given on Sunday, June 17, 2011–Father’s Day
It’s Father’s Day: Whom are you honoring?
The question developed while discussing sermons and Father’s Day at Annual Conference. I mentioned that I was beginning to see some sermon ideas that I could use and how I needed to set them up on my planning calendar. Offhandedly I noted that Father’s Day was this weekend so I knew I would wait at least a week before getting started on the list of ideas.
“We don’t do Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sermons,” was the response I received.
I was startled. How could any church simply ignore such long-held traditions! How would the congregation feel if the preacher simply overlooked the holiday!
But the explanation and discussion made sense because it shared one more horrible truthes about our 21st century society. When honoring Father’s Day publically, you are risking triggering major pain in those who . . .
- do not have a father that they ever knew,
- do not have a father due to death or divorce or deployment,
- do not have a father to honor due to abuse or sexual misconduct or imprisonment,
- do not have a father but a step-father who may or may not provide a parental role in their lives,
- do not have a father who lived to be the grandfather of one’s children
- do not have a father who provided time and attention and guidance worthy of honoring.
Who is to decide which individual sitting in the pews is going to feel hurt, anger, jealousy, or envy if the entire service is focused on glorifying all the traits we praise in good parents. So, some churches simply do not focus on Father’s Day.
And thus sat in the quandary. In our small congregations, parenting is really grand-parenting or even great-grand-parenting. A few of us are still working through the process, and some of us are ones without fathers to honor. Still, if our culture decides to ignore Father’s Day are we guilty of not encouraging such roles. Are we ignoring those men in our lives who have guided us whether they are blood-related or just a positive influence in our lives.
Today is Father’s Day as noted on the calendar and in the stores all around us. Yet no one has said we have to honor only one male, blood-kin parent. Let’s look beyond that definition.
To begin, consider who you do call ‘Father.’ We all have one Father we talk to all the time. We call him “Our Father, who art in heaven” every time we use the Lord’s Prayer. We refer to him as our Father in many of the hymns, in our private prayers, and more. We envision his qualities as those of our parent. Yet, do we send God a card or buy him a gift. No.
As Methodists, we often identify John Wesley as the father of our denomination. We study his historical influence, we read his sermons, we study his expectations for our behaviors, and we sing his and his brother’s hymns. He has been a father to us and continues to be a major influence in our service-oriented faith. We work to demonstrate God’s grace to others along the same manner that Wesley did. Yet, do we do something in his honor or buy him a gift. No.
Throughout the Annual Conference, we watch and listen to the leaders in our church. There is the Bishop, who has asked to stay in Missouri for another term. There are the district superintendents, and there are all the clergy whether ordained or licensed or retired. And that is not all, the laity is there, too. The models and the guardians of our church are like our parents. They are there to make sure we do not stray, that we live our faith honestly, that we are good Methodists—by God’s standards through Wesley’s church.
Whom do we celebrate as our fathers? I can see a list of them in my own life and I know that each of you have your own list. This Father’s Day open up the definition from the traditional, biological one to the definition of God, of our faith’s fathers, and our own living role models in our church.
In the process of surfing around the internet, I stumbled onto the image of Monk Bryan. He was a bishop who was a pastor in one of the churches I attended in college. He is also the grandfather of another pastor I had while attending First Church in Warrensburg.
I read through one of his obituaries. Did you know he was one of seven generations of Methodist ministers? He was a father in our church’s lineage and worthy of recognition. I googled him and the second listing was from a familiar blog, Enter the Rainbow. Rev. Andy Bryan, his grandson, wrote about his grandfather:
My relationship with my grandfather as a member of his family is nearly indistinguishable from my relationship with him as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. That says more about him than it does about me.
Nobody loved the church more than Daddy Monk, and nobody since the Wesley brothers has been more Methodist than he was. John Wesley’s “The Character of a Methodist” reads like a biography of Monk Bryan.
“He is therefore happy in God, yea, always happy . . . He cannot but rejoice.”
Andy goes on to outline the memories and the behaviors his grandfather practiced. He lived the eight practices outlined by Wesley. Consider his morning devotion:
Every morning, Daddy Monk did the Upper Room devotion with my Nana, then with Twila (his second wife during his widower stage of life), and always including anyone who was a guest and joined them for breakfast. Reading the devotion’s title, the scripture passage, the devotion itself, and then the prayer was only half of the morning devotion time, though. After the Upper Room was done, he got out his hymnal and found the bookmark he had left in it the previous morning. Opening to the hymn, he would read (or invite someone else to) the hymn title and author, tune name and composer, along with the dates of both. And then we would read the hymn aloud.
Andy referenced this practice with another quote from Wesley’s “The Character of a Methodist”:
“. . .his heart is ever lifted up to God, at all times and in all places. In this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing. In retirement or company, in leisure, business, or conversation, his heart is ever with the Lord. Whether he lie down or rise up, God is in all his thoughts; he walks with God continually, having the loving eye of his mind still fixed upon him and everywhere ’seeing Him that is invisible.’”
The blog continues and anybody reading it can see the value that Andy placed in his grandfather’s leadership as a Christian, a Methodist Christian. Every personal connection was a direct connection to Wesley and therefore to God.
Here it is Father’s Day and I know that even Monk Bryan and Andy Bryan are two individuals to honor. We have no reason to ignore Father’s Day; we just have to identify our personal fathers.
My dad lives day-by-day waiting to join God and all his faithful, but I cannot share the day like so many do. I can’t take him to a ballgame or go fishing or even eat a dinner out. Yet my dad is one of the special people who have demonstrated faith to me and to so many others. Honoring our fathers includes honoring the fathers of our very own faith whether living or not, whether related or not. This Father’s Day is for all those who have helped us in our faith journey.
Dear God, our heavenly Father,
Thank you for your grace, your love, and your words.
Help us to see those who have modeled them for us.
Let us strive to be fathers and mothers for others in need.
Help us to keep the lessons taught us by the generations
so we may see this world through your eyes.
Let us shine as a guiding light to others, too.
Help us to serve one another so others may learn of your love.
Let fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and enemies
find the value of loving one another despite their differences.
Thank you for letting us count so many fathers in our lives
who help us develop a faith to join in your own eternal home.