10 years ago, on Wednesday of Holy Week, April 16, 2003, my father dropped dead of a massive heart attack. The medical examiner said he was dead before he hit the floor. That very night God demanded his life from him.
Fortunately, my father did not spend his life chasing after the wind or storing up an abundance of possessions. In fact, it was almost as if he prepared for that moment. On Tuesday evening, he and my mother attended a reconciliation service at a local church. On Wednesday morning, they drove to their home church where he received communion. He spent the day with my mother, took her grocery shopping and hung out at home. … Unusual for my 77-year old father who spent most days working outside, in the garage or at a local machine shop. … That evening my parents ate dinner with my dad’s only surviving brother. They returned home, he went into his room, and prayed. His virtuous life came to a sudden end.
His last two days were no anomaly. My father, married for 53 years and the father of 3 sons, was a veteran of the Second World War and the Korean War. Like St. Paul, he too labored, not as a tentmaker but as a machinist in an Aliquippa steel mill for 46 years. He didn’t smoke or drink. He didn’t swear or trash talk our mother. He did not tolerate such talk among men. In fact, when we were visiting an uncle, who did all of those things, my dad said, “Szwagier (Polish for brother-in-law). Szwagier, if you’re going to talk like that, we’re leaving.” Our uncle responded in words that were not socially acceptable, and we left. Like the father of our country, my father detested swearing.
He talked the good talk, and he walked the good walk. He evangelized as a catechist, but his medium for teaching children and teens how to avoid vice and embrace virtue extended beyond the classroom onto the baseball field.
He evangelized on baseball fields throughout Beaver County, Pennsylvania, and his “Pep” Young glove was his instrument of communicating Law and Gospel, vices to avoid and virtues to embrace.
I tell you about my father not to aggrandize him, but to offer some advice for virtuous living today. Take time today and reflect upon Colossians 3.
Our Lutheran Tradition reminds us that we teach the Bible truth that by faith alone we obtain the forgiveness of sins. Ask yourself, is that teaching rooted deeply in my heart? Christ’s resurrection proves all His promises will be fulfilled. Think about this – Do I sincerely trust that God indeed fulfills all His promises? Or like the greedy man, do I ensure for my own security by building up riches on earth?
Do I trust that God will forgive me of my sins … my vices? Do I trust that God’s Holy Spirit will guide me to live as a Christian … virtuously? Will someone be citing me as a Christian example ten years after I am dead? If so, or if not, we should ask ourselves as we listen to Jesus if we are ready to walk the walk? As we walk with our Savior, may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7). Amen.