‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’-
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
-Matthew 25: 36-40
Everything should be fair. Everyone should feel loved.
This was a passion and an ongoing concern in my Dad’s life. He knew perhaps better than any of us that life wasn’t fair, and that we don’t always feel loved or wanted
His life had barely begun when he lost his father, and it was cut short by a very difficult battle with cancer. In between, he was an unappreciated step child, was separated from his siblings, struggled with poverty and experienced divorce, sadness and loneliness. He had to close a business when a combination of an economic downturn and the death of a partner made it too difficult to go on.
Certainly things were not always fair for Dad and he did not always feel loved, but it was his reaction to this adversity that defined him, rather than the adversity itself.
Instead of becoming selfish or just accepting the world as he found it, he made a difference for others, and especially for his children and step-children.
Everything should be fair. Everyone should feel loved.
Even as a boy of eight, Dad hustled up work selling boxes and delivering flowers so that he could take his younger siblings to the park and feed them on lunch meat sandwiches. They were usually hungry because the cupboard was locked up for them at home.
Things didn’t get any more fair for Dad as he grew older, but he continued to make a difference. Whether it was stretching his dollars to make sure everyone in the family had a great Christmas, keeping photos of ALL the kids in his wallet and making all of us feel that we were important to him, including others in gifts so they never felt excluded or left out, even making sure the waitresses at Marty’s got a free drink after their shifts- well, I do suspect that in that case, Dad may have had a bit of self interest- Linda happened to be one of the waitresses! Nonetheless, This was an important theme in Dad’s life, a result, no doubt of his experiences of being unwanted, unloved, being treated unfairly, and seeing those he loved experiencing the same thing.
Instead of pulling in and letting the bad cycle continue with us, He made sure things were different when he had control.
Life is not fair.
Especially at a time like this, we are very aware of this fact. It’s not fair that He had to die so young. It’s not fair that we are left here without him, and that grand kids will grow up not having him around.
We may hope and pray for a long life, for good fortune, for fairness, but this is not something God has promised for us. We make our way through life reacting to changes in fortune, planning and working hard, as he did, but sometimes greater forces disrupt our plans.
Illness, loss, and the economy can rob our health, our emotional well being, and our savings, but it is the manner in which we live and treat others that ends up being our legacy- not our homes, our possessions, or our mortal bodies.
In the end our relationships and character are the things that endure and matter, and what a wonderful legacy of love, laughter and wonderful times we have been left with! That feeling of being loved, of being treated fairly and knowing that we were important to Dad will continue to be a part of us for the rest of our lives.
Just as life is not always fair, we do not always feel loved either. We are excluded or slighted. We may be seen or treated as unwanted, or in the way. It was important for Dad to make sure that the people in his life felt loved and wanted, just as God promises us, that whether we happen to feel it or not, we are loved. God does Love us. In fact God loves his children so much that he never lets them go no matter how far short they fall.
Our love and giving is a reflection of God’s love because God is the author of all things good. The author of good things like watching animals and nature, like finding meaningful enjoyable work, like enjoying family and the company of others, like arranging for a horse to show up on Christmas day, like beautiful rides in the country, like going out for ice cream on a hot summer day.
Yes hard times come. Yes, difficulties, yes illness and loneliness, and walking alone, yes, times of hunger and times when we want so much to reach out and to speak, but we can’t. These things are not from God, and God won’t take these things from us in our lives.
But God will always love us, will never leave us. God will give us the grace to continue to the end, and at the end, even though we fall short, it is God’s grace and love that welcomes us to a place. A place in his house at his table, a beloved child, loved and cared for as much as the next and the next and the next. All loved, all important, all fair, Just as Dad would have it be.
There is a verse from the Bible, from John, that you have all probably heard so many times before. But in our family, it had a special meaning.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
So often, when we hear this passage, the emphasis is on Jesus being the way and the truth and the life, and though this is a very important part of it. Sometimes we miss just how important it is that in our father’s house there is a place for us. That we are wanted and important enough to God that we have a special place, created just for us. We are loved and welcome in. Dad made that place for us, for his brothers and sisters, and now God has a place like that for him. He has been wrapped up in the love of God, just as he wrapped the special people in his life in his love. Amen.