2021-06-20 Father's Day
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!
The year was 1948. A young father-to-be was pacing back and forth, wringing his hands in the hospital corridor while his wife was in labor. He was terribly vexed, full of fear and anxiety. Beads of perspiration were dripping from his brow revealing the deep agony of his anguish and turmoil. Finally, at 3:00 a.m. a nurse popped out of the labour room door and said, “Well, sir, congratulations! It’s a little girl!” He dropped his hands, became limp, and with tears of joy in his eyes he said, “Praise the Lord it’s a girl! She’ll never have to go through the awful agony I’ve had to suffer through tonight as a Father!”
Happy Father’s Day to all of our Dads! Not one of us would be here without you! Just like Motherhood, Fatherhood is the highest vocation in the land. Giving life to and shaping the next generation of God’s people is a big, big deal. A full 1/10 of the Ten Commandments is dedicated to Dads. As Luther writes in the Small Catechism: “Honor your father and your mother. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” It is also the only commandment with a promise: “that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Deut 5:16).
A kid was asked “what’s the difference between Father’s Day and Mother’s Day?” He paused and thought for a moment. Then he answered “Well, they’re pretty much the same thing - except you spend more money on the Mother’s Day gift!” … Some dads are chuckling. Other dads are saying “Gift? … What gift?!” We know that Fatherhood isn’t about the gifts. You don’t walk down the child-raising path for what you get out of the deal. Instead, it’s about giving. It’s about being a self-less steward of God’s gifts. And, as Fathers are God’s representatives, then we owe them the appropriate honour, respect and love. This is what the Lord teaches us in His word. This becomes the message we proclaim as God’s people to the world.
In one of my pastoral theology classes back in Seminary, we had to do an inner-city ministry immersion trip to Calgary. It was quite the class! On this trip we encountered many different experiences and situations that inner city pastors may run into. We went to a Mosque, a Hindu temple, talked with a Buddhist, visited a Messianic Jewish Synagogue and talked with several other different church groups. One guy in particular was quite fascinating. He was an Alliance Church pastor who was starting a brand new church in Calgary. His research led him to believe that if a church was able to reach the dad of a family, then the whole family would come to church. So they started this new church with an outreach ministry that was 100% geared toward reaching men.
It was a fascinating approach. It shows us how vital and important fathers are in the growth and life of the Church. Father sets the tone. If they are faithful, like Father Abraham, then great things happen. Countless scripture verses teach about the central role of the Christian Dad. When we look way back in the Bible we run into this great passage from Deuteronomy. “4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (6:4-9).
This passage deserves our attention. How often did we or do we talk openly to our kids about the Christian faith and walking in God’s ways? How about just talking with our kids at all? Before the Covid19 fiasco, statistics were about 30 minutes a day. 30 minutes a day parents conversed with their kids on average. That’s 2% of every day. That’s it. And of those 30 minutes, how many of them are talking about Jesus? Salvation? Forgiveness? The Commandments? Baptism? And yet God’s Word emphasizes this very thing as the number 1 priority. When we sit down. When we walk. When we lie down. When we get up. In our hands. Between our eyes. On our doors and gates! Teaching God’s ways to our kids should be like air in our lungs - especially for Christian fathers.
Our collective failure as parents in this regard is increasingly prominent in our society. Only a couple short generations ago, people basically were on the same page with a common Christian heritage. But not anymore. Now we have an unbelieving society that has turned its back on God and as a result gets worse and worse by the day. You may have noticed that in Canada and the US and all around the world really, people have become so hostile and explosive. Everyone is an activist of some sort now. People don’t come together to work on issues logically. Instead we see the very opposite. It’s as though people have de-evolved into exposed nerves of rash reactionism and emotionalism! People today can’t have a disagreement about anything anymore without having an accompanying fit, tirade and or a protest! Division among people fuels the fire. We are divided up and labelled like jam jars by race, religion, class, gender, etc. This kind of approach does nothing for building a unified society that can work together for a common good, respecting those in authority over us as God’s representatives.
And when we take a step back to analyze the world around us, this is exactly what we see. The respect is gone. The honour is gone. The love is gone. The serving and obedience are gone, gone, gone. I’m going to postulate this is the consequences of losing the Christian family. When Dads (and Moms) do not teach the commandments and faith to their kids, an un-Christian cesspool results. Society degenerates into the utter destruction and division we have now. The populace has turned from the “faith of their fathers” into a raging paganism, secularism and even all out hedonism! It truly has become a sad, sad state of affairs. What kind of world and society are our kids and grand-kids inheriting?
When Fathers fail to be the Christian leaders God has called them to be, when they fail to teach the Lord’s ways to their children, when they shirk from Fatherly duties, the results are utterly catastrophic. We can learn from history on this one. In the book of Joshua, when God’s people were faithful, walking in His ways, great things were accomplished. The walls came a tumblin’ down at Jericho and victories abounded. But as soon as Joshua was gone, this happened: “And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, Who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger” (Judges 2:12). They abandoned the God of their fathers. They ceased to walk in His ways. They put their faith in false gods. The victories stopped. The people were lost and plundered, thrown into terrible distress and disarray.
The Good News is that we have a God who can relate to us. We have a Heavenly Father who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He invites us all to humble ourselves and return to Him and walk in His ways. He knows us and our many stumblings. He knows our struggles and hardships. He knows that we are poor, miserable sinners who haven’t measured up to His standards. And yet, He is full of mercy for us. As a loving Father, He sacrifices His only Son for us and our salvation. He pours out grace upon us in the cross of Christ our Lord. Forgiveness in the face of our fatherly failings. This becomes the help and strength we desperately need for the tasks He has placed before us. And what a noble task it is!
A little boy was caught swearing like a trucker at a church potluck. “Young man, where did you learn to talk like that?!” said the boy’s shocked and embarrassed mother. With tears welling up in his eyes, the little boy looked up at his father - the Pastor - and said “Well Dad, should I tell her?!” Dad sets the tone. Sometimes it’s good and saintly and faithful. Other times, not so much. There are no perfect fathers except our Heavenly Father. But like Father Abraham, we can look to our Lord’s Word in faith. We can trust Him and be filled with His righteousness in the midst of all things - especially in the vocation of Fatherhood. Certainly all of us have made mistakes, yet the grace of God continues to come to our aid day after day. Thanks and praise be to our Heavenly Father now and always! For He is the help of all Fathers and Mothers everywhere. Happy Father’s Day. Amen!