WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

  CELEBRATING FATHERHOOD

THIS SERMON WAS PRESENTED ON JUNE 20, 2015

 

       The fifth commandment tells us to honor our father and mother.  Several weeks ago we honored our mothers in celebrating Mothers Day.  Tomorrow is Fathers Day.  In the past I have given sermons dealing with the Mothers Day celebration but I have not done so in regard to Fathers Day.  Fathers Day sometimes takes a backseat to mother’s day.  One little boy was asked what the difference was between Mothers day and Fathers Day and he replied that we spend more money for Mother Day.  Well, that may be true but it certainly doesn’t devaluate Fathers Day. 

       The Father's Day celebration originated in the United States and has spread to countries around the world.  The American celebration apparently began in Spokane Washington at the urging of a woman named Sonora Louise Smart Dodd.  Sonora felt great affection for her own father William Jackson Smart who was a Civil war veteran.  Sonora’s mother died in childbirth when Sonora was 16 but the newborn survived.  Mr. Smart raised the newborn and five other children on his own.  As a result of Sonora's efforts, Spokane celebrated its first Father's Day on June 19, 1910. Soon the celebration spread to other parts of the country.

       President Woodrow Wilson gave approval to the idea of Father’s Day in 1916 and President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father's Day in 1924.  President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day in 1966. In 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the third Sunday of June. Sonora Smart Dodd was honored for her contribution at the World's Fair in Spokane in 1974. Mrs. Dodd died in 1978 at age 96.

       It is instructive that when President College gave support to Father’s Day, he did so in saying that the reason he supported Father’s Day was to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers’ the full measure of their obligations."  

       Well, I think we are all aware that intimate relations between father’s and their children and father’s exercising their full measure of obligations have become very problematic in various sectors of our American culture.  While many fathers’ do exercise responsibility in the rearing of the children they are accountable for, many do not.  We have an epidemic of fatherless homes where men have abandoned their obligation to care for the children they caused to come into this world.

       Throughout scripture, fatherhood is seen to be as essential to parenthood as motherhood.  We see in Genesis that God created humans as male and female and instructed them to bare children.  God said that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one.

       Genesis 1:27-28:  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth

       Genesis 2:24: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 

       When we read Genesis 2:24, we often overlook the instruction to leave father and mother.  This passage is instructive in that it shows from the beginning that parenting and the family structure is defined as being made up of a father and a mother.  Jesus confirmed the Genesis account when He said:

       Matthew 19:4-5: "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,' and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.'  

       It should be apparent from the scriptures that that the family unit is made up of a father whose gender is male and a mother whose gender is female.  Yet today we have family units made up of two males with one referring to the other as husband or wife and we have family units made up of two females with one referring to the other as husband or wife.

       If that isn’t enough, we have transgender family units raising children.  Is it any wonder we have children growing up with identity problems.  When you add to this the alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence and general neglect extant in many families, it isn’t hard to understand why we are having a crisis of family in this country.

       Some time back I gave a sermon on parenting and played for you the routine from the 1961 Jerome Robbins/Leonard Bernstein Broadway musical West side Story.  This show is about rival gangs on the streets of West Side New York.  One memorable segment of the show is when some gang members do a routine reflecting their perspective of what’s wrong with them.  Here are several segments of this routine: This routine pretty much sums up the reasons for the undoing of the family.

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke
You gotta understand
It's just our bringin' upke
That gets us out of hand
Our mothers all are junkies   
Our fathers all are drunks     
Golly Moses, naturally we're punks

Dear kindly Judge, your Honor
My parents treat me rough
With all their marijuana           
They won't give me a puff
They didn't wanna have me   
But somehow I was had
Leapin' lizards, that's why I'm so bad

My daddy beats my mommy   
My mommy clobbers me        
My grandpa is a commie
My grandma pushes tea

  My sisters wears a mustache
My brother wears a dress       
Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess

       Consider these facts provided by the Department of Health and Human Services:

       42% of female-headed households with children are poor compared with 8% of families with children headed by married parents. 

       Girls without fathers in their lives are 2.5 times more likely to get pregnant and 53% more likely to commit suicide.

       Boys without fathers in their lives are 63% more likely to run away from home and 37% more likely to use drugs.

       Boys and girls without father involvement are twice as likely to drop out of school, twice as likely to go to jail and nearly four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems.

       The average American father spends only 7 ½ uninterrupted minutes per week with his children.

