Sermon for Father’s Day, Pentecost 4
June 16, 2013, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Texts: Matt. 1:18-25; Matt. 2:13-15; Matt. 2:19-23
Sermon Theme: “Don’t Be a Father without a Compass!”
(Sources: Phil Morgan, SermonCentral.com; original ideas; my own Column, Images for June 13, 2013; online articles about Robert Bly)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, it’s Father’s Day. You know, it took me years to appreciate my father.
My father was a countrified, outdoors, Daniel Boone type, who was a small and wiry, solid muscle, no fat, kind of guy with a full head of pitch black hair; in his entire lifetime of 80 years, he never gained a pound and he never got a gray hair! He was one of a very few fathers in those days who were gentle, generous, kind and nurturing. As a child, I admired and adored him, but, later, in high school and college, I was becoming a poet, artist, and semi-intellectual, and what he was turned me off (much to my later years of regret). If you are trying to be an intellectual, and your father had to quit school in the 3rd grade and cannot read, you make a point of avoiding him (to your detriment and loss).
Most people seem to be a lot more nostalgic on Mother’s Day than on Father’s Day, and we all tend to make saints out of our mothers and don’t know how we could have made it through life without her. In the majority of the families, she was the parent who was gentle, generous, kind, and nurturing, most fathers totally without a clue as to how to be nurturing. A current movie, Courageous, speaks to this issue very touchingly. Many of my friends’ fathers looked upon gentleness and kindness as awful traits that would make sissies out of your sons if you allowed them to develop. I was blessed not to have that kind of father.
Famous American poet Robert Bly, believes that the movement away from being a nurturing and connecting father began with the Industrial Revolution, and while that may be a valid theory, it also may reflect his own socio-economic ideologies. Bly’s most famous book, Iron John: A Book about Men, was published in 1990 and it launched the “Mythopoetic Men’s Movement” in the United States, which paralleled the Christian Men’s movements like “Promise Keepers,” wherein men got in touch with their gentle, more nurturing side, and two men hugging each other no longer made you “gay.” These movements were necessary revolutionary movements which rehabilitated quite a few Attila the Hun and Cro-Magnon types.
Bly believed that after the Industrial Revolution men worked too many hours in the factories and other work places to have time left for nurturing their children; thus the nurturing had to come from the mother.
Several years ago, there was a film on television about a woman who had many children who was dying of an incurable disease. I think it was called “Who Will Love My Children?” She had one year to live.
Her husband was a good man, but he was totally incapable of nurturing so many children after her death, so she spent her last year carefully searching for loving and nurturing parents for each of her kids, so that when she died, her kids would be fully taken care of. Don’t watch that movie without a box of Kleenex!
This dying mother went looking for parents to care for her children. In the same manner, God the Father went looking for parents to raise His beloved, only-begotten Son. He searched the earth, and He found a young girl – a teenager engaged to be married – of whom the Bible says, she “found favor with God.” She was a kind, loving, caring young lady.
But there is something else about Mary’s story in the Bible that we usually forget. God also went looking for a father.
Do you think for one minute that God would allow just anybody to raise His only begotten Son, who was to be the Savior of the World? To be able to accomplish the mission He was sent to accomplish, Jesus had to be fully human, so He was not raised by God the Father and the angels. No, He was raised by Mary and Joseph. God didn’t choose rich, affluent parents, no, Mary and Joseph were very poor. They were lowly and humble, caring and loving, devout and church-attending folks.
So much has been written and said about Mary, but the point here is God also needed a Godly father for his Son. God clearly demonstrates for us that the role of the father is a most important one!
Well, gosh, you might think, nobody ever studies about Joseph in Sunday School or Bible class, he is just kind of there, standing by the sheep in the stable. But let me tell you something, God would have chosen the very best father He could find to be the Son of God’s father!
Like my father, Joseph’s hands would have been calloused from hard work, he was a carpenter. He would have taught Jesus how to be a carpenter, so this kid would have been taught how to work, He would not have been brought up spoiled rotten. Yet the Bible shows Joseph as a very kind and gentle and caring person, a man of honor and integrity. Mary was a pregnant teenager, Joseph could have had her put away, he knew he had not conceived the baby, but he didn’t. He took her and the baby in as his very own. He provided for them, he cared for them. He never once said with disgust, “This child is not my own flesh and blood, so why should I care for him?” No, he believed what the angel had told him and Mary.
In contrast to Joseph, we see so many young men today who abdicate their role as father even toward children they know they conceived. Or if they do attempt to be a father, they have no compass to follow. Because of his faith, Joseph had a compass, which was God. God came to Joseph and told him in a dream when to go to Egypt, when to return home. Here’s what the Bible says about abdication as a father: 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever!”
Joseph was a devout man who obeyed God. That he was a nurturing, caring father is evident in the stories from Matthew. And please notice that the angel of God came to Joseph in a dream when the baby’s life was in danger, and said, “Take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt for safety,” (to keep Herod from killing Jesus), Joseph was poor; going to Egypt was a great expense and they had no idea how long they would have to be there. Joseph did not hesitate to go, he placed the child’s safety above anything else.
What is also significant here is that each time the angel of the Lord spoke in a dream to Joseph, not to Mary, but to Joseph. It is clear that God expected the father of the child to protect and care for him, — Joseph was no dead beat father! Joseph was a father of faith!
Not only that but he was a man who was faithful in his spiritual duty. He faithfully took his family to the Temple to worship, he took Mary and Jesus to Jerusalem to attend the special religious festivals, and to the Temple to offer the required sacrifices. Joseph was not one of these fathers who are deadbeats and go play golf on Sunday while their wives take the kids to church to worship. Or the worse kind, where both parents go play golf on Sundays and never take the children to church, and, not only that, never spend quality time with them. Maybe “deadbeat” is too nice a word to call a father like that!
Pastor Phil Morgan tells this story. Sunday morning found the father in his pajamas reading his paper while his little son played with his toys. The father finally said, “Son, get yourself ready for Sunday School.”
The little boy asked, “Are you coming with us today, Dad?”
The father replied, “No, I’m not coming. But I want you to hurry up and get ready.”
The little boy then said, “Did you used to go to Sunday School when you were a boy, Dad?”
“I most certainly did!” replied the father.
As he walked away to get dressed, and go to Sunday School with his mother, the boy mumbled, “Yeah, and I bet it won’t do me any good either!”
Like girls, boys have to be mentored, they have to be taught by example to become men, otherwise, they get trapped forever in an in-between state of being half adult and half child. With a father who has no time for his son and doesn’t want to nurture him, there can be no mentoring unless the son finds another father figure to replace him. So, in truth, the son with a loving, nurturing father develops into a more manly “man” than the son whose father is too busy for him, ignores him, doesn’t care about him, doesn’t want to be bothered, or is only interested in his own agenda.
Robert Bly believes that the weakest men are the ones whose fathers took no part in nurturing them, as they go on a search for a “father” the rest of their lives. It is good, not bad, for boys to develop emotional sensitivity, because this emotional sensitivity, among other things, will enable them to be better husbands to their wives.
Earlier in the service, the children gave all fathers and all future fathers a compass on a key chain, — it shows you when you’re going north, when you are veering to the south, etc. Today’s fathers and grandfathers, and fathers of the future, let’s let that compass be a call to faith and a call to fatherhood, to be the kind of father Joseph was, and to be the kind of father God wants you to be! Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.