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Father’s Day Sermon 21 June 2015

First Reading                                       Job 38:1–11

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:

2“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.  4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding.  5 Who determined its measurements — surely you know!  Or who stretched the line upon it?  6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?  8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? — 9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?


Psalm                                                      Psalm 124

1 If the Lord had not been on our side, let Israel now say; 2 if the Lord had not been on our side, when enemies rose up against us, 3 then would they have swallowed us up alive in their fierce anger toward us; 4 then would the waters have overwhelmed us and the torrent gone over us; 5 then would the raging waters have gone right over us.  6 Blessed be the Lord who has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.  7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.  8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.


Second Reading                         2 Corinthians 6:1–13

1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.  2 For he says,

“At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!  3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way:  through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see — we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  11 We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you.  12 There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours.  13 In return — I speak as to children — open wide your hearts also.


Gospel                                                  Mark 4:26–34

26 [Jesus] also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.  28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.  29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”  30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”  33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.



I heard a story the other day that reminded me of Terry’s Dad.  Gene has a great sense of humor and from the stories Terry has shared in the past, I can picture Gene actually pulling this one.  It seems that there was a man who liked to read fairy tales to his two young children at night.  This young father had great sense of humor and often times would ad-lib parts of the stories just for fun.  One day the youngest child was sitting in her first grade class as the teacher was reading the story of the Three Little Pigs.  The teacher came to the part of the story where the first pig was trying to gather building materials for his home.

The teacher read “…And so the pig went up to the man with a wheel barrow full of straw and said ‘Pardon me sir, but might I have some of that straw to build my house with?'”  The teacher then asked the class, “And what do you think that man said?”  This young father’s little girl raised her hand and said “I know!  I know!  She continued, ‘Holy smokes!  A talking pig!'”  It was a full 10 minutes before the teacher was able to continue with the story.

My dad would often warn us boys about the unpredictability of children by saying, “out of the mouths of babes comes everything that should have never been said in the first place.”  It’s true:  we may not be able to predict what our kids are going to say, but there’s one thing for certain, it’ll usually be something unexpected.  We hope they won’t repeat something we’ve said, and shouldn’t have and embarrass us.  And the other thing we know for sure is, our children are like sponges, they soak up everything we say and everything we do.  And this comes with a great responsibility.  As fathers, and all parents for that matter, we must be mindful of the fact that what we say to them, and about them, makes a huge difference in who they become.

In today’s gospel reading Jesus instructs us that what we say and what we do are like seeds planted in the hearts and minds and spirits of our children.  Jesus makes it very clear that often times it’s the smallest things which make the biggest difference in our faith.  The same can be said about parenting.  It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Our children will not only imitate us, but in many ways, they’ll grow up to be like us simply because we’re their parents.  And by the way, for those who are tuning this out because you’re now lucky enough to be grandparents, guess what, you’re not off the hook either.  As I’m finding out, grandparents have more influence than you may realize!  So, for you grandparents out there, for the remainder of this sermon, anytime I say parent or children, insert the words grandparents and grandchildren.

I digress.  This might come as a surprise, but surveys show that parents still have more influence than peer pressure, even though the kids might rebel.  So, we could say that parenting is kind of like farming or gardening.  Another piece of advice my father used to give was, “remember Steven, the law of the harvest is absolute; we harvest what we plant.”  This, of course, is a paraphrase of Paul’s letter to the Galatians chapter 6 verse 7 which reads, “Do not be deceived:  God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that is what he reaps.”

Anyone who has ever tilled the land knows that if you plant squash, you can’t expect to get corn.  If we plant potatoes we can’t expect to get tomatoes.  The law of the harvest is indeed true; we harvest what we plant.  And the very same is true in parenting.  The best way to make sure we reap the best harvest is to plant the best seed possible.  This means we may need to go back to elementary school for a little bit.

Elementary school is where we learned the basics for everything else we would learn.  And one of the most important lessons for parenting in primary school comes from Show and Tell time.  As parents we’re called to show our children how to live as a Christian in the world today.  We’re not only called to tell them how much we love them, we’re also called to show them as well.  For some this may seem like an easy command, but that’s not always the case.

