Father’s day is always a strange time for me. My father was a pastor for a few years until he retired due to disability when he was only in his late thirties. His disability was seizures that could not be controlled easily. It threw him into a depression that hovered over the rest of his days, and thus, over our family as well.
A key part of that became isolation. He only rarely left the house. In fact, he was so paralyzed by fears and sadness that there was not one single event he came to at school or church for me and my brother. Every single band concert, play, confirmation day, graduation day, wedding day, they all passed without him present.
His world became so small and his fear became so big that he was angry most of the time. Isolation can do that to a person.
I often tell stories about how my home pastor and my home church were means of salvation and connection for me during the years I was growing up. Our pastor would come visit my dad, he was one of the few people my father allowed in our house. Our congregation sent cards and gifts out to my dad – letting him know they were thinking about him as the years ticked by. And at his funeral, they filled the church to pay their respects and be there for mom and Andrew and me.
My Dad, whether he was unwilling or unable to do otherwise, chose isolation. But our church community’s only response to him, and to us, year after year, was love, love, love. The community I found there, the embrace and wellspring of goodness that I found in my home church was the reason the church as a whole became a symbol of peace and hope to me.
And I pray and long for the church to be that for all people. I pray that in troubled times the church will always stand for things like peace and hope and love and acceptance. Not just toward people we think are like us or agree with us – but working hard to be that way always and in all ways.
Crabby people – love them. People of other religions – love them. People of other races – love them. People who are full of tattoos and piercings – love them. People who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered – love them. People who are voting for someone you don’t approve of – love them. Someone who is on the opposite side of the gun control issue from you – love them. The immigrant – love them. This radical acceptance and love is the way of Jesus – and it is to be our way as his people.
The things that build community, the things that draw us out of isolation – those are the same things that build peace. Each time we join together in prayer, gather together and sing, each time we calmly talk to each other and listen to each other about things that matter, whenever we take the time to visit those who might be lonesome or sick or grieving, every time we put energy toward tearing down walls instead of building another one, we are saying yes to community and peace, indeed, to the Kingdom of God.
Let there be peace – and let it begin with us.