Steadfast

7/25/04
Lk. 11:1-13

Midst all the toil and tribulation of our lives, the chaos and the disappointments, we often need to be reminded of the steadfastness of God.

This morning’s Gospel passage is complex. The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, because John the Baptist taught his disciples how to pray. Jesus then teaches the Lord’s Prayer. Our modern translation of the traditional King James Version raises more questions than it answers. What we should note, however, is that the term Abba, “father,” in Hebrew means “daddy” or “dad.” It is a personal term. Jesus then tells the story of the man who has visitors late at night and is short of bread. So the man goes to a friend and wakes him up. The friend is outraged, and yet responds not out of friendship but out of persistence — apparently the persistence of the breadless friend. Jesus then goes on to say that if you know how to give good gifts to your children, then how much more can we be assured that God will give the Holy Spirit (a good gift) to those who ask. Jesus ends his conversation with a bit from Wisdom Literature, or common sense observations of the world. Rather than citing the history and tradition of the Jews, Jesus argues from smaller to greater, Jesus says that if we who are “evil” can do good things, then now much more can God do good things. How “evil” gets in there, I really don¹t know. The whole passage seems to deal with the problem of prayer and of unanswered/ or answered prayer. The Holy Spirit is thrown in for good measure at the end.

In the final analysis I think that Jesus is talking not just about the importance of persistence, but the importance of steadfastness — the steadfastness that you and I need to have and that God has for us. Ultimately “Dad” will not let us down. We should emulate that and not let “Dad” down. Our steadfastness reflects or points to His goodness or steadfastness, even when we are less than perfect.

Now I want to tell you a story from the archives of my family experience. Some of you have heard it before. I have two sons, Michael and Christopher. Michael is thirty-three and Christopher is thirty-one. They are basically good kids, not perfect, but sound. Jokingly I refer to them as Bruno and Igor, Neanderthals who drag their knuckles on the ground. Faye is Brunhilda and I am “Fred.” We have always sort of bumbled along. Now my sons grew up with a group of boys, six or seven, with whom they went to Holmes School, then to Middle School and finally to High School. From elementary school through high school they spent the afternoons in my family room. In college they recongregated at our place during vacations, and even when they had jobs around the country they would emerge from time to time in our family room during visits. They wore out three couches and two TVs. All of the boys went to church. We had Roman Catholics, Presbyterians and Episcopalians. My two sons went through the Episcopal Church curriculum and were acolytes. My wife and I have taken the stance that most of their religious education was received by observing how we live. My sons cannot recite the Baltimore Catechism nor the Thirty-nine Articles. They don¹t quote scripture nor wear their faith on their sleeves. They know that I take my faith seriously and that both Faye and I have sacrificed for it. Even so, I sometimes wonder whether or not I should have been a little more dogmatic in insisting that my sons be more overt in their faith.

One Saturday morning, several years ago, I was eating my gruel at the kitchen table and Michael was on the phone. He never calls from the kitchen and he was making and receiving a number of calls. Irritated, I finally asked, “Michael, what is going on? What are you doing?” “Dad,” he replied. “One of Phil¹s twins has died, and we are going to go up to be with him and his wife and stay for the funeral.” Now Phil probably spent more time in our house than in his own, when growing up. He married a girl whom the rest of the guys did not particularly care for. She had had a child and then had twins by Phil. When the twins were born the guys went up to see them and played with them, strange behavior for young men, but they like the babies. Now one of them had died of SIDS. “Michael,” I said, “I am very sorry that one of the twins has died, but you really don¹t have to go all the way up to Western Massachusetts for the funeral. You can send condolences and flowers.” (After all, I am the expert on funerals.) “No, Dad,” Michael replied. “All of the guys are coming back to be with Phil and his wife.” “But, Michael,” I said, “They are spread out all over the country!” “Dad. You don¹t understand. Phil is our friend.”

And so one young man flew in from Seattle, one from Portland, one from Los Angeles, one from Houston, one from Raleigh, one came up from New York City and one drove over from Boston. They stayed two days and then returned to their respective homes. I was never so proud of anyone as I was of those young men. Perhaps they had absorbed the Christian message after all. They were persistent and steadfast.

If we who are fallible and sinful can give good gifts to our children and to one another, then how much more can our heavenly Father, who is steadfast, give good gifts and the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?
Amen. Fr. Gage