For some, telling our children how much we love them can be difficult.  Over the years I’ve meet a good number of people from a good many backgrounds.  In that time I’ve encountered some who think that any show of outward affection is a sign of weakness.  Generally this attitude is associated with men, especially when it comes to their relationship with their sons.  However, this isn’t always the case, I have encountered a few women who had difficulty expressing their feeling toward their children.  This includes giving of their approval.  Children growing up in this type of an environment will oftentimes ache for their parent’s approval.  Many times they simply want to hear the parent say, “Good job!”  That’s all it would take.  The interesting thing is, oftentimes a parent can express their approval to friends much easier than they can to their own children.  A friend of mine grew up in a home like this.

When he was 15, he got a clue of how his Dad felt about him.  His father was a tile setter by trade.  The dad was one of the most artistic and fastest in the business.  He did the decorative tile work in the state capitol building in Baton Rouge, LA and in Springfield, IL.  The problem was his temper often got in the way of his career.  Because of this problem his dad worked as an independent heavy equipment operator and contractor.  However, he would still do tile work for friends.  This of course meant that at 15 years of age my friend was his slave labor and assistant.

One day they were setting tile in one of his union bosses’ vacation homes.  The father was off getting something when the union boss, who my friend knew from other outings, stuck his head in and started talking.  He said very matter of factly, “Do you know how proud your Dad is of you?  He talks about you and your brothers all the time.  He thinks you’ve got a natural talent for tile setting, that’s why he’s letting you do so much of the work in here and why he’s just telling you what to do.”  My friend said he was totally flabbergasted.  He said he probably had the dumbest look in the world on his face.  He said he couldn’t believe his ears.  His dad had never said anything like that to him, or for that matter even hinted at it.  About that time his dad came back.  And once what the union boss had said sunk in, he kept wondering, “Well, if he’s so proud of me, if he thinks I’m doing such a good job, if he thinks I have real talent in this area, why doesn’t he tell me?”  That was the first time he can recall ever hearing that Dad thought anything more of him other than being his stepson.  He never could understand why his dad didn’t say anything to him.  He would tell his friends, but not the son.

It’s important that we let our children know we love them.  It’s important that we communicate with them.  It’s important that we tell them they’re doing a good job when the situation calls for that.  It’s important to make sure they know the difference between our being disappointed in their actions and being disappointed in them.  My friend, after hearing what the union boss said, I felt like I could do anything.  He worked harder than he thinks than he’d ever worked.  He said he would have walked on hot coals for his dad at that moment.  The problem was the feeling didn’t last very long.

Because the father never did say, “Good job.”  All the dad did was criticize when his son didn’t do something to his expectation.  So it wasn’t long before my friend began to doubt what he’d heard.  He began to doubt whether it was true.  It could have been a life changing moment, but it wasn’t, so things went back to the same old way.  The dad was still Dad, he hadn’t changed.  The good that the son heard was soon covered with all the negative stuff again.

Proverbs 22:6 says:  “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.”  As parents, we need to remember that we harvest what we plant.  If we constantly barrage our kids with negative phrases, if they’re constantly told how dumb they are and they’ll never amount to anything or they can’t do anything right, it won’t be long until they live down to your expectations.  My friend said he did.

He learned early on in school that he would never measure up to his Dad’s expectations.  If he got all A’s and one B, he was told he was stupid or dumb and got in trouble for getting a B.  If he got all B’s and one C, he was told he was stupid or dumb and got in trouble for getting a C.  If he got all C’s and one D, well, you see the pattern.  It didn’t take him long to figure out that he was going to get in trouble no matter what grades he got.  So, why study?  He was going to get in trouble whether he did or didn’t. That was the message his dad planted in his mind.

In Colossians 3:2, Paul writes: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.”  What we say, what we tell our kids, makes a huge difference in who they are and who they’ll become.  Some of us get the opportunity to overcome the negatives.  But some of us don’t and we just perpetuate them and pass them down like an inheritance.  The law of the harvest is      guaranteed, we harvest what we plant.

As parents, we’re called to tell our kids how much we love them, but we also have to show them.  Words aren’t always enough.  Sometimes we have to show our children through our own actions because, as we all know, actions most often speak louder than words.

After Tim Russert’s book about his father, “Big Russ & Me,” became a best-seller, he received letters from daughters and sons who wanted to tell him about their own fathers.  This story comes from his new book, “Wisdom of Our Fathers:  Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons.”  A few years ago, I became the victim of a senseless, unprovoked act of violence that left several scars on my neck.  I survived, and the assailant is in prison, but I will never really be the same.  When I shave I see one of the scars, and, until recently, to see that scar was to trigger a visual memory of my assailant’s rage-filled face.

