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21st June 2009 Trinity 2 - Fathers Day

I pray that I may speak, and that you may hear, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Both of the readings we have heard today are about God's sovereignty over everything. In the reading from Job, God says to him, in so many words, who do you think did all this, the land, the sea, the sky, I did, that's who.

And in the gospel Jesus, a bit peeved by now by his tone says 'Why were you afraid, have you still not enough faith in God'.

This is about order, about someone being charge, a concept that younger people seem to reject and older people have given up on as it is too much trouble.

I took a bookstall to the University of Hertfordshire on Wednesday; it was our annual ecumenical conference with delegates from the Methodists, Baptists, Salvation Army, United Reform Church, Roman Catholics and Anglicans. We had a nice buffet lunch, nothing ostentatious - sandwiches, mini-quiches, prawns with a dip, you know the sort of thing, with bottled water and fruit juices to wash it all down, hot water to make your own coffee, oh and some fruit. As I say, nothing over the top at all.

When the delegates had gone back in the lecture hall to hear the afternoon speaker, some students came in with an older man, obviously their teacher or minder. I didn't know at that time. They were about twenty in number, and went into a smaller lecture room on the other side of the main hall, passing what remained of our lunch, a few sandwiches and some drinks.

After a short while one of them came out of their room a picked up a full litre bottle of water and a litre carton of fruit juice and disappeared back into the room they were in. When they came out for a break I called their tutor over and told him what had happened and, while we were talking, some of the other students came out and began to comprehensively raid the leftover food and drinks.

Their tutor said he understood my stance (it wasn't the value of the food, it would have all probably been thrown away, anyway, it was the principle, as I said, if they had asked I would have said 'help yourselves'.)

The tutor said he wouldn't do anything as they were all foreign students from wealthy families, who would get, at most, a reprimand as the university could not do without the 7,000 a term that their very wealthy parents were paying to keep them in the university. Their fathers would take them away and send them somewhere else, if upset.

Sad to say, the leaders of my own group only shrugged their shoulders when I told them what had happened, with a 'that's life and I've got worse things to worry about' attitude to the whole thing.

Now it may seem petty and old fashioned, but with Father's Day coming up today I began to think about the decline in discipline right through our society and where it begins to fester, in the home.

Father's Day is not celebrated in the Anglican Church as it is an American invention of the Twentieth Century, unlike Mothering Sunday (not Mother's Day, you'll note, also an American abomination, and yes I am being a grumpy old man today!). But I am beginning to wonder if we should, but please without the commercialisation which seems to come with everything now.

If we did celebrate Father's Day, perhaps we could persuade fathers, and therefore families to instil a bit more discipline into our children, and then encourage them to do the same for our grandchildren. I read an interesting analysis of this in an American book the other day. Some of it contains what we would think of as pretty dated ideas, but one wonders if it is us become too liberal rather than the writer and his followers being too draconian - it went something like this

The first institution ordained by God was the family. Its well-being is essential if the country, community and church are to be healthy. According to some sociologists the death of the family is at hand. Scripturally, fathers are to be the leader of the household; it's ultimately their responsibility to ensure the family functions in a proper manner. The Bible gives clear and concise instructions regarding the family. I'd like all of us here, but especially the fathers to consider the following facts regarding the family.

  1. The Providential Establishment of the Family (Gen. 1-2). God prescribed the family when He perceived Adam's loneliness (Gen. 2:20). God planned the family to meet the social, spiritual, psychological, emotional needs of men, women and children. God provided the family as a teaching, training and tending agency. God preserved the family. The family unit will not disappear, for it is prescribed, provided, planned, and preserved by the Sovereign God. All the needs for human beings are met in the family. The family serves as an illustration of God's relationship to His children as well.

  2. The Practical Essentials for the Family. For a family to be what God intended both the husband and wife must be Christians. When children come into the home, everything within parents' power should be done to both live and teach the Christian faith to their children. Being Christians does not mean there will be no problems, but gives the proper basis to resolve every potential problem. In the family, Scripture tells us, there should be:
  • Clear Oneness (Gen. 2:24a). There must be an obvious unity between the husband and wife. This oneness is developed over a process of time. Mates become one in soul, spirit and outlook. Children must see this oneness evidence in their parents. 
  • Coming Away (Gen. 2:24b). Spouses must come away from their mother and father and cleave to one another. 
  • Communication (Eph. 5-6). Happy families communicate with each other: husband with wife, parents with children, and children with children. 
  • Commitment (1 Pet. 3). We must be committed to live out our proper role within the family structure that God has ordained. The husband is the leader of the family. Each must be content in his place or there will be household war. When the husband, help, and heritage accept their respective roles in the family unit, peace and harmony result. 
  1. The Potential Enemies of the Family (Gen. 1-2; Eph. 5-6; Col. 3; 1 Pet. 3). 
  • Immorality (Col. 3:5). A loose and licentious lifestyle before marriage is an enemy in marriage. Reading the wrong books and magazines, watching profane TV programs, plays or movies contribute to destroying the family unit. 
  • Ignorance (Eph. 5-6; 1 Pet. 3). Ignoring the pattern for marriage set forth in the Scriptures contributes to many broken and unhappy homes. All may not like the scriptural pattern for the family, but when followed it results in happiness which cannot be explained and when ignored there is chaos and confusion. 
  • Infidelity (Mal. 2:15-16). Marriage is a solemn, sacred, and special covenant between a man and a woman. To break one's solemn vows is inexcusable and unjustified. Unfaithfulness on the part of married persons to their partners undermines a happy family. It devastates the companion and disillusions the children. 
  • Impatience (1 Pet. 3:1-7; Eph. 6:4). Peter gives wonderful guidance to the wife who has been converted after marriage, but her husband has not. She should be patient and live out the role God has for her, allowing God to work in her husband's life (1 Pet. 3:1-6). He continues to tell believing husbands to bear with their wives (v. 7). Paul tells parents not to exasperate their children (Eph. 6:4); we must discipline children out of love and not impatience. 
  • Interference (Gen. 2:24). Interference by in-laws almost guarantees an unhappy life. When a young couple marries and establishes their own family unit, Mum and Dad need to respect that new family unit. Many insignificant problems have been blown out of proportion by parental interference. Though there may be exceptions, a good rule to follow is to not interfere or to advise unless asked.

Conclusion

Marriages are not made for or in heaven. Marriage is designed to function on earth. Family life is designed for human beings, not angels. Fathers, I encourage you to step up to the challenge today and submit yourself to your heavenly Father. Ask Him to enable you to lead your family in His ways

Takes your breath away doesn't it, but there's not a lot, if we're absolutely honest, to argue with. Now you might say that it's easy for an old confirmed bachelor like me to say, and it is, but it's also easy for me to take a step back and take an impartial view of family life from the outside. I am quite sure that some, if not all, of the things this guy, Dr Melvin Worthington if you need to know, though I doubt it will ring any bells, will have made sense to you, and that last paragraph somehow says it all - I'll read it again.

Perhaps if those students, who took things that were not theirs with such arrogance, and no apparent notion of right and wrong, had been brought up this way, with a wooden spoon in their mouth, not a silver one, as someone said on radio four the other evening, they would have behaved in a more circumspect manner. 

Amen.

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