Friday, June 24, 2016

The Carpenter's Son (Matthew 13:54-56; Ephesians 6:1-4) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

One Father's Day weekend, a father and mother drove many hours to visit their daughter who was in her first year of college.  They spent a week with her.  As they were getting ready to leave, the father offered his daughter some medication for headaches, since she had suffered several migraines during their visit.   A few days after the parents returned home, the father was talking to their daughter on the phone and asked, how did those pills work out honey?  I don't know, she replied,  “I haven't had any headaches since you and mom left.”

A third grader asked his mother why his father brought a briefcase home and did work at night.  She explained that he had so much work to do, he couldn't get it all done at the office.  The youngster carefully pondered this and then asked, “Well why don't they put him in a slower group?”

On Father's Day we honor and pray for 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 honor them, who stand by and support their families emotionally, spiritually and financially.  Fathers who recognize their shortcomings, who feel like they have failed as fathers, but are still determined to strive to do better.

We remember and pray for fathers who are on deployment, away from their family for long periods of time and fathers alienated from their children, because of unresolved issues in the family.  We pray for fathers who are grieving the death of a child.  We remember fathers who have a passionate desire to pass on spiritual and moral values to their children and are committed to giving their time and love.

We remember fathers who were heros this past year.  There was the father who gave his son part of his liver for a transplant and the son lived, the father who administered CPR and saved his 11 year old son's life, the father who fought a fear with his bare hands and saved his teenage son's life and the father who saved his daughter from a kidnapper.

In our first lesson from Matthew, we read about the time Jesus returned to his hometown in Nazareth.  He taught in the synagogue and performed deeds of power.  He simply astonished the people.  Jesus' knowledge of the Jewish scriptures and traditions and wisdom astounded everyone.  They said, “Is not this the carpenter's son?”  By the carpenter' son, they of course, meant Joseph.  So today we reflect upon the example of Joseph as a father.

We know more about Mary, Jesus' mother, than Joseph since so little was written about him.  Now Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born of a virgin.  This is the truth of our faith.  So technically, Joseph was Jesus' step-father.  Scripture also says Joseph was the father of other children, boys and girls, by Mary, after Jesus was born.  Joseph and Mary raised Jesus and their other children as loving and responsible parents.

What kind of father was Joseph?  We have to look between the lines and catch glimpses in the story to find out.  There is no indication that Joseph harbored any misgivings about not being the biological father. Nor is there any hint that Joseph was resentful about the amazing role Mary played when God called her to give birth to the Son of God.   The few glimpses of Joseph as a father that we catch in the Bible are impressive.  Joseph is a positive and attractive figure – considerate, courageous, protective, skilled, mature, a truly good man.

He was a man of faith, he believed in God, listened to God and followed God's will in his life.  He was a Jew.  He was a faithful member of the Jewish community.  He respected and followed the Jewish traditions and festivals.   Joseph plays his difficult role, as one married to the mother of the Son of God, respectfully and obediently.

Joseph wasn't afraid when the angel spoke to him in a dream saying that the child conceived in Mary's womb was from the Holy Spirit.  He listened carefully to the angel who spoke to him again in dreams telling him to take his family to Egypt for protection and then later on, telling Joseph in a dream to return to Nazarath.  Joseph didn't resent the intrusion of the shepherds and Magi but rejoiced with them in the birth of Jesus.  He saw to it that Jesus was circumcised when he was 8 days old and presented in the temple according to Jewish tradition.

He was a good provider for his family.  He guided and protected them on lengthy trips to Bethlehem and Egypt across the desert.  Joseph, a carpenter by trade, taught Jesus to be an apprentice carpenter.

When Jesus was 12 years old, the family traveled to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover.  After it was over, the family, including many relatives started their trek home and after a day's journey, suddenly realized that Jesus was not with them. They quickly returned to Jerusalem and after searching for three days, found Jesus in the temple, sitting among the teachers listening to them and asking questions.  Mary said:  “Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”  That is the last mention of Joseph in the story.  We can assume that he died when Jesus was in his early teens.  Joseph was a good man, a good father and a good example for father's everywhere.

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 exercise self control.”  Control your emotions, control your anger, control your impatience, do not provoke your children to anger.  The Greek word means “Do not incite, or inflame or aggravate your children.”  We parents know that raising children requires an extraordinary amount of patience.

For example lovingly disciplining a child is a far cry from shaming a child.  An out of control temper can easily slip into the act of bringing shame upon a child.  A man tells a story about when as a young man his car stopped and he had to call a tow truck. The tow truck driver towed the car to the young man's home.   He called his father and explained what had happened.  His father simply responded, "I'll come up there tomorrow after work and have a look." The father lived 215 miles from him.  His dad was going to head up to see his son after driving a city bus for 10 hours.  His father arrived after three hours, said hello, hugged his son, and walked back out to the car to have a look under the hood.

It took about 15 seconds.  His father emerged from under the hood, looked at his son, and returned his wrench to his toolbox. "What's wrong dad?”  “Is it going to be expensive?”  “Son, you’re out of gas."  We talked, ate dinner, and dad headed home.  Another 215 miles.  430 miles round trip.  My father didn't denigrate or belittle me that evening over dinner or at any time since and he certainly would have been justified in doing so.  Sheepishly I thanked him.   We gave each other a hug and he said:  “Be safe, love you.”

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 like the royal official who went to see Jesus and asked Jesus to heal his son.  Pray for their protection, their strength, their faith, their needs, and their character.   Pray for children to grow to be good persons, responsible, productive, faith-filled 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, heritage and stories from your family.  Affirm that you are a family where Christ is the center, that prays and reads the Bible together.   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.  Be a family that holds one another accountable and yet is always ready to forgive.

It means bring your children to worship and to Sunday School.  Make worshipping God a high priority.  Children learn from the example of their parents.  If the father is not going to church, the children will most likely follow their example and not grow up in a faith community, develop friends in the church, and learn the value of faith and participating in the family of God.

It also means fathers give your children responsibility.  Children need to know that you have confidence in them to do things.  Responsibility instills in them a sense of competence and self-confidence.   Children see that you trust them, that you believe in them, that you have confidence in them, and that knowledge is invaluable in helping children to develop self-confidence and self-esteem.  They will believe in themselves because you believed in them.

Mitch Albom, the author of the international best-seller Tuesdays with Morrie, wrote a short article for Father's Day titled "When did fathers become expendable?"  In our PC culture, the uniqueness of the father and what a father contributes is sometimes called into question.  What does a father bring to the table?

The author writes:  I can cite a few things I got from my own father: Strength. Quiet confidence. Discipline. Responsibility. And love—all displayed differently than my mother, which was fine. My father also taught us how to be a husband, how to respect a woman, when to lead and when to support.  It's true, not all men are like my dad.  But plenty are. And fatherhood didn't suddenly, after thousands of years, lose its value as some claim today. Funny thing is, I remember someone from my childhood frequently saying, "He needs his father to do that." It was my mother.  Happy Father's Day.  Amen!

No comments:

Post a Comment