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A Father, a Leader in Faith (Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity)

A Father, a Leader in Faith

“At Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” … “Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”

The man was a leader in faith for his family. A man is a leader in faith for his family. For the healing of his family. For the forming, the shaping of his family. A man – a father, a husband – is the lead leader in faith for his family.

You men here - when you are not the lead leader, the head leader, in the Christian faith for your family - you sin. You are falling short of what God has called you to be. When you step back and leave the spiritual matters to your wife, you sin. You’re like the captain of a ship who, when captaining gets hard, steps back and says, “Who am I to lead? I’ll leave it to others.” You abandon your first mate and your crew. You must repent.

Women, you too sin when you undermine your husband’s leadership in the family – and when you don’t respect him. You make him nothing. That’s not love. You too need to repent.

Today, I want to talk about households in need of healing. Families which are wounded. Is there any family whose children, adult children, do not need help and guidance? In today’s ever-darkening world, is there any household without sons or daughters in need of help in the faith?

The man in today’s Gospel lesson, John 4:46-53, has a son who is ill. This man is a leader in this world – a basilikos in Greek, a man of royalty, an official – but he takes on his most important role as he leads in faith for his family.

His son is ill. This man takes the initiative to seek Jesus to help his son. The man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Cana in Galilee. The man moves his feet to go to Jesus, moves his lips and opens his mouth to obtain Jesus’ aid – “Lord, come down and heal my son; he’s at the point of death.” He is a leader in faith, in turning to Jesus, for his son’s welfare.

And he, even as he leads in faith, is shaky in his faith. Jesus admonishes him, “unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” – a weakness of faith; but still faith. Even with a weak-kneed faith, the man is a man for his family.

The official responds, “Sir (Lord), come down before my child dies.” Jesus responds, “Go, your son will live”. “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”

Statistics show again and again, brothers and sisters, that the fathers’ example of faith – especially his regular church attendance – not the mother’s – is the biggest determining factor in whether or not the children will continue in the faith into adulthood.

Children will chiefly mirror their father’s church attendance habits when they grow up – even in cases where the mother doesn’t attend. You men are very important, and therefore you must live like you are very important.

What if your children are already grown, what can you do? There is good news, men – you are still alive. You are still breathing. Your good influence has not ended. How you lead will still have a profound effect on your children, on your wives, and on others.

You can still lead. And you can still go to Jesus for the sake of your sons and daughters. It is not just a mother’s prayer which will be heard. A father’s prayer will be heard, just as the plea of this man in our Gospel lesson today was heard by his Savior.

Jesus said, “Go, your son will live.” “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” And then, “As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.

He himself believed, and all his household. He was a leader in faith. He went to Jesus for his family’s sake. In the end, not only he himself, but his whole household came to believe in Christ. And, in fact, it’s at this verse of the passage that this man, this official, is first referred to by the word “father”.

You lead by how you use your time. You lead by how you spend. You lead by how you occupy your mind and your mouth. You lead by being a man of faith who goes to Jesus in prayer for your family. You lead by bringing the help of Jesus – His Word of Truth - to your household.

You men with children – and you men without a child or wife – when you are men who lead in faith, you have great positive influence even on the health of this household here, God’s household, and its members.

For you women who are deprived of a faithful, devout Christian man for your family, remember that God Himself is a Father to the fatherless and a protector of widows: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” [Psalm 68:5]. “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless” [Psalm 146:9]. And you women too are called to be leaders, leading in the way that you lead.

Why is a father’s and a husband’s role so significant to a family and to a church? Because God Himself is a Father, and Jesus, the Savior, God’s Son, is a Husband to His Church. You men are standing in as the image of our God and Savior.

What has our God and Savior done for His children and His Church? He has given Himself for your salvation. He has made Himself the sacrifice slain for your sins. He has done what only He can do.

Men and women, before you think about what you must do, think first about what your God and Savior has done for you. Jesus Christ, the lead leader of this ship and this school of faith, has given His life for your eternal health, for your healing, to make you alive from death and sin.

God your Father, through Christ on the cross, has forgiven sin. God, through Christ, has forgiven men for failing to be godly men. God, through Christ, has forgiven women for failing to be godly women. By Jesus’ leadership, sin is atoned for, forgiven, and the children of God are healed.

Rejoice that your sins are forgiven. Rejoice that you have God’s help for the future. Rejoice, you men, that you have a place – that you have a meaningful and important and worthy role to play - in the Kingdom God. For your congregation - for your family – lead by going to Jesus. Be men. Be fathers. Lead in the good fight of the faith as God has called you to lead. Amen.

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