Honor Your Father – June 20, 2010

Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 6:1-15

June 20, 2010

Let me start by saying that I don’t always do “Fathers’ Day” sermons, or “Mothers’ Day” sermons, or “Fourth of July” sermons. Sometimes people make that assumption. They say to me, “When you’re doing your Mothers’ Day sermon…” or “When you’re doing your Fathers’ Day sermon…” or “When you’re doing your Groundhog Day sermon…” Well, just so you know. I don’t always do those kinds of sermons. But sometimes I do.

Well today is one of those “sometimes.” This is actually one of my favorite subjects. Because being a father was, and still is, one of the greatest things that ever happened to me! As I’ve said before, you all got me later in my life. You never got to see me as a father. You just know Jenny and Paul. And you know what good kids they are. Well the reason for that is that I worked very hard at being a father! And it was a a great joy to do so!

So, it’s Fathers’ Day, and this is my “Fathers’ Day sermon.” And I thought about different passages I could use, and I had a long list. But I finally gravitated toward these two. And these are arguably the most famous passages in all the Bible, and maybe the most influential words in history. They are, “The Ten Commandments,” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” And both speak of fatherhood! IN The Ten Commandments, we read, “Honor your Father and Mother, that your days be long in the land,” and the opening words of The Lord’s Prayer are, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Those two scriptures will be the basis of our thoughts for today.

So first, the commandment. Now notice, as it’s pointed out in scripture, this is the first commandment “with a promise.” The others simply say “do” and “don’t do.” Or “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.” But this one has more. It says “Honor your Father and Mother, that your days may be long in the land”

Now, please notice that doesn’t simply say, “…that your days be long…” In other words, this is not “honor your father… so that you’ll live a long life.” Maybe you remember the words Bill Cosby once said to his son. The boy was misbehaving, and Bill said, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out! And I can make another one just like you!”

This is not that! What this is about is the business of learning respect and honor. And that respect and honor is given first to our parents. Then, after that, it becomes a matter of our becoming respectful people! And when people learn honor and respect, their days are long in the land. In other words, when we follow this command to respect and honor, we will make out better in this world. Do you agree?

I believe that. But let me tell you! Respect is something that is learned, isn’t it? It is something that we must choose! And it must be separate from our feelings if it’s ever going to work. Because sometimes we don’t feel like someone deserves our respect. We need to learn to choose respect anyway. But that’s a lesson lost on our modern world. In the current political climate, people have abandoned completely the notion of having respect for someone with whom they disagree. And that is why we are so polarized!! If you want to solve the political problems in this country, that’s the place to start. Teach people to respect those with whom they disagrees!

But respect is not natural. We have to learn it! And we need to learn it first as children! I was sitting on a bench in a mall one day, and a group of High School boys came up to me and started harassing me. It wasn’t bad stuff. It was just them making fun of me. And I couldn’t believe it. I was a stranger. None of them knew me. I didn’t say anything to them. But I remember sitting there thinking, “Thank God I had parents who taught me to respect others. That was the first attitude I was to have when encountering people I didn’t know.” I was taught that. And so were you!

So it’s learning respect and honor first for parents that makes us respectful and honorable people. And our parents are the primary relationship for much of our lives, aren’t they? At least for the most formative years! And they have a unique place in our minds and our hearts.

I remember a wise father who once told his son. “I may not always be right, but I will always be your father.” Those are great words, aren’t they? They’re not always easy, especially as children begin to become adults themselves. But children need to learn the important concept of “who is the parent here?” And I’m sorry to say that too is a concept lost on our modern world! In some households, “who’s the parent” is not clear at all! And that makes for confused, and disrespectful children. And such children will not “live long in the land.” In other words, they won’t make out very well in this world, will they! So this idea of honoring and respecting father and mother is right there where it should be, in the very heart of the Ten Commandments!

Now let me tell you – and I know this is the hard part – honoring your father doesn’t mean doing so only if he happens to earn your respect, or if he is an honorable person. Those things are great, of course. But! I know there are people right here in this room who would say “But my father was a scoundrel.” or even “My father abused me.” Those things are tough! Fathers are not always right. And the fact is, all of them “blow it” some of the time, and unfortunately, some of them “blow it” all of the time!

That makes this tough, I know. Some people hate their fathers. I was talking to a man recently whose father was in the hospital. And when he was there to see him, he saw on the doctor’s report the designation “Short of Breath.” But it was abbreviated “S.O.B.” And the man said to me, “It’s amazing the doctors could figure that out about him in 2 days, when it took me 17 years!”

Now I joke about it, but it really is tragic. Some people, especially boys, have been severely wounded in their hearts by fathers. And that’s so sad! The one person who has the greatest potential to influence a child for the good, is sometimes the most detrimental. But! We can still choose to respect and honor our father – even if he is “Short of Breath.” Though I’ll admit, for some, that is very hard.

