30th August, 2012
BRUCE C WEARNE
Let’s face the celebration of Father's Day with the account from Mark’s Gospel where Jesus showed His care and respect for a father and his son. I have in mind Mark 9:14-29.
If you have ever witnessed someone in an epileptic fit, you'll know it's not pretty. And the crowd that had come out to catch up with Jesus were not just ignorant, uneducated people. They had the benefit of a system of public health and lived with the conviction that they could interpret God's law for every situation. Here they were busily arguing about the fit and how to get the boy well!
PICTURE: M Nota/www.sxc.hu
"This Father's Day let's honour the God-given integrity of the relationship of dads and their children. As we do so let us remember to pray every day to the Good Shepherd to show us how to assist those who are at the limit of their faith because of a child's illness they have to deal with."
Jesus, however, proclaimed a plain message; epileptics and sick people are not here so professional faith healers can show how powerful they are. Jesus' healing of the boy also involved making sure he and his dad could be together quietly so they could find their way in the next few minutes, let alone in the future.
And only when the boy and his dad had gone was Jesus ready to answer any questions. When they asked, "Why couldn't we cast this evil spirit out?", His reply was straight. This can only happen after much prayer...
By this action Jesus taught that healing needs quiet prayerfulness and prayerful quietness. He pulled out the plug on the debate. God can hear prayers over any din, but when we come to Him for someone's healing we are also saying to God that we are willing to get involved on His terms.
That also means quietness, and respect, particularly for the one you are helping. Those who are sick need quiet to recover their strength. In the case of this boy some towels, water and a clean pair of undies would be appropriate. That would help. The arguments were a distraction.
The epileptic boy was healed and Jesus' disciples could see anew how God's promises were coming true in wonderful ways. Just like the prophet Malachi had once said: "God's sun of righteousness will arise, bringing healing in its wings" and "the sons will be reconciled with the fathers and the fathers with their sons".
So what about Father’s Day? Many, including those fathers who feel that their contribution as parents are being ignored, may be tempted to make the day into one of political complaint. Some may well have a lot to complain about. But, my worry is that by making this day into a day of paternal protest, we may well find that we are avoiding the political task of ascribing justice to fathers and mothers, particularly those who are finding it difficult because of a child’s illness. They don’t need to have another day in which things just turn to arguments. Instead, we need to have open eyes, ears and hearts that work for a fully articulated account of God’s call to justice for every day of the year.
In the account in Mark it's clear that this father had been driven hard - he admitted he was at the very edge of unbelief after many years of his son's epilepsy. What was left of his faith from all this? All he could profess was "I believe Lord, help me in my unbelief!" He wasn’t going to be helped by getting embroiled in arguments and Jesus knew this and took him aside. He indeed deals with all of us, including such bewildered fathers, with an integrity that respects the responsibilities God has given us. He hears when we come to Him, even if it be with such minimalist faith. Jesus promises to hear and shepherd us into paths that bring health, peace and restoration. Not only for the man's boy but also for the father too.
This Father's Day let's honour the God-given integrity of the relationship of dads and their children. As we do so let us remember to pray every day to the Good Shepherd to show us how to assist those who are at the limit of their faith because of a child's illness they have to deal with.