June 18, 2017 Father’s Day
Sermon: “The Dads of God”
Scripture reading: Genesis 18: 1-15; 21:1-7
Abraham and Isaac
Isaac and Jacob
Jacob and Joseph
Jesse and David
David and Solomon
Elijah and Elisha
Zechariah and John the Baptist
Joseph and Jesus
In each case from Scripture, you had a righteous father and his righteous son. Is this just a pattern? Does it just…happen? Is it something arranged by God and then left to chance? I think not.
It would be just as easy to share a totally different pattern, one that shows the non-righteous father and his non-righteous son. In fact, even using Scripture as a source, it is much easier to find this type of list than the righteous one; the books of Kings are ripe trees full of the rotting fruit of the non-righteous fathers and their non-righteous sons:
• Rehoboam and Jeroboam
• Baasha and Elah
• Zimri and Omri
• Ahab and Ahaziah
• The last nine kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
And from the New Testament: King Herod and anyone in his entire family!
In our world, it is not so cut-and-dried as it is in the Bible. We have fathers who are good, some that are bad, some that are weak, some that mean well, and all kinds of others…just like the general population. But it would also seem that the role of fathers is being diminished in some parts of our culture. This is obvious to any teacher; we may hear about fathers in the lives of our children, but it is the mothers who usually show up at the parent-teacher conferences. Back in my teaching days, it became a pattern that I was surprised when I got to meet any of the fathers of my students; this was true for 29 years.
But our culture is also guilty of sending mixed messages. On the one hand, we have any expert in family dynamics, or children’s mental health, or in education telling us the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of their children; then on the other hand, we have TV shows on virtually every channel showing us what idiots fathers are. In the past, we had “Father Knows Best”, “Leave It to Beaver”, “Andy Griffith”, “The Nelsons”, “Make Room for Daddy”, and even “Bonanza”; now we have “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy”, “American Dad” and just about any show on My20.
What happened to the dads?
Maybe nothing happened at all. Maybe some are just making fun of an institution because it is secretly funny to do so. Or maybe some are just laughing at something that is so foreign to them that we can’t recognize it. Or maybe women have done such a magnificent job stepping up as parents and bread-winners that dads are in danger of becoming irrelevant.
Being a father of two children, a grandfather of one, an uncle to eight, and even a grand-uncle of six myself, I have a problem with this whole group of weak, dumb, clueless, useless dads. I am not dishing out any blame at all. But I am still asking the questions.
All I know today is that I am extremely blessed when it comes to dads. My own dad was and is a very important figure in my life. What I know about honesty I learned from him because the only person my father ever lied to was himself. I also had my grandfather who taught me about not just being a Christian, but the uniquely central Texas Presbyterian form of it.
But it didn’t stop there. I had beloved uncles, neighbors, family friends, church fathers, teachers, mentors, and my own father-in-law. All these men served me as Dads of God. They showed me how to live, how to accept what I can and how to fight against what I cannot. I would not be here today except for them. I stand on their strong shoulders, and I love and respect them all. I’ll bet many of you feel the same way about various men in your lives.
I even know of dads who are fathers to children that are not even their own. They are step-fathers who inherit children when they marry the mother; in many cases, these Dads of God get rid of the label “step” because those children belong to his heart unconditionally. I have officiated weddings in which the step fathers take a much larger role than the biological fathers, but the children of those dads don’t seem to care. They know their own dad of God. The same can be said of adoptive fathers and foster fathers who choose children to be in their households out of love and compassion.
One of my favorite dad stories involves Senator John McCain. His wife came home from an overseas mission trip in Bangladesh with a small orphan girl. The little girl had such a severe cleft palate that it was feared she would starve to death because she had such difficulty eating. When McCain met his wife at the airport, he asked her, “Where is she going?” Mrs. McCain replied, “To our house.” Senator McCain later reported that he knew better than to cross his wife when she had that look in her eye. Senator McCain’s aide later reported, "I remember John's face. That day he was not the tough war hero senator. He was like every other new father, full of love and emotion." And it didn’t take long before McCain fell in love with that little girl who is today his daughter, Bridget McCain.
Because in this case, McCain was a Dad of God.
I have two children of my own that I love more than I can put into words. I need them…but whether they know it or not, they also need me. I had hundreds of students who were in my various school room classes; to many of them, I was their dad because I was the only male in their lives…that was a responsibility I took very seriously. And I know of dozens of others who serve as role models, substitute fathers, and surrogate fathers to children who would otherwise go without their love and example.
But just as the Lord’s anger burned against those kings of Israel and Judah who turned against him and did evil in his sight, I think the Lord’s anger also burns against those dads who shirk their responsibilities and neglect or hurt their own children. Far too often, this scenario appears in our society; often it makes the news in the form of dreadful, lurid lead stories in the headlines, or the sad, pitiful stories of children who lacked firm, loving care during the times of their lives when they truly needed firm and loving care.
What should we do about this? What should we even think about this?
I can only imagine how disappointed our heavenly father would be if we ignored our responsibilities to be Dads of God.
I can only imagine the face of the Lord on Judgment Day if we have neglected one of our own children.
I can only imagine the need of a child who has no father to love him or her.
That’s why I praise the Lord so strongly and so loudly for those fathers who show up, step up, and act as dads of God for the children of the Heavenly Father.
They are truly blessed…and so are their children.