Sermon 4 Pentecost/Father’s Day Yr C

4 Pentecost/Father’s Day Yr C, 20/06/2010

I Cor 13:4-8a & Eph 6:1-4

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

“Dads making a difference”

Today, in addition to being the fourth Sunday, after Pentecost, is Father’s Day. I realise that Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are not included as Sundays in the church year—however; today I am going to digress from the Revised Common Lectionary and the church calendar year and focus on Father’s Day. For those of you who don’t know; here’s a bit of history on the origins of Father’s Day.

   Garrison Keillor, on his “Writer’s Almanac” on National Public Radio reminds us that Father’s Day goes back “to a Sunday morning in May of 1909, when a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd was sitting in church in Spokane, Washington, listening to a Mother’s Day sermon. She thought of her father who had raised her and her siblings after her mother died in childbirth, and she thought that fathers should get recognition, too. So she asked the minister of the church if he would deliver a sermon honouring fathers on her father’s birthday, which was coming up in June, and the minister did. And the tradition of Father’s Day caught on, though rather slowly. Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1914; Father’s Day, not until 1972. Mother’s Day is still the busiest day of the year for florists; restaurants and long distance phone companies. Father’s Day is the day on which the most collect phone calls are made.1

   In both of our passages from I Corinthians and Ephesians; I think we have some of the best biblical wisdom for dads of every time and place. In our time, we often hear I Corinthians thirteen—known as the love chapter—read at weddings and as a choice text for wedding sermons. However, I believe verses four to eight in particular are very appropriate for dads and parenting. The words of Paul here also remind me a bit of Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel concerning the love commandment. At any rate, as dads who happen to be Christians—parenting is rooted in the love that has been given to us from God our heavenly Father through Jesus our brother, friend and Saviour.

   Paul unpacks some of the qualities, the characteristics, the fruit of love. Listen again to them and think about how they might take shape in the everyday life of dads and parenting. Paul says that: “Love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

   Many dads are too impatient with their children. Children can and do feel hurt and rejected by their dads because of their lack of patience. Dads who are kind may have more opportunities to gain trust and friendship with their children than dads who are not kind to their children. A dad who is envious of their children or boastful of self or arrogant and rude with their children may give their children the impression that their dad is an overly-critical, harsh person; and the relationship between such dads with their children may be rather troubled. Love doesn’t insist on its own way. Dads, at times, need to learn things from their children and even change their viewpoint on occasion. Love is not irritable or resentful. Dads who are irritable and resentful will most likely push their children further away from them—because who wants to be yelled at or put down or made to feel that you are always offending your parent with your concerns? Such dads have little empathy for their children. Love does not rejoice in doing wrong, but rejoices in the truth. Wrongdoing can destroy dads and children. For example, if a dad is involved in criminal activity; then the chances are likely greater that the children will follow in their dad’s footsteps. Love rejoices in the truth because ultimately the truth is able to correct destructive behaviours, prevent suffering and hurt, and set people free to love God and neighbour. Love bears all things. A dad who is patient and humble may find it necessary under certain circumstances to deal with a tarnished reputation of themselves or their children. Love believes all things. A dad who believes all things is not a fool—although some may think him to be one—rather, he puts the best construction on things and tries to be affirming instead of criticising. Love hopes all things. Where there is hope there is life and vice-a-versa; dads of hope see a future with better things to come; giving confidence to their children. Love endures all things. Dads are willing to suffer with their children—even if the suffering involves difficult sacrifices. Love never ends. Dads know that loving never ends because we are always in need of it—no matter who we are or what our circumstances.

   Turning to our Ephesians passage, Paul, being steeped in the Torah, quotes the commandment for children to honour their father and mother. He also associates this honour with obeying them and points out that the commandment carries with it the promise of a full, meaningful, and long life. Paul also adds: “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

   Today when folks think of that word “obey,” many are put off. The word has a lot of negative baggage—including it being associated with cruelty, and abuse of authority. Yet a father is asked to discipline and instruct their children. How does a dad accomplish that? Well, I believe it is by striking a delicate balance between a dad’s authority and their approachability—the willingness to befriend their children. A dad needs to share personal things with their children at the right time under the right circumstances. A dad also needs to encourage their children even when their authority is needed so the child knows what behaviour is acceptable and what behaviour is not acceptable. In other words a dad has influence on their children, which can make a huge difference. Listen to the following story.

   On one occasion, I was in a conversation with Gordon Jensen—now professor of Reformation history and theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saskatoon.

   When I asked Gordon who or what inspired him to go into Ph.D. studies and become a professor, this is what he told me. He said his father—who had left school after grade eight—spoke with Gordon one day and told him that he believed Gordon would make a very good professor and that he ought to seriously consider it. Gordon said up to that point in his life, he actually had not considered being a seminary professor. It was, Gordon stated, his father’s encouraging words which had inspired and motivated him to pursue a vocation as a seminary professor.  So, to be an influential dad means, among other things, speaking encouraging words to your children about their gifts and talents and future possibilities regarding vocation.

   The dad who is influential in a loving and constructive way was most likely influenced in a loving and constructive way by his dad. I think the most powerful influence a dad can have on his children is by practicing forgiveness.

   God has shown us the perfect meaning of forgiveness by sending us his Son, Jesus to practice forgiveness on all who were in need of it throughout his public ministry. Forgiveness that was both taught and caught in the parable of the prodigal son and Jesus’ forgiveness of the very enemies who nailed him to the cross. Such forgiveness is so strong and influential that it embraces the whole human race—including you and I. God our loving Father revealed the essence of fatherhood through Jesus’ public ministry, culminating in his suffering and death on the cross.

   The forgiveness revealed in Jesus is our perfect example to follow. As dads, we too are called to go and do likewise. However, acts of forgiveness are not limited to dads only—moms, brothers, sisters, grandparents, everyone are called into this most important and influential vocation of all, forgiveness. In forgiving one another we are loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbour as ourselves. Amen.        

1 Cited from: <>.