       It is truly regrettable that many fathers fail to live up to their obligations to provide for their families and be the proper role model for their children.  Being a role model and leaving a legacy as a role model is critical to providing and establishing a home environment that allows for children to grow up properly.  I think we all understand that parenting involves being a provider of the necessities for allowing our children to grow and develop physically and mentally.  The most challenging part of parenting is relating to our children in an emotionally balanced manner while teaching them the proper way to behave.  This may be especially true for fathers.  Paul makes a rather interesting statement to the Ephesian Christians.

       Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

       Other translations render this passage as Paul instructing fathers not to provoke or anger their children.  Paul contrasts this with bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  The training and instruction of the Lord covers a wide area of behavior.  Jesus taught proper behavior.  The Sermon on the Mount is all about proper behavior.  Jesus taught morality and ethics.  Jesus taught the law of love.  He taught we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan to demonstrate what it means to love your neighbor.  Jesus taught the way to peace.  Jesus instructed we are to love our enemies and be forgiving.  Jesus taught that adultery and fornication are wrong behavior. 

       When Paul instructs Fathers to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord, he is instructing them to teach their children what Christ taught.  Just think what would happen if fathers by the hundreds of thousands all over this nation would begin to practice the behavioral dynamics that Jesus taught and would also teach these behavioral dynamics to their children.  It wouldn’t take long and we would have a much improved society.

       Paul tells the Ephesian fathers not to exasperate, provoke or anger ones children.  He says something similar to the Colossian father’s.

       Colossians 3:21: Fathers, provoke not your children, that they be not discouraged.

       The Greek word used here has the basic meaning of “to anger.”  It is similar in meaning to the Greek word used by Paul in instructing the Ephesian fathers not to show anger or provoke their children.  Paul appears to be sayings that fathers are to be encouraging toward their children.  Father’s should be doing all they can to teach them the way of righteousness which if implemented in their behavior will protect them from harm.  Fathers are to be sincerely interested in the welfare of their children. 

       Above all, a father must set a good example.  To teach sound principles of behavior and then act contrary to such principles in front of your children will not get the results you are looking for.  Children learn more by example then anything else. Too many fathers are good examples of bad examples.  They mimic the behavior of those who behave badly rather than strive to live their lives according to sound moral and ethical principles.  If a father sets a good example in how he conducts himself, the chances are much greater that his children will set a good example as well.  Some times a bad example by a father can be overcome by a good example of a grandfather or even a great grandfather.  This appears to be the case with one of the Kings of Judah.

       King Asa of Judah is a good example of setting a right example and having that example followed by his son.  Asa, however, did not grow up in a godly home. His father was King Abijah.  In 1 Kings 15:3, it is recorded that Abijah committed all the sins his father had done before him.  Abijah is an example of following the bad example of a sinful father who was the grandfather of Asa.

       Asa, however, somehow came to see the error of his father’s and grandfathers ways and when he became king he behaved righteously.  It is recorded in 1 Kings 15:11 that Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as  David had done. Now David was the great, great grandfather of Asa.  Apparently Asa was knowledgeable about what David had done, learned from it and followed in David’s footsteps.  1 Kings 15:11 tells us that Asa cleared out idolatry from Judah because he was fully committed to God. Now Asa had a son named Jehoshaphat. How did Jehoshaphat conduct himself when he became king?   

       2 Chronicles 20:32: He walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.

       It is apparent the righteous behavior of Asa influenced the behavior of his son Jehoshaphat.  As mentioned, it is apparent the record of King David’s righteous behavior influenced the behavior of Asa.  This should tell us grandfathers and great grandfathers that our behavior is also important to the development of our descendants. This of course is true of grandmothers and great grandmothers as well.  We can influence the behavior of our grandchildren and great grandchildren sometimes in a greater way than their parents.

       A true measurement of our success at fatherhood is what kind of legacy we leave.  Will we be remembered as someone who did our best to provide for our family and set a righteous example in our behavior or will it be difficult for the person giving the eulogy at our funeral to say good things about our fatherhood?  What kind of legacy will we leave for our children and grandchildren?

       I want to conclude today by reading a eulogy that was posted to the website for Forbes magazine.  This is a eulogy given by a son at his father’s funeral.  This is the kind of eulogy I would think each one of us father’s and grandfather’s would like presented at our funeral.  The eulogy is entitled. “My Father: A Eulogy To A Good Man From The Greatest Generation.”  This eulogy was delivered at the wake of a man named Robert C Frezza on August 18, 2013.

       Summing up my father’s life, I keep coming back to one thought. Never will you meet a man who more faithfully lived his values.

