NOTE: If you’re looking for a Collect for Father’s Day, consider this one, written by Fr. Bryan Owen at Creedal Christian:
O Lord our God, creator of heaven and earth, through your Son Jesus Christ you have revealed yourself as a heavenly Father to all of your children. Bless, we pray, all earthly fathers. Strengthen them to nurture, protect, and guide the children entrusted to their care. Instill within them the virtues of love and patience. May they be slow to anger and quick to forgive. And through the ministrations of your Holy Spirit, may all fathers be strong and steadfast examples of faithfulness, responsibility, and loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.Fr. Bryan Owen, at the blog “Creedal Christian.”
You should also take a look at the “Blessing of Fathers on Father’s Day” prayers over at Catholic Culture.
We all know that Mother’s Day has a special place in the American culture. I wrote about whether a pastor should preach a “Mother’s Day Message” and, frankly, it was a very, very popular post. I am going to address the same subject about Father’s Day…but I do not expect to generate a similar amount of interest. But it is as important.
Father’s Day = Mother’s Day?
That is probably the best way to introduce the subject of Father’s Day. It is not really popular or appealing. It always feels like a lesser-than version.
When I was the Rector of Christ Church in Plano, I always purchased beautiful flowers to give the moms on Mother’s Day. Some years, they got roses. Long stem roses! In other years, when the budget was tight, I gave them all freshly-cut carnations.
But for years and years I wondered what I could get for the dads who were in church on Father’s Day. I settled on the best and least-expensive item I could get. Each of the dads received a “Tootsie-Pop.” Not a single man complained. (Although some wondered if they had been “suckered” into coming to church!)
Despite my cost-saving measures, I really believe that Father’s Day needs to be part of the way church leaders and preachers connect the heart of the Christian gospel to the culture around it. A prayer for the dads, a gift to hand out, and a special word of encouragement are the least we can and should do.
But, if we take a wider lens look at the issues that men, husbands, fathers, and males face in the culture, a Father’s Day message should only be the start.
Here are few points to consider.
Fathers Need to be Reminded of Something
After 35 years of marital counseling and coffee conversations, I have come to see that many men simply do not understand the role that they have in the life of their children and family. The findings that I have read suggest what every pastor knows through experience: Fathers shape their children’s faith. Period. There is no escaping that.
Consider this: If a father does NOT go to church regularly, only 1 child in 50 will grow up as a regular worshipper. That is staggering.
But, if the father DOES attend church regularly, nearly 35 children out of 50 will make worship and church a part of their adult life.
Other research findings might tweak the numbers here and there, but they do not substantially change the point: Fathers are the most effective discipleship leaders for their children.
Of course, none of this should discount or discourage the work of the mothers in the role of teaching the children about our Lord. But the truth is that, unless the men are doing their part, they will end up fighting a very hard battle.
In all candor, when I have spoken to groups of men about their need to take a leadership role in the spiritual life of their family, men know what I am talking about but realize their shortcomings. But when women hear the same message, they applaud. Most of the faithful women I know are not interested in receiving credit, only respect. And they want their children to take on the faith of the family.
The mom’s role in the life of their children is well-understood and powerfully important, but it is also limited when it comes to teaching the children in the way they should go (in life) and follow God. That is the duty of the father and it was spelled out clearly in Scripture this way. In both the Old and New Testaments, fathers are called upon to exercise this essential role in the life of their children. They were called to teach the faith, correct their children with patience, and convey their own commitment to follow God.
Do I need to search hard to find this Scripture? Of course not! We see it over and over again.
The father’s role in Deuteronomy 6 is clear. It would have likely included the mother, too. But the point of Deuteronomy 6 is that it did NOT involve moms only.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deut. 6:4-9).
Looking at the New Testament, we find that the Apostle Paul tells the dads to NOT over-correct their children to the point of their (the kids’) exasperation! (Col. 3:21). (You must consider how earth-shaking this advice was in the ancient Roman world. A Roman father who converted to Christ had to change his whole manner and demeanor as father. Children were not to be provoked to the point where they would be embittered.)
I think that pastors and preachers need to remind fathers of this high calling in the same tone that Paul says they need to have about correction and discipline. Rebuke and shame for a job that dads do not know how to do is seldom the best way for a preacher to get a point across.
But most of the dads I know would sadly admit that they have been a party to “spiritual absenteeism.” They have left the “faith stuff” up to their wives. What a huge mistake! What a tremendous handicap they are leaving for their own children.
Father’s Day is a great time to remind dads of this part of their calling.
Most Fathers Need A High-Calling Job
The question of whether to preach a Father’s Day sermon actually raises a bigger and wider issue. Looking at the issues with men and dads as I have seen them over 35 years of ministry, one sermon does not begin to address the real issues that fathers face. Most men do not know the critical role that they have in the lives of their children. And they don’t know the first thing about how to engage their children in important matters like this.
Why? Because the culture and Hollywood have teamed up to declare that men are stupid.
Just think of the last few sitcoms or family-style shows that you have seen. What role does the father have? More than likely, he is the hapless idiot who is the “extra child” that the mom needs to deal with. Many men are portrayed on television as some version of Homer Simpson.
Take a look at this site: The Good Men Project. It will sober you. And it should alert the Church to the quandary that every local congregation is facing. Men need to be called to stand up for and be trained in a very specific masculine role in the life of their family and their church. The role that they can and should take on is a role that will feel pretty old-fashioned to most people. They are right! It is old-school.
When Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is read in church, most people are inspired. Its prayers and its deep philosophical understanding of salvation and election will keep scholars and pastors busy for their entire lives. But when we read from the fifth chapter, beginning with verse 21, people turn sheepish.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Eph. 5:21-33).
Paul is speaking about relationships that are ‘in Christ,’ relationships that have been impacted and influenced by the redemptive power of our Lord Jesus.
But when Paul addresses the issue of marriage and we blush. We see it as so old-fashioned and, in fact, demeaning to women, that we gloss over it.
But the roles that we find in Ephesians 5 for both men and women are, when properly understood, positively wonderful and liberating.
A preacher might be excused for not preaching a Father’s Day sermon if only they promise a full treatment of Ephesians 5:22 and following—focusing particularly on the role of the husband as the one whose job it is to “Protect and Provide” for his wife.
(Of course, those verses never show up on a Sunday morning in the Revised Common Lectionary. And they only come up on Proper 16, the Sunday between August 21 and 27, of Year B in the ACNA’s Sunday Lectionary.)
This takes us beyond the scope of this blog post (we need another few posts on the role of men and women in a Christian marriage), but the point is clear. We need MORE sermons to help men know how the Bible describes fatherhood. That way, should they be called to that sacred role, they will be equipped to live it out.
Fathers Need to Deal with Porn
Can I be brash about a last point?
I have taught Bible studies and led conferences for groups of men for many years. I love it. God has brought me to speak to men and their issues precisely at the times I have needed it myself.
I love my brothers in Christ and I have great admiration for the pastors and leaders in churches that have tried to reach men. And while I never have a “stump speech” or use old talking points for a new group of men, there is one part of a talk that I can give that is the same talk for every group of men, no matter how large or small.
After a few hours of being together, l will bring up an issue that is as old as the Bible itself and as common to all men now as it was then. The lust of the eye.
The Apostle John brings it up. Jesus speaks about the offending eye. But few people know the origin of the idiom about plucking out an eye if it is an offender. l go back to the ancient Book of Job and cite one of the most interesting and ancient verses in the Bible.
I tell men that we have a circuitry in our lives that women do not. A man’s feet, a man’s heart, and a man’s hands are all hard-wired to his eyes. Remarkable. And remarkably true. The eyes have it, so to speak. The eyes lead us…and thus they can lead us astray.
This is why, as Job says it, God has made a covenant with him (Job) and thus he (Job) has made covenant with his eyes!
Read aloud this portion of sacred Scripture and allow your imagination to truly see what Job is saying. It is remarkably candid and real.
I have made a covenant with my eyes;
how then could I gaze at a virgin?
What would be my portion from God above
and my heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is not calamity for the unrighteous,
and disaster for the workers of iniquity?
Does not he see my ways
and number all my steps?
“If I have walked with falsehood
and my foot has hastened to deceit;
(Let me be weighed in a just balance,
and let God know my integrity!)
if my step has turned aside from the way
and my heart has gone after my eyes,
and if any spot has stuck to my hands,
then let me sow, and another eat,
and let what grows for me be rooted out.
“If my heart has been enticed toward a woman,
and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door,
then let my wife grind for another,
and let others bow down on her.
For that would be a heinous crime;
that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges (Job 31:1-10).
The oldest author in the Old Testament is also very old when he writes. He is way past his prime and he is looking over his past for the trip wires he has discovered that will cause him to sin. There are more than a few.
And the eyes might have been his downfall. But as Job is describing his past, he is also writing out a strategic plan for all who would come after him.
In effect, he is saying to every man and every father to guard his eyes because otherwise they will lead down a path that is destructive.
He is saying: If you are prone to be enticed by beauty and youth and women; and if you are likely to linger near them and where they live and work; and if you are the kind of man that will “undress women with your eyes” (as Eugene Peterson has it in The Message)… Well, it will not go well with you. You will lose what you have now, and you will never really find what you were looking for when you were looking at her to begin with.
It is probably NOT appropriate to bring this issue before a congregation on Sunday morning. I could imagine the “crickets” chirping after the pastor’s final Amen. But the preacher and pastor has an obligation to bring up a subject before men that is universally true and clearly timelessly common.
This subject is real for men. And it is very, VERY real to the women they love.
It is the honest truth that fathers need to know that their children, both boys and girls, will clearly be victims of this eye-disease. Fathers need to take a very special role in protecting their children from seeing and being seen in this way.
The Greatest Father that Ever Lived?
Perhaps the greatest human father that ever lived was the most unlikely of all. He was not the head of a nuclear family. He was not a captain of industry. He was not a king or scholar. He was the step-father of our Lord Jesus.
He was the deep man of faith and conviction who stood next to his wife as protector. He worked tirelessly as an “artisan” (a carpenter, as traditionally understood) to provide for his son who came to him without his permission or participation in the birth. Joseph is the consummate father, even though his role is never fully described. Indeed, in the New Testament, Joseph never speaks a word.
But by his life and witness, his teaching and his impartation of the faith to our Lord, he filled our Lord’s heart with love of God, knowledge of the Scriptures, kindness toward all women, and a work ethic that would impress the masses.
Joseph knew his role and, even though he might have chosen other circumstances for his life, stepped forward to do the right thing.
In a riveting article on the role of men and fathers in the world today, Robbie Low, an Anglican vicar in the Church of England, concludes with these provocative words. They are not politically correct at all, but they should wake us all up to the need for much more than a Father’s Day sermon!
No father—no family—no faith. Winning and keeping men is essential to the community of faith and vital to the work of all mothers and the future salvation of our children.