< back to Sermon archive

Sermon for 17 June 2018

FIRST READING Ezekiel 17:22-24

22Thus says the Lord God: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. 24And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”


PSALM Psalm 1

1Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful! 2Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and they meditate on his law day and night. 3They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper. 4It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away. 5Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, nor the sinner in the council of the righteous. 6For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.


SECOND READING 2 Corinthians 5:1-17

1For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened — not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.


GOSPEL Mark 4:26-34

26{Jesus} said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.



Many of you will recognize the name and works of the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. What you may not know is, despite his success as a writer, Tolstoy’s marriage to Sophia was a saga of bitterness and regret. His wife wasn’t the most pleasant person to live with. She was constantly nitpicking, complaining and she had a nasty habit of clinging to her grudges. The difficult behavior continued for years and it got to the point where he couldn’t bear the sight of her. When they had been married almost a half a century, she softened somewhat and would sometimes implore him to read to her the exquisite, poignant love passages that he had written about her in his diary forty-eight years before, when they were both madly in love with each other. As he read of the happy days that were now gone forever, they both wept bitterly.
To me there’s nothing sadder than to look back over a lifetime of neglected opportunities–wasted years when love could and should have been nurtured and the regret that comes with the fact of knowing that you “blew it.” Today is, of course, Father’s Day. It’s the day that’s been set aside to show our appreciation to our fathers. It’s also a day, for many of us, to remember and honor those fathers who have gone to their reward. But regrettably, the truth is many dads today don’t always get the respect that they used to. Remember the TV show “Father Knows Best.” For many fathers, those were the good old days. Recently a college professor conducted a careful, two-year study that asked children ages four to six: “Which do you like better, TV or Daddy?” Forty-six percent of the youngsters indicated that they preferred television.
I read a funny, yet poignant, story about the ten-year-old boy who answered the doorbell at his home one day. When he opened it, there stood a strange man on the porch. The man said, “Son, you don’t know me, do you?” The young man said, no, he didn’t. The man replied, “Well, I’m your uncle on your father’s side.” To this the young fellow replied, “Well, I’m glad to meet you, but you’re certainly on the losing side.” Perhaps, because of changing attitudes, dads don’t have it as easy as they used to. But despite the apparent lack of respect now days, one thing remains clear: Christian fathers are more important now than ever in these dynamic times! There are just too many negative influences in society today that can confuse our children, therefore, children today, of all ages, need the loving, stable, Christian example of a Godly Father.
A study of church attendance sometime back showed that if both Mom and Dad attended church regularly, 72 percent of their children remain faithful to the church. If only Mom attended regularly, only 15 percent remained faithful. So, the church is thankful for Christian fathers. The church is also thankful for Christian moms and grandparents as well. Family is important and the roles that each family member plays is critical to the healthy and stable upbringing of our children. We, as a church and as a society, are thankful for Christian fathers who take on their share of responsibility for nurturing their kids.
The reason I include all the key people in giving thanks today, is because I don’t believe that St. Paul was directing his statement, in our epistle reading for today, only toward fathers, or only toward men in general. If he were writing today, I believe that he would have written, “If anyone dwell in Christ, they are a new creation” (II Cor. 5:17.) This great text is applicable no matter if you’re single, married, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, widowed or a father or mother. But in light of this special day, I hope that the fathers, and future fathers, here today will especially take note of Paul’s statement.
St. Paul tells us that in Jesus we have a new beginning. Some might say, I’ve made mistakes and now it’s too late, but I here to say that it’s not too late to start over. If there are some regrets about our lives up to this point, they can be redeemed . . . if anyone is in Christ, a new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” This doesn’t mean that we get a free pass, we’ll need to atone for our mistakes, and this could take a significant amount of time and effort. But the reward for doing so is worth the energy.
With that in mind, it would be good for us to first consider the matter of time. I read recently that a study was conducted at Cornell University and it found that the average American father spends just 37.7 seconds a day alone with his children. I don’t know about you, but that figure astounds me. Think about it, how many times have we heard one of our children say, “Dad, can you give me a minute?” Well according to this survey, apparently the answer is no for a good number of fathers, because thirty-seven and seven-tenths seconds doesn’t even come close to making up a minute.
Many of us need to reassess the amount of time we spend with our children or our spouses, or perhaps, even our parents. And when I say spend time, I mean quality time. I don’t mean sitting in the same room, paying attention to our electronic devices while virtually ignoring everything that’s going on around us. Like one comedian said, “My Dad believed in meditation. He used to always say to me, “Sit down and shut up.” Verbal interaction is becoming a lost skill in our social media driven world. Our lives may be more public, but our ability to socialize on a personal level is being lost. I grew up hearing the admonishment that “children are to be seen and not heard.” I disagree. Yes there is a time and place, but we need to talk, listen, interact and show our kids that we love them.