The obvious solution was to stop shaving, but that didn’t work.  I began to remember the terrible event with increasing vividness, until I finally sought help.  My therapist’s first question to me was, “Do you have a good relationship with your father?”

I said, “Yes.  We have a great relationship.”  The therapist asked if he had taught me how to shave.  Before I could answer, a memory I had forgotten for many, many years popped into my head, and I smiled.

“Doctor,” I replied, “this is so cool.  I remember standing at my dad’s side as a little boy, infatuated with the process of shaving.  It got to the point that when he shaved in the mornings I was always there, watching him.  My dad bought me a little toy razor, with a little knob on the bottom of the handle that opened the top, just like his. The blade was a piece of cardboard that looked like a razor blade.  “After that, I got to smear shaving cream all over my face and shave with my dad.”  My therapist then suggested that I think of this happier memory every time I shaved, to displace the memory of the attack.  And, indeed, the “new” memory has replaced the violent one.

Now, when I shave, I feel the love my dad showed me, and I also remember what it felt like to be innocent.  My shaving memory marked the start of a long journey best described as posttraumatic growth.  Precious memories are made in an instant and last forever.  I am so thankful that my dad had the patience back then to let me “shave.”  That memory has strengthened an already strong relationship, and what made me happy then is making me a happier man today.  He closed the letter with the words, Bless you, Dad.

We have to show our children that we love them through our actions.  And through the memories we build.  Not to belabor the point, but we harvest what we plant.  However, it’s not enough to show them, we must also put that love in action by putting our faith in action as well.  We have to show our children our love and our relationship with the Author of that love.  We have to show them our love for them and our love for God.

Rev. Brett Blair in a Father’s Day sermon once wrote:  “Fathers, it’s time to face some hard truths.  Our immersion in the gray flannel jungle, our supposed busyness with business, is nothing but a camouflage, an easy way out.  It’s easier to provide a house than it is to provide a home.  It’s easier to give dollars than it is to give your time.  It’s easier to write a check than to share love.  It’s easier to give fun than it is to give wisdom.  It’s easier to be a provider than it is to be a good leader.  It’s easier to push our children through the door of the church rather than lead them into the church.  It’s easier to be the bread winner, than to teach our children about the bread of life.

The hard fact is, that too many fathers have simply defaulted on their Christian fatherhood simply because they are lazy.  The father is to be the religious head of the home.  Far too often however, in reality the father is nothing more than the religious appendage.  He’s the church tag along.  He’s not the religious head, heart, and soul of the family.”  You and I as parents and grandparents have to Show and Tell our kids how much we love them and how much we love God because we harvest what we plant.

A bald man and his wife one night decided to go out to dinner and hired a baby sitter to take care of their kids.  While they were gone, the baby sitter got interested in TV and wasn’t watching the kids very carefully.  The couple’s little boy got into his father’s electric shaver and shaved a big landing strip right down the middle of his head.  When Dad, got home, he was furious.  He said, “Son!  I told you never to play with my shaver.  Now you’re going to get a spanking that you’ll never forget!”

He was just about to give the spanking when the boy looked up at him and said, “Wait until you see sister!”  The Mom and Dad were both horrified.  They went into the next room and there was their little four-year-old daughter with the hair shaved off of her head.  She looked like a skinned rabbit.  By this time Dad was furious.  He grabbed his son and said, “Now you’re really going to get it.”  Just as Dad was about to begin administering discipline, his son looked up at him with tears in his eyes and said, “But Daddy!  We were just trying to look like you!”  Out of the mouth of babes comes the truth.  That’s key to whole parenting thing isn’t.

Many of our kids just want to look like us, to act like us.  In short they want to be us.  And whether they realize it or not, one day what we’ve planted in their lives will bear fruit.  The law of the harvest is absolute.  Since it’s Father’s day I’ll direct this comment to the dads.  However, every parent and grandparent knows that this applies to them as well.  Dads, it behooves us to plant Faith, Love for God and a relationship with Jesus our Savior in our children.  If we reflect the love of God in Christ for them, then they will reflect the love God in Christ for others.  My dad was right, we do indeed harvest what we plant.  So plant well dads and remember, the little things do matter.


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