It’s Father Dave back with you, and wishing you a ‘Happy Epiphany!’
I appreciate that Epiphany (which is the day when we remember the wise men who came to worship the baby Jesus) isn’t celebrated by many people, and certainly not as vibrantly as Christmas or New Year. Even so, so far as ‘feast days’ go, Epiphany is my personal favourite, and I’ll explain why a little later in this email, but there’s something on my heart that I want to share with you first.
I had a visit tonight from a man who I suspect may now be dead?
I was just about to head off on my half-marathon run tonight when there was a knock on the front door. It was an older guy who looked in pretty bad shape. He asked if he could talk to me for a few minutes and I assumed he was going to spin me a yarn as to why he needed $50 to visit his brother in hospital …
But … hang on a second … I know this guy! His name is Bernie.
I had only met him once. It was at the Retired Boxers Association meeting towards the end of last year. I had been the guest speaker, but this guy had got up after me to make another speech.
I’d thought I was the only speaker, and evidently most of the guests thought the same, as none of them seemed to be paying any attention to Bernie but were chatting away to each other instead.
Bernie stammered out “I’m not very good with words … I’ve got brain cancer … I haven’t got long to live” All of a sudden the room went very quiet.
What followed was a beautiful and moving story where Bernie told us about how his son had been diagnosed with cancer as a child, but how the two of them developed a love for boxing and how his son became a die-hard fan of a particular Aussie boxer – Heath Stenton – and how father and son had followed Stenton around the country, attending every one of his fights.
Bernie spoke of the wonderful love and respect that Stenton showed his son, often having him on his knee during press conferences, and how other boxers, such as Danny Green and Anthony Mundine had likewise shown kindness and respect to the ailing young man and his dad.
Bernie’s speech was not beautifully-worded nor eloquently delivered but it is was certainly the most moving tribute to the greats of Aussie boxing that I have ever heard!
And now he was here at my front door! Why?
He wanted me to give a message to Anthony Mundine.
That sounded very odd. I can’t pretend to know Anthony well and I don’t know his address. Moreover, it shouldn’t be too hard for Bernie to track down Anthony himself. Why involve me? As he expanded on the story, it all started to make sense.
“I’ve been at St Mary’s Cathedral today”, he told me. “I’ve made my peace with God. I’ve said goodbye to my wife. I’m making this final pilgrimage to tie up some loose ends.”
Bernie explained to me that he’d seen his own father die of brain cancer and he knows how it can change your personality for the worse. He said he can feel himself changing already. He wants those he loves to remember him as the man he is, not as the man the disease could turn him into.
I made a few stammering remarks about ‘not needing to hurry the process along’ and told him that I’d watched both my parents die of cancer and that it didn’t have to be an undignified process. Bernie smiled and thanked me for my concern and farewelled me. I embraced him and said “we’ll meet again”. He left.
I don’t know where he went from here. I didn’t see any point in trying to stop him leaving. Should I have called the police? Would it have done any good?
I don’t know anything about this man apart from his first name and his beautiful story. I don’t know how to contact his wife or family. If you happen to know any of those details can you pass them on to me ASAP please. I don’t want to just leave things at this point!
One thing I certainly will follow-up on is a meeting with Anthony Mundine.
I asked Bernie to jot down some of the details in my notebook so that Anthony could place their meeting. Bernie didn’t think Anthony would remember him but that didn’t seem to bother him. He just wanted ‘The Man’ to know how much respect both father and son had for him! It was a parting gift!
Well … there’s not much more I can say about that, but it’s left me feeling rather emotional.
I offer you the story of our brother Bernie today, and I offer you my Epiphany sermon.
Why do I like Epiphany so much? Because it’s all about inclusiveness.
Yes, I know it’s about three wise men and their gifts of gold, Frankenstein and myrrh (or at least that’s the version some of our kids remember) but the whole point of the story is that these people are outsiders.
These people are not good Jews. They aren’t Jews at all! From a Biblical perspective they are from the wrong country, wrong culture, wrong language-group and … wrong religion!
I won’t go into that more here as you’ll get it in the sermon if you’re interested. The point to make here is simply that if there’s room for those strange wise men in the Nativity scene then there’s room for all of us – you, me, and certainly dear brother Bernie.
And if you can’t view the video, click here.
I’ll be back with you next week.
And while you know I hate asking anyone for money, if one of your New Years resolutions happened to be ‘give more support to Father Dave and Fighting Fathers Ministries’ a $10/month subscription to our member site would make all the difference in helping us cover our costs.
May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called
Your brother in the Good Fight,