       My father was a teacher of all things. His method was simple. He taught by example. At any age, when faced with an ethical dilemma, after reflection, study, or even rationalization, I find myself coming back to one simple question. What would Dad do? His character is the foundation of my conscience.

       My father’s teachings are endless. Let me share a few.

       My father was strong in body, in spirit, and in commitment. He never missed a single day of class from kindergarten through high school graduation, his perfect attendance award being the one honor he remembers receiving as a child.

       My father never let another man down. He fulfilled every obligation he ever undertook. His word was his bond, and everyone knew it. I never heard him utter a lie, nor intentionally deceive.

       My father was self-made and self-reliant. From his education to his career, from his skill with every kind of tool that could fashion wood or metal, brick or cement, my Dad engaged with the world as a man who would be its master.

       My father was proud to be an engineer. In his office, on the wall next to the shop production schedule and the tool and die calendars, was a framed quote from Herbert Hoover praising the virtues of the engineer. That quote hangs on my wall today. I imagine it will one day hang on the wall of my son Brian, who carries the engineer’s spirit into the world of science.

       My father relished the good things in life including art and music, travel and photography, food and wine, and friends and family. While he never cultivated the intense relationship of a best buddy, or hunt or fish or play poker with the boys, the number of people who called my Dad friend was legion.

       My father never made an enemy. Not one. While he most surely came across a few people he couldn’t countenance, he solved the problem by simply avoiding them. He always insisted that violence never solved any problem. He never once hit another man in anger.

       My father was loyal. His faithfulness to the important people in his life could be seen in the way he steadfastly maintained ties with his childhood friends. From the streets of Manhattan in the ethnic ghetto where they grew up through the weddings, christenings, holidays, and now wakes and funerals that mark the arc of life, my Dad could always be counted on to be there.

       My father was never stingy. Though he was a child of the Depression who understood the value of a dollar and the importance of saving, the generosity he expressed with his money matched his generosity of spirit.

       My father loved his martinis, teaching me to mix them for him when I was 12 years old. Yet I’ve never seen him visibly drunk, nor did he ever let strong drink cause him embarrassment, nor did he ever once get behind the wheel impaired.  Moderation was his byword in all things.

       My father was responsible to the very end. How many elderly people do you know who put down their car keys and voluntarily announce that they are no longer fit to drive?

       My father loved a good joke, including every imaginable kind of ethnic joke. Yet his humor was never mean spirited, nor designed to hurt or humiliate. I never once heard him utter a racial slur, nor did he ever treat anyone of any station with anything other than respect and kindness.

        My father spoke openly of his admiration for the female figure, yet as far as I know he never kissed another woman besides my mother. And he loved my mother with every bone in his body, his visible affection overcoming his usual reserve. Dad’s unflagging support for Mom’s personal development in her career and in life created the perfect balance creating a childhood for me and my sister that today seems like a lost American dream.

       My father provided a home for his widowed mother from the time he and Mom were newlyweds, letting grandma build a second life filled with the joy of her grandchildren. While Mom carried the burden of sharing a roof with her mother-in-law, Dad did his best to foster domestic tranquility.

       My father took in his in-laws when they became old and infirm, taking his turn changing his father-in-law’s diapers. He and Mom took in his elderly sister when she neared the end. And responsible man that he was, as Dad faced imminent infirmity he made sure that he and Mom were well situated so that when he was gone she would be well cared for in a community of their choosing.

       Only twice did I ever see my father cry. The first time was in November 1963 when President Kennedy was shot. The second was in December 2001 when my son, his grandson and namesake, was taken from us shortly before his 22nd birthday. And while I knew Dad was as torn up inside as I was, his crying ceased long before mine did. Because he knew it was his job to be the rock for me to lean on.

       My father had a quiet dignity, respecting himself the way he respected others. As he faced his final days, his body ravaged with the cancer that ate his bones, he occasionally lost his good humor. But he never had one moment of self-pity. The day before he passed when the hospice nurse asked him how he was doing, he gave the same answer he gave every day. I’m fine.

       My father gave me a parting gift. He waited for me before he passed, to be sure his son would be there to comfort his beloved wife when his time came. The last words I was blessed to be able to share with him as I caressed his withered brow the night before he died were the same words we said to each other every night for the past year when we finished our daily phone call. I love you.

       Farewell, Pop. You did good. You did real good.

       Robert C Frezza left a legacy that his son and daughter could be proud of.  It should be our goal as fathers and grandfathers to do the same.  As we get together with family and friends to celebrate Father’s Day, let us remember our responsibility to be the kind of fathers and grandfathers our families can be proud of.   Happy Father’s Day everyone.