Let me offer some help with that. And this comes from the second of these two famous passages. Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray. I’ll bet they felt the way we all feel sometimes. There are times we feel our prayers are empty. There are times we feel no connection, and we wonder if anybody’s listening. “How should we pray?” they asked. And the first thing Jesus said is, “Pray like this. ‘Our Father…’.” The very first instruction he gave them about prayer was about the nature of our relationship with God! God is our Heavenly Father. God wants to have that close, familial role in our lives. In fact all throughout the Bible, our relationship with God is described in those same kinds of intimate family terms. So that’s the very first thing Jesus told them about prayer. Remember the Father/Child relationship. That’s what God wants!

Let me suggest to you that God can fill that role for those of us who have had bad or non-existent relationships with less than honorable fathers. God can heal the concept of father for those for whom it has been damaged. I truly believe that! But I used to get an argument about that! There are those in the “inclusive language” world who would have us not use male references for God. And I’m not saying there aren’t valid reasons for that. It may well be limiting God to confine him to just one gender. But the times I used to argue against it was when someone would say, “we shouldn’t use such terms because some people had bad father experiences.” I would say “Wait a minute! God as ‘Heavenly Father’ can heal those experiences for us!” I believe that, my friends. Some would have me not preach that, but I’m sorry! I believe God has that power!

In fact, I would say that God is our first father! He is the perfect father! The best we earthly fathers can hope for is to be like our Heavenly Father. He is the ultimate role model! If we can emulate him, we will do well! I really believe that, too! And let me say again that it was Jesus’ idea to call God father. He taught his disciples in his first lesson about prayer that we are talking with a God who wants for us a close familial relationship. He even talked about praying to God “Abba Father.” That was a close, personal term, much like our word “Dad” or even “Daddy.” Think about that in terms of our prayer or our concept of God. Too often our concept of God is one of him being aloof, far away, uncaring, and far above anything as trivial as having a relationship with the likes of us!

So in closing, let me suggest that we use this day – Fathers’ Day – to honor our fathers. Let me suggest that we use this day to remind ourselves that learning to choose that respect and honor is what makes us respectful and honoring people. And that’s what helps us to “live long in the land.” And let us use this day also to remind ourselves of our relationship with God, and the nature of that relationship. Let us be thankful for not only our earthly fathers, but also for our Heavenly Father!

Prayer

Eternal God, our Heavenly Father, we thank you that you love us as your children. Help us to be more aware of that relationship this day when we honor our earthly fathers. Help us to grow in our ability to honor and respect, and to uphold and support the families and the fathers among us. For we pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 6:1-15

June 20, 2010

 

Let me start by saying that I don’t always do “Fathers’ Day” sermons, or “Mothers’ Day” sermons, or “Fourth of July” sermons. Sometimes people make that assumption. They say to me, “When you’re doing your Mothers’ Day sermon…” or “When you’re doing your Fathers’ Day sermon…” or “When you’re doing your Groundhog Day sermon…” Well, just so you know. I don’t always do those kinds of sermons. But sometimes I do.

Well today is one of those “sometimes.” This is actually one of my favorite subjects. Because being a father was, and still is, one of the greatest things that ever happened to me! As I’ve said before, you all got me later in my life. You never got to see me as a father. You just know Jenny and Paul. And you know what good kids they are. Well the reason for that is that I worked very hard at being a father! And it was a a great joy to do so!

So, it’s Fathers’ Day, and this is my “Fathers’ Day sermon.” And I thought about different passages I could use, and I had a long list. But I finally gravitated toward these two. And these are arguably the most famous passages in all the Bible, and maybe the most influential words in history. They are, “The Ten Commandments,” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” And both speak of fatherhood! IN The Ten Commandments, we read, “Honor your Father and Mother, that your days be long in the land,” and the opening words of The Lord’s Prayer are, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Those two scriptures will be the basis of our thoughts for today.

So first, the commandment. Now notice, as it’s pointed out in scripture, this is the first commandment “with a promise.” The others simply say “do” and “don’t do.” Or “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.” But this one has more. It says “Honor your Father and Mother, that your days may be long in the land”

Now, please notice that doesn’t simply say, “…that your days be long…” In other words, this is not “honor your father… so that you’ll live a long life.” Maybe you remember the words Bill Cosby once said to his son. The boy was misbehaving, and Bill said, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out! And I can make another one just like you!”

This is not that! What this is about is the business of learning respect and honor. And that respect and honor is given first to our parents. Then, after that, it becomes a matter of our becoming respectful people! And when people learn honor and respect, their days are long in the land. In other words, when we follow this command to respect and honor, we will make out better in this world. Do you agree?

I believe that. But let me tell you! Respect is something that is learned, isn’t it? It is something that we must choose! And it must be separate from our feelings if it’s ever going to work. Because sometimes we don’t feel like someone deserves our respect. We need to learn to choose respect anyway. But that’s a lesson lost on our modern world. In the current political climate, people have abandoned completely the notion of having respect for someone with whom they disagree. And that is why we are so polarized!! If you want to solve the political problems in this country, that’s the place to start. Teach people to respect those with whom they disagrees!

