us we turn back to Him, crying, remembering how it could have been and He runs up to us, embraces us kisses us and loves us anyway.
1 John 3:1
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
We do what we know we shouldn’t, we mess it all up, and we don’t deserve His love at all, but he gives it to us anyway.
“Lavishness, , I didn’t deserve it, but my father gave it to me anyway”
22"But the father said to his servants, ’Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 … So they began to celebrate.
Lavishness, what does it really mean. I’m sure we all know. When I think of lavishness and look at the father I’m reminded of when I was a kid about 13 years old. I remember it was the 4th of July and I was hot mad a my father. I was the only boy in the neighborhood who would not have firecrackers for Independence Day. I’d had the worse father in the world. I secretly muttered things about him all day long because he’d told me explicitly that I would not have any firecrackers. Looking back on that time, my parents couldn’t afford to go buy firecrackers. They didn’t have the money to do the things I wanted to do, for they needed to do the things they had to do. I remember being so mad and having my dad tell me to come with him as we got into the car and traveled on down the road. I was still mad when the car stopped at a gas station and there in the corner of the gas station in front of the car was a sight greater to me than what the Israelites experienced when God split the red sea—a fireworks stand. I remember we purchased not just any fireworks but the best, and among those I still remember was the garden in July, and huge masterpiece of an explosive that would light up the sky for two minutes of a fireworks dream come true. How undeserving I was to receive this, yet my father chose to not just give me, but to give me lavishly without any expense.
How so much is that like the love shown in the story? How so much is that like the lavishness that our Father in heaven shows us? You may say but I don’t understand; it doesn’t make any sense. Well let me tell you.
Having wasted all that his father had worked so hard for, the father not only loves his son, but he goes and gets the best of everything to celebrate his revival. Go get the best robe. Go get a ring. Go get a pair of sandles. Go get the fattened calf. The implies a singularity—there is only one of them, they are the best. But the father loves and is so thankful that he gives them anyway.
9I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
“Discipline, , I didn’t deserve it, but my father gave it to me anyway”
25"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27’Your brother has come,’ he replied, ’and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ’Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31" ’My son,’ the father said, ’you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ "
Jesus doesn’t continue the story to say that and after so many days had passed the father calls the son into his bedroom and sets him straight, assigns him punishment, etc. In fact there is no disciple for the runaway child at all even mentioned. The one who is disciplined is the one who has done it right. The oldest son is hot mad, and I imagined very pained and saddened. I imagine he’s saying that the father took that “the” bull and that “the” best robe and gave it to that ungrateful little brother of mine.
I can relate. As a child my brother and I had to take baths together, I was seven and my brother was 5. I don’t know why; my father was in the navy and we lived in naval housing, and water was free for us. But nevertheless, one day while in the bath tub my younger brother had the great idea of acting like bull riders by holding onto the soap holder with one hand and rocking back and forth. He went first and it looked like fun. So it was my turn. Now I heard a crack just as he let go and splashed into the water, but I still decided to go; and as I held on and let go of my right hand the whole piece and about 10 tiles up down to the left and right broke off the wall, too. I received a beating that night. I also loss my chance to go to Philadelphia for a “father and son trip” to see all of our family. But the worse part is that my brother went instead; and when he returned he had received a number of gifts and money from all our family and friends in Philly. It was his fault he was the one who came up with the idea; he was the one who cracked it; he was the one had taken my “father and son” trip; all those presents he received were mine; all that cash was mine; he had taken my “that” fatted calf; he had taken my “that” best robe,; he had taken my father’s attention, and I was the one who was discipline.
My brother took my “that” fattened calf and I was disciplined.
Is there a fattened calf that your didn’t get? Is there someone that’s not getting their just deserts for what they’ve done? Is there someone who gets more attention for being bad than you get for being good? Is there someone who got the job that you really deserved?
Yes, they are doing wrong, but we are too. When we get bit by the green eyed monster called jealousy.
10For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
It’s difficult to find beauty in death. It’s even more difficult to find beauty in a death camp. Especially Auschwitz. Four million Jews died there in World War II. A half-ton of human hair is still preserved. The showers that sprayed poison gas still stand.
But for all the ugly memories of Auschwitz there is one of beauty. It’s the memory Gajowniczek has of Maximilian Kolbe. In February 1941 Kolbe was incarcerated at Auschwitz. He was a Franciscan priest. In the harshness of the slaughterhouse he maintained the gentleness of Christ. He shared his food. He gave up his bunk. He prayed for his captors. He was soon given the nickname “Saint of Auschwitz”.
In July of that same year there was an escape from the prison. It was the custom at Auschwitz to kill ten prisoners for every one who escaped. All the prisoners would be gathered in the courtyard, and the commandant would randomly select ten names from the roll book. These victims would be immediately taken to a cell where they would receive no food or water until they died.
The commandant begins calling the names. At each selection another prisoner steps forward to fill the sinister quota. The tenth name he calls is Gajowniczek. As the SS officers check the numbers of the condemned, one of the condemned begins to sob. “My wife and my children,” he weeps. The officers turn as they hear movement among the prisoners. The guards raise their rifles. The dogs tense, anticipating a command to attack. A prisoner has left his row and is pushing his way to the front.
It’s Kolbe. No fear on his face. No hesitancy in his step. The capo shouts at him to stop or be shot. “ I want to talk to the commander,” he says calmly. For some reason the officer doesn’t club or kill him. Kolbe stops a few paces from the commandant, removes his hat, and looks the German officer in the eye.
“Herr Commandant, I wish to make a request, please.”
That no one shot him is a miracle.
“I want to die in the place of this prisoner.” He points at the sobbing Gajowniczek. The audacious request is presented without stammer. “I have no wife and children. Besides, I am old and not good for anything. He’s in better condition.” Kolbe knew well the Nazi mentality.
“Who are you?” the officer asks.
“A Catholic priest.”
The block is stunned. The commandant, uncharacteristically speechless. After a moment, he barks, “Request granted.”
Prisoners were never allowed to speak. Gajowniczek says, “I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me-a stranger. Is this some dream?”
The Saint of Auschwitz outlived the other nine. In fact, he didn’t die of thirst or of starvation. He died only after the camp doctor injected phenol into his heart. It was August 14,1941.
Gajowniczek survived the Holocaust. He made his way back to his hometown. Every year, however, he goes back to Auschwitz. Every August 14 he goes back to say thank you to the man who died in his place.
In his backyard there is a plaque. A plaque he carved with his own hands. A tribute to Maximilian Kolbe – the man who died so he could live. (Six Hours One Friday; Max Lucado, taken from “Abba Father”, sermon by David Yarbrough)
How must it be like to be Gajowniczek; each and everyday living your life in tears of thankfulness for that great sacrifice that one man made for him? We all have a story like that relating to a father in our lives. One who loved us so much, who was beaten and broken for us who loved us so much. One who died for us.
Yesterday, I saw my little 2 year old cousin with his grandfather, my uncle, playing the “I love you this much” game. They would start with their hands only a couple inches apart and begin to widen the gap, each time saying “I love you this much” until they both could stretch as much as they could possibly stretch. There is a story that tells of the Jesus and a little child talking and playing the “I love you this much game”. They began going back and forth saying the phrase. Finally, Jesus stretched His arms as wide as He could, said “I love you this much” and died.
He loves you so much.