Today we gather to celebrate another important day in our culture. The music in the store, the merchandise being sold for almost a month speaks of those who are fathers. We have cards printed with all kinds of messages. On Father’s day we remind ourselves of the memories we had with our fathers and for those whose fathers have gone to be with their creator. For those whose fathers are still alive it is a day to spend together, enjoy them and let them know what they mean to you. It is a day of joy for the fathers too, to look back and see what kind of family they have raised.
I have a small plaque on our living room wall about men and family and this is how it reads: “A man’s success is not how much money he has made but what kind of family he has brought up.” This is true to many of us who were raised by fathers who never had much but they worked hard to put food on the table and a roof over their head. This is the father I remember. His hands were rough and his nails hard for the work that he did. Those days I never put much value on how hard he worked but now I wish I had told him thank you more often. For those among us whose fathers are still living, if you are able to give them a hug or call them to let them know how much you love and appreciate them, you should do so. I realize that not everybody had a wonderful father growing up but I do hope that God brought to your life somebody who filled that void, maybe a grandfather, an uncle or a neighbor.
Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is a special time when we also remember those people who, though they were not our biological father, have acted in such a way that we owe them love and commitment as well. This Sunday I would like to draw our attention to the fathers for what they mean in our faith journey. As I mentioned earlier, there are those of us here who had had bad experiences with their father and to them I want to say that all fathers are not like that. Most fathers would go to any length to make sure their family is cared for, provided for, and sheltered from all dangers. Though Father’s Day is not a religious holiday we gather here to remind ourselves how important fathers are in the family system. We realize in today’s world that there will be those who will like to have children without involving a father-figure while many men have fathered many children who they have not bee a real father to. I would like us today to reflect on what it means to be a spiritual father to take his God-given role to lead his family. This role is an ordained role from the scriptures starting with Abraham all the way to the New Testament. I realize that many fathers today are struggling to balance between family and career and sometimes it is not always easy but that does not mean they need to give up. I believe in the following spiritual responsibilities for fathers:
- To connect with God: The Bible has many examples of what we call church fathers. Names like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and Moses come to mind. today we need to remind all the men in worship that the primary responsibility of a father is to connect their family with God. Fathers are the faith pillars for their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. All men, therefore, are reminded that they have a spiritual responsibility to their family. Statistics show that when a father is committed to God there are higher chances of his family being committed to God too. What we are simply saying is that fathers have to take a lead on the faith journey. As we connect with God we get to connect with the church as well. It is through this connection with the church that we create another circle of family. This family is made up of people who we are related to through the blood of Jesus Christ and goes beyond the color, race, and nationality. We, therefore, become brothers and sisters in the Lord.
- To connect with the family: Apart from God the next important responsibility of a father is the family. Connecting with the family will take all kinds of responsibilities. This connection calls for: a) Sacrifice – A father is called to sacrifice many things on behalf of the family. Sometimes the sacrifice calls for a father to take a real risk in life on behalf of the family. Almost every father will take a risk on behalf of them. b) Dedication – In Luke 8:49-56 we meet another father who went out of his way looking for Jesus to save his daughter who was about to die. Even after hearing that the daughter was dead, he never gave up. What we may not know is what kind of dedication Jairus (Pharisee) had to go through in order to help his daughter. First, he had to pocket his pride. He was the president of the synagogue and his position would have made him not want to go to Jesus, who many in the synagogue never regarded as a prophet and did not take his teaching seriously. Second, his faith was such that even when he was told that the daughter was dead he never gave up. He had a never-give-up spirit of a father. Third, regardless of how long it took him to get Jesus’ attention he was not giving up. He had a spirit of patience. c) Presence: in being present to our family it tells them that no matter what happens in our lives we will be there for one another. We know that it is people – not the objects, patience – not judgment, love – not anger that matters in life. A father’s responsibility is to faithfully care for those who are entrusted to him, especially children and grandchildren and so on. This reminds me of a story that I may have shared with you before but you hopefully have forgotten it. Clovis Chappell, a great preacher of the previous generation, used to tell the story of two paddleboat steamers. One time they left Memphis about the same time, traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side by side, the crew members made disparaging remarks about the slowness of the other’s boat. Words were exchanged, and a challenge was made. (Like teenagers trying to outdrive one another on a country road). The race began. The competition was keen as the boats roared down the river. One boat began falling behind. Not enough fuel. There had been plenty of coal for the journey, but not enough for the race. As the boat dropped back, an enterprising crew member took some of the ship’s cargo and tossed it into the ovens. Their boat began to catch up, so they made fuel out of more of the cargo, the very material they had been hired to transport. Fathers, our primary responsibility is not to win a race, but to faithfully care for those persons entrusted to us, especially our children. Our role as father is to make sure we complete the journey faithfully. We may not be like the Joneses or the Khardashians but we are a family where love, respect, and care for one another is experienced.
- A father is a teacher: In a sense a father is put in a position where he should be a teacher by his actions, his presence, and his example. Some of us were taught how to drive by our fathers. Fathers also teach forgiveness – a fundamental building block of faith. God is a symbol of forgiveness. He did it up on the cross. A father teachers his children how to be attention. This involves listening and pay attention to God’s nudges in life as well as the world around them. Be attentive to the environment and all that is around you. As a teacher you teach the to listen, to discern as well as to help explore. A father becomes the sounding wall as well as a place to run to at the time of challenges. A father’s love cultivates trust as well as respect.
POEM: When God Created Fathers
Narrator: When the good Lord was creating fathers, he started with a tall frame. And a female angel nearby said,
Angel: “What kind of father is that?” If you are going to make children so close to the ground, why have you put fathers up so high? He won’t be able to shoot marbles without kneeling, tuck a child in bed without bending, or even kiss a child without a lot of stooping.”
God: (smiled and said) “Yes, but if I make him child size, who would children have to look up to?”
Narrator: And when God made a father’s hands, they were large an sinewy.
Angel: (shook her head sadly and said) “Do you know what you are doing? Large hands are clumsy. They can’t manage diaper pins, small buttons, rubber-bands on the pony tails or even remove splinters cause by baseball or softball bats.”
God: (smiled again and said) “I know, but they are large enough to hold everything a small boy or girl empties from his or her pocket at the end of the day… yet small enough to cup a child’s face.”
Narrator: Then God molded long, slim and broad shoulders.
Angel: (Nearly had a heart attack) “Boy, this is the end of the week, all right,” she clucked, “do you realize you just made a father without a lap? How is he going to pull a child to him without the kid falling between his legs?”
God: (smiled and said) “A mother needs a lap. A father needs strong shoulders to pull a sled, balance a boy or girl on a bicycle or hold a sleepy head on the way home from the circus.”
Narrator: God was in the middle of creating two of the largest feet anyone had ever seen, when the angel could not contain herself any longer.
Angel: “That’s not fair! Do you honestly think those large boats are going to dig out of bed early in the morning when the baby cries? Or walk through a small birthday party without crushing at least three of the guests?”
God: (smiled and said) “They will work. You will see. They will support a small child who wants to ride a horse to Banbury Cross or scare mice at the summer cabin or display shoes that will be a challenge to fill.”
Narrator: God worked throughout the night, giving the father few words, but a firm authoritative voice; eyes that see everything, but remain calm and tolerant. Finally, almost as an after-thought, he added tears. Then he turned to the angel and said,
God: Now, are you satisfied that he can love as much as a mother?”
Narrator: and the angel shutteth up! by Erma Bombeck