Originally posted by Andrew Kukla in his blog, “Wrestling with Discipleship.”
Today I would like to address you not as a pastor but as a father. To do that properly, I first want to address you as a son. People ask me if I became a minister because my parents were ministers. Yes. Though not as they mean it. My parents were never paid by a church. But I grew up there. My parents were present in all facets of church life. They taught Sunday School, led youth mission trips (my dad using vacation from his family run printing business to do so), served as deacons and elders, and at various points even as volunteer coordinators.
I was never made to go to church. I loved being there. I remember running from elementary school and stopping at a friend’s house to have snacks before continuing on to church choir. I remember not only going to Sunday school but volunteering as a youth helper in the younger Sunday school classes and nursery (we were that family that spent 3 to 4 hours at church every Sunday morning and then would come back for youth group on Sunday nights). I remember strange “old” faces of people (I was a kid, everyone was old) I would never have met in any other ways but they were interested in me. They helped raise me. I could rattle off names that go to faces I can’t recall and faces whose names I maybe never knew. These people fed me, laughed with me, taught me, formed me… they loved me. I owe my life to them. It’s no wonder I wanted to live my life for the church that has lived its life for me.
Fast forward to being a parent. Three years ago Caroline and I started a call process to find a new church. Not a job. Not a place of employment. A place to raise our family and a place to give life to, just as it gives life to us. We were determined that our calling would be to a place that would raise our children – would raise ALL children. And God found us just such a home.
Now I’m raising children who love church. I mean it. My kids love being here. When Wednesday rolls around and it’s hard to get them out of bed in the morning, all we have to do is say: “Tonight is LOGOS.” And our kids give a shout of glee and start getting dressed. I am not kidding. This is a father speaking and that is a gift I can never repay. I love seeing my kids love something that I love and that has loved me. This is why I give my life, why we give our lives, to the church. Because on fundamental level we know our lives are better for it. This is the joy I experience in giving… is that it’s always receiving. Our life together is all about mutual love and support and the more I have given the more I have received.
Caroline and I talk every year about our pledge. It was something I grew up with and was more new to Caroline when we first started out our life together. Every year we do our best to increase our pledge. And I do not do it because I work here. I do it because “here” loves me – my family – and the world. And that is value I place above all others. But our pledge isn’t just about money. It’s about cooking in the kitchens, it’s about thanking Sunday schools teachers… maybe even becoming one. It’s about INVESTING in love with our whole lives. Investing in a community that exists to love us. Investing in a community that loves us and teaches us to love others.
As a father of four children who know deep in their hearts that they are loved, I thank you. I thank all of you who are a part of any such community for the essential part you play in fostering that. Your investment in helping me raise my family. I thank you that you let my kids – and all our kids and adults – know that when life turns bad, when they feel guilt or shame, when they are lost, even when they get to place where they are angry at me and I’m the last person they want to talk to: they have a place to call home that loves them, where they are welcome and safe, and where the faces in the crowd are interested in them.
This is the joy of giving that is really all about receiving. This is why, on this Sunday when we dedicate our pledges of time and money for the coming year at our church, Caroline and I will do so joyfully. Because this community is a joy to us and we want to make sure that continues to be so for anyone who walks through our doors. Thank you!
Grace and Peace,