277) Bill and Jake (part one)

     Bill was one of the volunteers for the ‘Meals on Wheels’ program in his small town.  He had recently retired and enjoyed delivering the meals three days a week to several of the elderly folks in the community.  One of the folks he delivered to was his old fishing buddy, Jake.  Bill would always go to Jake’s place last and then stay and visit for a while.  One day Jake said to Bill, “You know Bill, it’s nice of you to deliver these meals to us.  I always thought you were a pretty good guy– that is for someone who doesn’t even go to church.”  Jake knew Bill well enough to know he would not be angered by the remark.

     Bill replied, “Yes Jake, we’ve always had different viewpoints when it came to religion.  You always went to church and I never did.  You always said your prayers and I never saw any use in it.  But I know what I believe.  I believe in God and I have always tried to live a good life.  And I think that’s the most important thing.  Wouldn’t you agree?”

     Jake said, “Yes, Bill, that’s important.  In all the years you had your repair shop, there wasn’t a person in this town who wouldn’t trust you with their car.  And no one ever had any reason to complain about your service or your honesty.  And you’ve always been willing to give a helping hand, just like with these meals on wheels.  You are a good man, Bill.”

     Then Bill said, “I don’t have anything against the church, but if a man believes in God and does what is right, that’s all that matters.  And I’ve tried to bring my kids up right, too.  And I guess they are doing okay, even though they never went to Sunday School.”

     Jake replied, “That’s right, Bill, you do have some wonderful kids.  When I was on the farm and had to hire help, your two boys were always the best, and I always thought a lot of your daughter too.  You can be real proud of all three.  How are they all doing?  Have you seen them lately?”

     “Well,” said Bill, “we see the two boys quite often.  They don’t live too far away, and they make it back here every once in a while.  But I sure do miss my daughter Sally.  Her and her husband are doing fine, but ever since they moved out East we hardly ever see them.  They are so wrapped up in their business they don’t ever come here, and we’ve also had a hard time getting away from our business.  Maybe now that I’m retired it will be better.  But it’s hard.  You raise up a child, you see her every day for twenty years, and then one day she gets married and she’s gone, and the room is empty and the house is quiet.  We’ve seen her only four times in seven years.  We don’t even talk on the phone very often.  She never calls us and when we call there all we get is the answering machine.  We used to leave a message but we don’t anymore.  She never has time to call us back anyway.  I can’t tell you how much we miss her.”

     Jake said, “That is too bad.”  He paused, and then he said, “But you know Bill, I have to tell you something that just occurred to me.  You said Sally is doing fine, didn’t you?  She is a faithful and loving mother and wife and she’s honest and hardworking, all just like you brought her up to be, right.?”

     Bill said, “That’s right.  What are you getting at?”

     Jake went on, “You don’t see her very often, but she still believes you are her father, doesn’t she?  She hasn’t totally forgotten you, has she?”

     “Well of course not,” said Bill, “We get along just great when we see each other. We always did. Why are you talking so foolish?”

     Jake said, “A little while ago we were talking about another Father, our heavenly Father.  And you told me you believed in him and did what was right and that was all that mattered.  Well, Sally is doing that much.  You said she is living like you taught her to live, and that she still believes you are her father.  Well, that should be all that matters, right?  Then how come you miss her so much?  Why does your heart ache for her?  How come you think you have to talk to her and hear from her?  I know this sounds foolish, but here’s what I’m getting at.  In the same way as you want to hear from your daughter, God wants to hear from you and his heart aches for you when you ignore him.”

     “Come on Jake,” said Bill, “you know that’s different.”

     “No Bill,” said Jake, “It isn’t any different.  You think it is different only because you don’t know the heavenly Father very well.  God speaks in the Bible with the same kind of aching heart that you have.  The Old Testament prophets portrayed God as a Father who grieves over his beloved children that have turned away from him, and like a mother who cannot forget her children even thought they have forgotten her.  In Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, God is compared to a loving father who rejoices at the return of his long lost son.  There are images like that all through the Bible, of God the Father grieving because his children ignore him.  You say you believe in God.  But what kind of belief is it that pays no attention to God, not in worship and not even in prayer; and saying a prayer is even easier than making a phone call.  I can understand that you want to hear from your daughter more often.  In the same way, God wants to hear from you.  He gave you life in an even more profound way that you and your wife gave Sally life.  He’s been with you for all of your 68 years, but he’s never heard much from you, and his heart aches for you.  Get back in touch with him, Bill.  He’ll be glad to hear from you, just like you are always glad to hear from Sally.  And if nothing else you could just say the Lord’s Prayer, you know, that one that starts out, “Our FATHER, who art in heaven…”  (continued…)


Hosea 11:1-4  —  (God said), “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.  It was I who taught (them) to walk, taking them by the arms, but they did not realize it was I who healed them.  I led them with kindness and love.  I bent down to feed them. (NIV, edited)

Hosea 11:7-9  —  (God said), “But my people are determined to turn from me…  Yet, how can I give (them) up?  My compassion is aroused.” (NIV, ed.)

Luke 15:18-20; From Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son.  —  (The son said), “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him:  Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.”
     So he got up and went to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.


OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN…  Our heavenly Father, you tenderly encourage us to believe that you are truly our Father and that we are truly your children.  Give us the faith to believe this, so that we may boldly and confidently come to you in prayer, even as beloved children come to their dear father.  AMEN.  —Luther’s Small Catechism