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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beatitudes Brought Home - 2

Tonight I think of my father.  After discussing some of his traits, I will identify the beatitudes I think best fit his approach to life.  But I know before I begin that no one beatitude will best identify him.

Two years ago on a weekend I went to a high school reunion in Hardee County, FL. The First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green invited all those who attended it as youth during the 1960’s to come to a special recognition service and have lunch afterwards.  Kathy & I went.  It was great seeing people that I knew well when my father pastored at that church.  It was great seeing again my peers, but it was also good to see those who were adults at the time.  One was Thelma Albritton (youth leader when I was in high school), Mrs. B.J. Johnson, a friendly, spirited woman, and Joe Jones.  Joe and Gretta Jones wanted to tell me what my Dad meant to them.  Joe said that my father came at an important time in his life and provided just what he needed to know, a man with humility. In addition to humility my father was guided by a deeply held belief about pastoring.  When he came into a new church assignment, his primary objective was to let those in the congregation know that he was concerned about them and loved them. This was important in building trust.  Religion can sometimes divide people over negotiable rather than non-negotiable issues.  Daddy realized that he could not win (in fact no one would win) if members of the congregation were out to get him and were out to split the congregation, looking for anything however small to invite dissention.  Thus, the importance of trust based on the perception of genuine concern and a Christian spirit.  Finally, Dad was not a legalist.  A stern religion based on petty rules, while providing for abundant self-righteousness, was counter to the main drift of Jesus’s teachings which taught that genuineness, candor, humility, truth, and love led to righteousness and a Christ-like life. 

With all this in mind, I have to conclude that my father was gifted with being poor in spirit (he shunned self-pride and its display of independence); by being meek (he was humble and did not seek self-aggrandizement of power); by being a peacemaker (helping keep priorities straight—Christ above all.)  I often wish I could as a grown man revisit his ministries during my childhood and youth.  I am certain I would be very proud of my father.  He was unspeakably brave in a small town in northern Florida when after a truckload of gun toting racist terrorized many, he preached brotherhood the following Sunday.  He was reassigned the next general conference, but his heart never changed.  Once as a teenager he and I were watching the evening news.  The news that evening showed police dogs attacking black demonstrators and the use of fire hoses.  I mentioned the word “nigger.”  My father looked at me a long time, and said “Son, I never want to hear you say that again.”  He said it with firmness and a touch of sadness.  Probably of all my memories, this is the one that I honor most.  He was ahead of his time by worshipping the Ancient of Days.

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