“I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on their children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing loving devotion to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments. “
These last few months in adult Sunday School we’ve been going over what the Christian church has taught from the scriptures since the Old Testament. Recently we’ve discussed the Sacrament of the Altar and how God from the beginning is sacramental. Sacramental means in one sense that God uses what looks to be something ordinary but by attaching his word to that ordinary object(bread/wine, water) that object becomes holy and set apart for a specific use.
In the beginning God gave Adam and Eve the whole Garden of Eden, full of trees. However, there were two trees that God had not given to our first parents. It is interesting to note that God did not tell them they were not ever going to eat of the trees, he just had not given them the trees yet. God did give the warning to not eat of the tree of knowledge because in that day they would die.
God had given the whole garden as a gracious blessing and Adam and Eve showed they trusted God by not eating of the two trees. They lived by faith in God’s word. There was nothing visibly strange or odd about the trees. The only thing that differentiated the two trees was God’s command that was attached to them. God attached his word to the trees and because of this the trees were spiritual.
God gave the trees for a good reason. They were gifts. One by avoidance, the other, the tree of life, was a fountain of life and healing according to Rev. 22. However, when God’s word is disregarded and one takes the blessings of God and misuses them, these wonderful gifts become curses.
We see this often in our lives outside the church too. We celebrate Father’s Day this month. Fatherhood is a wonderful gift given by God for certain reasons. We fathers have God given responsibilities, first and foremost to teach our families the faith. To instruct our children according to God’s word and to serve our wives by even giving our lives for them. We are to be leaders in the church. If you have no children of your own, you should help teach the children in your church family. Did I mention we need Sunday School teacher volunteers for the summer?....God gives us fathers these roles as blessings to us and those around us. Fatherhood is a blessed gift, however, this gift when not used according to God’s word becomes a curse.
Fatherhood is a curse when we fathers don’t teach our children. The curse is that our children and then grandchildren will not be Christians and they will end up in hell. Fatherhood is a blessing in that we teach our children the faith so that we may see them rejoice in God’s forgiveness of sins. If you though as a father don’t talk about this joy, nor teach this in your home, your children will think it is useless. It’s not that difficult, to be honest. Do you enjoy sports? Did you have to tell your kids who to root for or did they learn by watching you? Generally, our kids follow and appreciate the things we spend the most time talking about and dedicating our time for.
Fatherhood can also be a curse when it is seen as something made solely for our enjoyment. When fathers spend their time pursuing pleasure or work more than teaching the faith there is no end to the pleasure and work you can find. No one ever died thinking, “I wish I would have spent more time in the office.” Chasing fun and pleasure can be a curse as well as to the fact that there is no shortage of entertainment for us in this world. If you chase and pursue a good time every weekend, pretty soon you will see that you have taught your children how to be absent from God’s house and still feel like a Christian in that you haven’t done anything “bad.”
Maybe teaching the faith and being a father feels like a curse….”Pastor my kids don’t like church and I don’t want to force them to go.” Do you force them to do other things? Like brushing their teeth? Perhaps you had to force them at the beginning but as they grow that “forcing” has for them been a great blessing. Who doesn’t appreciate great teeth?!
Perhaps you force your kids to go to sports practices or get up early to go fishing or hunting or go to school. Force your kids to go to church. It’s hard, I know but you are not your kids friend but father. Yes, dare I say, church is more important than school. It is a blessing to be a father, not just to your biological kids but even the kids in the church family or your neighborhood or sphere of friends. This is godly and pleasing to God our heavenly father when we teach by word and action.
Consider how God taught Adam and Eve. He gave them everything but also taught them his word of life. When they sinned God gave the remedy, his forgiveness. So too now for us fathers who have failed to uphold God’s command, God gives forgiveness in Christ Jesus. For all sinners God has given food with a word of promise attached to it. This is why we Christians can go forward each and every day even when it seems we have failed, Christ’s death on the cross has wiped away every sin. The Lord’s Supper is a gracious giving of blessings of forgiveness of sins. However, like the trees in the Garden of Eden, this tree of Christ’s cross has a warning attached. We must be taught and we must teach our children the nature of this blessing. To use it rightly. To live our faith by believing God’s word of forgiveness and eating of the fruit of Christ’s tree often. If you fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors, hunger and rejoice in this tree, our children will follow. We are not sacraments but we are set apart by God for holy callings.
Remember, our God given calling to be fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters in Christ is not ultimately to be successful but faithful. Faithful means repenting and receiving Christ’s forgiveness even if we feel we have been successful. Faithful means to know God’s word and how he gives us so many gifts but often we turn them into curses. God as our father teaches us his word and then gives his very life for his bride the church. God indeed is THE father that we can all rejoice and give thanks for. The Lord’s Supper is meant as a gift to sustain and strengthen us to be faithful no matter where God has called us to serve those around us. God gives the tree of Christ’s cross as a blessing to pass down to your children and grandchildren. God gives gifts with his word of promise attached to them. Gifts that seem ordinary to our eyes but by faith are glorious gifts of God. The Sacrament of the Altar is such a gift. Don’t be absent from this tree. God gives us the fruit of Christ’s tree for our blessing.
See you on Sunday!