But respect is not natural. We have to learn it! And we need to learn it first as children! I was sitting on a bench in a mall one day, and a group of High School boys came up to me and started harassing me. It wasn’t bad stuff. It was just them making fun of me. And I couldn’t believe it. I was a stranger. None of them knew me. I didn’t say anything to them. But I remember sitting there thinking, “Thank God I had parents who taught me to respect others. That was the first attitude I was to have when encountering people I didn’t know.” I was taught that. And so were you!

So it’s learning respect and honor first for parents that makes us respectful and honorable people. And our parents are the primary relationship for much of our lives, aren’t they? At least for the most formative years! And they have a unique place in our minds and our hearts.

I remember a wise father who once told his son. “I may not always be right, but I will always be your father.” Those are great words, aren’t they? They’re not always easy, especially as children begin to become adults themselves. But children need to learn the important concept of “who is the parent here?” And I’m sorry to say that too is a concept lost on our modern world! In some households, “who’s the parent” is not clear at all! And that makes for confused, and disrespectful children. And such children will not “live long in the land.” In other words, they won’t make out very well in this world, will they! So this idea of honoring and respecting father and mother is right there where it should be, in the very heart of the Ten Commandments!

Now let me tell you – and I know this is the hard part – honoring your father doesn’t mean doing so only if he happens to earn your respect, or if he is an honorable person. Those things are great, of course. But! I know there are people right here in this room who would say “But my father was a scoundrel.” or even “My father abused me.” Those things are tough! Fathers are not always right. And the fact is, all of them “blow it” some of the time, and unfortunately, some of them “blow it” all of the time!

That makes this tough, I know. Some people hate their fathers. I was talking to a man recently whose father was in the hospital. And when he was there to see him, he saw on the doctor’s report the designation “Short of Breath.” But it was abbreviated “S.O.B.” And the man said to me, “It’s amazing the doctors could figure that out about him in 2 days, when it took me 17 years!”

Now I joke about it, but it really is tragic. Some people, especially boys, have been severely wounded in their hearts by fathers. And that’s so sad! The one person who has the greatest potential to influence a child for the good, is sometimes the most detrimental. But! We can still choose to respect and honor our father – even if he is “Short of Breath.” Though I’ll admit, for some, that is very hard.

Let me offer some help with that. And this comes from the second of these two famous passages. Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray. I’ll bet they felt the way we all feel sometimes. There are times we feel our prayers are empty. There are times we feel no connection, and we wonder if anybody’s listening. “How should we pray?” they asked. And the first thing Jesus said is, “Pray like this. ‘Our Father…’.” The very first instruction he gave them about prayer was about the nature of our relationship with God! God is our Heavenly Father. God wants to have that close, familial role in our lives. In fact all throughout the Bible, our relationship with God is described in those same kinds of intimate family terms. So that’s the very first thing Jesus told them about prayer. Remember the Father/Child relationship. That’s what God wants!

Let me suggest to you that God can fill that role for those of us who have had bad or non-existent relationships with less than honorable fathers. God can heal the concept of father for those for whom it has been damaged. I truly believe that! But I used to get an argument about that! There are those in the “inclusive language” world who would have us not use male references for God. And I’m not saying there aren’t valid reasons for that. It may well be limiting God to confine him to just one gender. But the times I used to argue against it was when someone would say, “we shouldn’t use such terms because some people had bad father experiences.” I would say “Wait a minute! God as ‘Heavenly Father’ can heal those experiences for us!” I believe that, my friends. Some would have me not preach that, but I’m sorry! I believe God has that power!

In fact, I would say that God is our first father! He is the perfect father! The best we earthly fathers can hope for is to be like our Heavenly Father. He is the ultimate role model! If we can emulate him, we will do well! I really believe that, too! And let me say again that it was Jesus’ idea to call God father. He taught his disciples in his first lesson about prayer that we are talking with a God who wants for us a close familial relationship. He even talked about praying to God “Abba Father.” That was a close, personal term, much like our word “Dad” or even “Daddy.” Think about that in terms of our prayer or our concept of God. Too often our concept of God is one of him being aloof, far away, uncaring, and far above anything as trivial as having a relationship with the likes of us!

So in closing, let me suggest that we use this day – Fathers’ Day – to honor our fathers. Let me suggest that we use this day to remind ourselves that learning to choose that respect and honor is what makes us respectful and honoring people. And that’s what helps us to “live long in the land.” And let us use this day also to remind ourselves of our relationship with God, and the nature of that relationship. Let us be thankful for not only our earthly fathers, but also for our Heavenly Father!

Prayer

Eternal God, our Heavenly Father, we thank you that you love us as your children. Help us to be more aware of that relationship this day when we honor our earthly fathers. Help us to grow in our ability to honor and respect, and to uphold and support the families and the fathers among us. For we pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Posted in Sermons