Dwight L. Moody is considered by many to be a great pastor and preacher still today. He was a man of uncompromising principle, but he was also considered a great dad. His son Willie reported that it wasn’t unusual for Dwight to come to one of his children lying in bed late at night and say something like, “Are you awake? I can’t go to sleep till I talk to you. I’m sorry I lost my temper.”
As a teenager Willie wrote this tribute to his famous father: “Other kids tell me they cannot go to their dads and just talk and hope to be understood; they say they can’t, because their dads are ‘always right’ and they are ‘always wrong’. They can’t talk to their dads the way I can talk to you. I could always talk to you. You always understood. There was nothing I couldn’t tell you.” Of course, Willie is describing a father who had more than mere time for his kids. He also had tenderness and a willingness to admit when he’d made a mistake. The thing we must recognize is that the giving of our time is the first step along the journey to successful parenting. The second step is a willingness to be open and affectionate.
When the playwright, the late Channing Pollock, was a child, he was taken by his parents to a party. A little girl was present. The children played together until they ran out of ideas. Then the young Channing said to the girl, “Let’s hide behind this curtain and maybe no one will know we’re here.” To this the little girl flatly replied, “Maybe no one will care.” For me that’s about the saddest reply a child can make. “Maybe no one will care.” You may not be big on hugging or kissing your children, but every child needs affection in abundance. However we show our affection, we need to remember that it’s absolutely essential for a parent to communicate their love.
I read another study recently that might be of interest. It was done on a group of boys in nursery school. In the first part of the study the boys were given 18 pieces of candy. They were told that they could keep the candy for themselves or, if they chose, they were free to share the candy with their two closest friends. In the second part of the study the boys were asked questions about their fathers. These answers were rated by an outside observer. What came out of this study was a close correlation between boys who were most generous in giving away their candy and those who saw their fathers as the warmest and most affectionate.
The boys were not only more generous, but on other tests they also turned out to be more cooperative, sympathetic and kinder than the boys who perceived their father in a less favorable light. I don’t believe for one-minute think that I need to convince you how important it is that a child feels loved. Sometimes fathers forget, though. Men are not conditioned, for the most part, to express their feelings as freely as women. By not making an intentional effort to communicate our love for our children, we do them a great disservice.
In addition to giving of our time and showing our love, there is a third step to parenting we need to consider. It’s in the realm of character. Children need parents who not only have time for them, who not only let them know that they’re loved, they also need parents whom they can look up to; parents who set the example and are seen as role models.
In Ibsen’s play “An Enemy of the People,” Dr. Stockman is the medical supervisor of the mineral baths in a resort town. When Dr. Stockman discovers that the baths are polluted and potentially dangerous, he reports it to the town’s authorities, who fear financial disaster if the report isn’t suppressed. The doctor’s brother, the mayor, tells him to retract his findings, but the doctor refuses to do so. The mayor says he will fire him if he doesn’t retract.
When the doctor discusses the issue with his wife, she urges him to think of his family and retract the findings lest they lose their income. At that point their two young sons come into the room and the doctor becomes convinced that he must risk all to be a person of integrity. “I want to be able to look my boys in the face when they grow up into free men,” he says, and he goes off to do what he must do in spite of the rejection of his fellow citizens. Our children need to see us as people of integrity.
A Scottish poet once said, “If I have been privileged to catch a more comprehensive glimpse of life than many other men, it’s because I have stood on the shoulders of my parents.” The truth of the matter is, all of us stand on the shoulders of our parents. Let me take the analogy one step further–the straighter, taller, truer and more Godly that our parents stood, the better view of life we have.
The story through a cartoon is told of an awful ruckus in a neighborhood in Scotland. A father was so upset that his boys had been involved that he ran out of the front door of his house, with one of those old blunderbuss guns, to get the ones who led his boys astray. In this cartoon portrayal of this incident, the man followed a path he suspected would lead him to the guilty. He followed the path through the woods and through the valleys and over the mountains and came to a door, knocked on it, ready to shoot the one that opened it. It was a shock when his wife opened the door. The path had led right back to his own house. There is some hard truth here.
Perhaps today would be a good time for all of us to reassess those really important relationships in our life; our relationship with God, our spouse, our family and with our children. Tolstoy regretted the years he and his wife wasted when their relationship was strained to the breaking point. That often happens in families. But it doesn’t have to. Today can be a new starting point. “If anyone is in Christ,” writes St. Paul, “he is a new creation.” We can offer ourselves and our relationships to God this day and ask Him for help in making time, in showing love, and in setting the kind of example that reveals the new man or the new woman Christ has called us to be. The ones who will benefit the most is our children.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.

< back to Sermon archive