A Walk to Remember

經文: Matthew 28:16-20(Chinese, translated by Ken Sun) 6-19-2011

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

We all have a concept of what family means. Within the last week or so, I have been driving a lot because I moved to my cousin’s house temporarily in Orange County. When you drive a lot in LA, you tend to get stuck behind other cars because traffic tends to be heavy. While being stuck behind minivans, I often see the stick figure families: mom, dad, child, baby, and, sometimes, a dog.

I’ve been thinking about family lately. Today, of course, is father’s day. Last week, I was reminded by my cousin that my grandfather’s church in Taiwan was trying to put together a booklet to honor his 60 years of ministry.

So in this time, I’ve been thinking about what fathers and grandfathers mean to a family. Oftentimes, we think of the mothers as being the backbones of the family. After all, they are the ones that nurture, the ones that are more emotionally connected. Interestingly, however, when we think about God, we generally think about a father-figure God.

So what does it mean to be a father?

In today’s passage, we are witnessing to the last moments of Christ on earth—not to die, but in the ascension. The purpose of Christ coming to earth is not only so that He can die for us. Christ came to teach, preach, and witness to the greatness of God. All of these tasks combined means that Christ came to set as an example of what it is like to live in a godly way.

Jesus says in the farewell to his disciples that they should teach the world what “to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

To me, this feels less like what friends would say to each other, and perhaps even what teachers would say to their students. To me, this last passage sounds a lot like what a father would tell his children. It was more than just to remind the disciples what they needed to do, but to remind them that He would always be with them, no matter what they faced or what was happening.

Here, Jesus is saying that He has already taught His disciples everything that they need to know. He has already imparted the wisdom and knowledge for them to go out to follow in their footsteps and do not need His physical presence in the world.

In many ways, this is what fathers do. Fathers are the ones who are more likely to let go and allow children to be propelled into the world as adults. They teach you what they have to offer, mostly through their actions rather than their words. Fathers also tend to be more absent than mothers.

In my family, my father was working in Taiwan for much of my formative years, when I was in middle and high school. In this way, he was absent, because he was gone for a lot of it. However, just because he was gone does not mean that he did not impact my life. As Jesus reminded His disciples that He is with us always, I often feel this way about the presence of family in my life, especially with my dad.

I have often felt that my dad has been on my side, helping me to be seen adult. I have to admit, it was probably he who first acknowledged my ability to take care and make decisions for myself.

Once, right after he moved back to Boston, when I had freshly graduated from college, I remembered the difference he made in my life. It was about 9pm. My friend had called me and invited me to go out for a drink. Generally, my mom, being protective, did not like me going out so late and dark at night. My dad, however, didn’t think much of it and thought I should be able to make my own decisions. He gave me permission to go out. I left for about an hour and was back by 10. After I had gotten home, I found out that my mother, who had been in the shower at the time of my request and leaving, was upset about his letting me go. But because he had already given me permission, she didn’t say anything to me about it.

I often remember that as the day when my father intervened on my behalf to encourage my mother to trust me as an adult. After that day, I never had a problem with my coming and going. Despite perhaps not agreeing with me or the decisions that I make, my parents are always supportive. It started with a simple act of letting go—of knowing that they have given me what I needed to go forth into the world and do what I was called to do.

In my case, I ended up even closer to this passage and the disciples. Christ’s time on earth was up, but He has also given as much as He needed to in the time that He had. Christ knew that it was sufficient time to let the disciples go forth and do what they needed to do because they had grown up. It was time for them to pick up where He had left off.

Both my father and I were called to this ministry, but both of us had our own example, our teacher. My grandfather has been a pastor for more than 60 years. While he’s in his 80s and should be fully retired by now, he is still only semi-retired. However, today, both my father and I carry on his legacy of ministry, carrying on where he left off—ministering to God’s people in the way in which we were called.

In his 60 years, a-gong has taught, preached, and lived the word of God. What was most important for him, was the concept of love and non-judgment. He has always taught that it is most important to love God and our neighbors. I have seen my father attempt to live out this very idea in his life. As the third generation pastor, this has also become the cornerstone of my ministry.

I know that neither my father nor my grandfather is perfect. I think it is easier to see the flaws of fathers than mothers, mostly because they are less engaged in the family emotionally. However, we are all flawed.

The disciples were flawed. And yet, they were installed with perhaps the most important mission of all time. But, it was okay that they are flawed. This is why it is important to remember that Christ continues to be with us, to the end of the age. This is not merely instruction to the disciples, but to every one of us.

Every time that we might be discouraged, every time that we might not live up to God’s commandments, every time that we do not love enough or judge others, we know that Christ is right there with us. The spirit of God never abandons us but is always there to offer strength, support, and guidance, even if we do not physically have Christ with us. Even if we are flawed, Christ is there to forgive us and change us.

My father has an absolutely steadfast faith that never waivers. Unlike others, he never wonders about the presence of God in the world and in his life. Perhaps this means that he does not quite understand what it is like to doubt that God is still at work in the world today, but his strong belief carries down and impacts all of us around him.

This is the way I understand my relationship to both my grandfather and my father. Though they are not physically with me, I know they are always there for me, to offer strength, support, and guidance the best that they can. I know that when they are weak, and they are flawed, they look to Christ, witnessing to the truth of the statement that Christ is indeed always with us, until the end of the age.

So, today, I invite you to join me in honoring your fathers—some of them with more flaws than others, and remember that our father in heaven bestowed an important role for all fathers: to provide the support and strength for your children—to know what is right and good and to be able to do that with the steadfast support behind the scenes.

May this day be a day of acknowledgement, gratitude, and acceptance, for all that your fathers have done for you.