Monday, June 29, 2015

Father's Day (Ephesians 6:1-4; Luke 7:1-10) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

A father writes:  “My five-year-old son Jimmy seemed to always demand my attention just when I was doing something.  My standard reply was "I'm busy right now, go ask your mother."   My wife told me that I needed to make time for our son.  And I must admit the disappointed look on his face, as I sent him away, finally convinced me to change my ways.  I resolved to give him my immediate attention whenever he asked.  My resolve was quickly tested.

I had just climbed to the top of our two-story house, paintbrush and bucket in hand.  As I dipped my brush into the paint, I heard his little voice call, "Daddy, Daddy."   This time I was determined to give him my full attention.  I immediately laid paintbrush and bucket aside and climbed back down to the ground to see what he wanted.  Out of breath, I got down on both knees, looked him straight in the face and asked, "Well, son what can I do for you?"  He replied: "Daddy, daddy, where's Mommy?"   

Mark Twain said:  “When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

Today, we remember and honor and pray for fathers: single fathers, married fathers, young and old fathers, foster fathers, step fathers and adoptive fathers.  We remember men who take the role of father seriously and responsibly.   Fathers who treat their wives with love and respect as an example to their children.    Fathers who make promises and keep them, who stand by and support their families emotionally, spiritually and financially.   Fathers who have strengths and weaknesses, no father is perfect, but who strive to do their best.

We remember and pray for fathers who are separated from their children because of military service or alienated from their children because of problems in the family.  We pray for fathers who are grieving the death of a child and for fathers who have a passionate desire to pass on spiritual and moral values to their children, and are commited to giving their time, their love, their energy, their wisdom, themselves. 

In this light, we turn to our story from the Gospel of Luke about a Roman centurion.  He was a professional soldier whom Rome had commissioned to be in charge of 100 soldiers.  He was a proven leader, a courageous man, who commanded respect.  And yet, the story brings out some surprising antitheses in this man’s make up.  I believe he is an appropriate example for Father’s Day.

The Centurion was a strong man with a tender heart.   He cared dearly for his servant; he valued his servant highly.  The servant was critically ill, close to death, so this centurion requests Jesus to come and heal his servant.  We can presume that there was a close emotional bond between the two of them.   Fathers having a close emotional bond with their children is critical.  Some fathers are uncomfortable when it comes to expressing their feelings or showing affection.  Some fathers are too busy and don't spend necessary time with children that is so crucial.  Fathers need to learn to be open and to affirm their children, communicating with them, complimenting them, encouraging them, listening to them, being empathetic, and being fully involved in their children’s lives.   They need to be strong men who have tender hearts.

The song by Harry Chapin Cat's in the Cradle poignantly captures this truth.  Here are a couple of verses:

“My child arrived just the other day, He came to the world in the usual way,
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay, He learned to walk while I was away,
And he was talking 'fore I knew it and as he grew, He'd say I'm gonna be like you, Dad
You know I'm gonna be like you.
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, Little boy blue and the man on the moon,
When you coming home dad, I don't know when, But we'll get together then,
You know we'll have a good time then.

My son turned ten just the other day, He said thanks for the ball, dad, come on let's play
Can you teach me to throw, I said not today, I got a lot to do; he said that's OK
And he walked away, but his smile never did, and said I'm gonna be like him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like him.”

And sadly, the son turns out to be just like his father, for when the father grows old and wants to spend time with his grown son, the son says he is too busy and doesn't have time.  Being there for one's children is the Christ-like mark that is possible for any father.

Further, the Centurion was authoritative and yet a man of humility.   He sends Jewish elder friends to Jesus to ask him to come to his home and heal his slave.  When Jesus arrives, the Centurion says: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.” Can you believe this?  He acknowledges Jesus’ authority by referring to Jesus as Lord.   The centurion shows a surprising attitude toward the Jews.  “I am not worthy to have a Jew enter my house.”   This Roman Centurion was backed by the power of Rome and could have ordered Jesus to come and threatened him, but instead, he says he is unworthy to have Jesus enter his home.  He respectfully requests Jesus to heal his slave.

Asking for help, admitting that one needs assistance is difficult for some men to do.   Being self-reliant, in control, in charge is the norm for most men.  I have seen marriages flounder and sometimes end up in divorce, I have seen the relationship between father and children deteriorate, because the husband or father lacks the humility to recognize that a problem exists and that he is part of the problem.  His pride says: “I don't need anyone's help, if there's a problem I can fix it myself.”

Admitting times of not knowing what to do, confessing that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness, having the humility to say “I’m sorry”, or “I was wrong,” or “I need help” in essential for a father.    Such is the Christ-like mark that is possible for any father.

The Centurion was also a man of faith who respected the faith of others.  Here was a Gentile Roman soldier, who worshipped Caesar as a god, sending Jewish elders to a Jewish Rabbi.  What an astounding gesture of respect and honor.  What an example of faith.  The Jewish elders give the Centurion a ringing endorsement:  “Jesus, this centurion is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, he built us our synagogue.”   This soldier was a man of faith who respected the faith of others.   He trusted Jesus, believed in Jesus and had confidence in Jesus.    Our Lord wants fathers to be men of faith who respect the faith of others.

In our second lesson in Ephesians 6:4 we read: “Fathers, Do not provoke your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Scripture is saying fathers control your temper, practice self-control, do not provoke your children to anger.  The Greek word here means “Do not incite, or inflame or aggravate your children.”  We parents know that raising children requires an inordinate amount of patience.

Scripture says bring children up in the training and instruction of Lord?   What does this mean? Pray for and with your children.     There are many examples in scripture of fathers praying on behalf of their children.  Pray for their protection, their strength, their faith, their needs, and their character.   Pray for children to grow to be good, resilient, responsible, to lead productive lives, and to glorify God in all they do.  When a man prays for and with his children he creates a powerful bond.

It means fathers help children to develop their identity.  Children need to be able to answer the question, who am I?    Pass on traditions and values, history and heritage, and stories from your family.  Affirm that you are a family where Christ is the center, a family that worships God and prays and reads the Bible.   Pass on that you are a patriotic family that respects our country.  Be a family that enjoys adventures together.  Be a family that discusses current events.  Be a family that emphasizes the value of learning and getting an education.  Be a family that is accountable to one another and yet is always ready to forgive.   Identity is essential.

It also means fathers give your children duties and responsibility.  Children need to know that you trust them to handle things.  Giving them duties instills in them a sense of competence.  If we give them responsibility when they are young, they will handle it better when they are older.  Teaching our children responsibility takes patience.   It is giving them freedom within limits, based upon their age, to succeed or fail, both of which provide important lessons in life.

As I reflect upon being a father and the years Nancy and I spent in raising our sons Matt and Eric, and now in subsequent years of interacting with them as adults, I realize fatherhood, even with its challenges, worries, frustrations, and trials is an adventure and a gift of grace.  Being a father brings meaning and purpose, gratitude, joy and satisfaction to one’s life.

When Jesus heard the Centurion, he said to the crowd:  I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”  May Jesus find such faith in us, in you and in me, as well.   Amen! 

No comments:

Post a Comment