"A man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.” Proverbs 23:24.
For those who didn’t see it, Raphael Warnock, the first African American senator from the state of Georgia, wrote a very moving tribute to his father in the NY Times this week. His dad was a World War II veteran, but despite his service to his country was subject to the segregation and mistreatment of life in Georgia in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. He used to recall returning home in uniform and being asked by a bus driver to move further to the back so a white teenager could sit close to the front. Yet, he never gave in to hate.
He went on to become a bi-vocational pastor, meaning he worked full time during the week while also serving as pastor of a church. Raphael remembers his dad preaching with conviction. He would tell the stories of his past and his experiences of life, good and bad, but always with certainty in the hope of God who brings good out of all circumstances.
The son recalls how his father’s example formed his own hope and gave him the belief that he is capable of making a difference in the world. Raphael went on to become the first in his family to graduate from college, Morehouse in Atlanta, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He became a pastor and said he’ll never forget calling his dad on Father’s Day 2005 to say that the church Dr. King served, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, had called him to be their next senior pastor. His dad cried.
His father died in 2010 and Raphael wonders what his dad would have thought of his being elected senator from the state in 2020. But what he really cherishes is the example his father left him, an example of steadfast love and hope and a relentless courage to keep persevering through trials toward a glorious outcome in the future.
He preached his father’s funeral and used the example of a person in the Bible named Enoch. Little is known about Enoch except that “he walked with God.” Raphael said that his father did little to gain the attention of the world, but he did the most important thing that could be said of any person, and that is why his grave is simply marked how his dad would want to be remembered: “Private Jonathan Warnock. He walked with God.”
This is a wonderful story to share as we get ready for A Sunday when we celebrate Father’s Day and Juneteenth and think about this week’s definition of H.O.P.E.: Helping Overcome Prejudice Everywhere.
Happy Father’s Day,