Tag Archives: Fathers Day

The Legacy of Our Father

Scripture Foundation: Galatians 3:23-29 (NLT)

God’s Children through Faith

23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

26 For you are all children[a] of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.[b] 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[c] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children[d] of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Reflection: The Legacy of Our Father

Here it is Fathers Day, another special day filling our calendars. Ho hum? That depends on how you perceive the importance of celebrating the father’s role in your life. Sadly there are many who have no fathers actively involved in their lives or maybe there are those who never knew their fathers. Add to that the long list of those whose fathers have died, leaving just memories.

The memories may be filled with laughter and silliness, but consider the legacy our fathers do leave us. Christian fathers have provided us a faith foundation based on the foundation of their fathers. Today the foundation of our sons’ families is beginning to shake if not shatter.

God is our heavenly Father and 21st century Christian fathers are those who have a personal relationship with God. Sadly, though, when looking at the 21st century congregations, the absence of fathers is all too evident. Yes, there are some, but the majority of Sunday morning attendees are women and their pre-high school children.

In Galatians 3, Paul is explaining to the followers how different a Christian lifestyle is from the old lifestyle under the Law of Moses:

23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

The choice of weighted words points out the negative attitude towards the Law of Moses. Paul reminds them that the law made the decisions, and the Pharisees were like guards keeping all the faithful under strict supervision. The Law of Moses originally was developed to protect the faithful, Paul adds the word “custody” to that word “protective.”

Protective custody in our 21st century world implies the loss of freedom, limiting who we hang out with, what we do, where we go—almost like being on house arrest with the ankle bracelet to track our every movement. The legacy of our American forefathers would not approve of “protective custody.” Today’s fathers—including the mothers—balance the challenges of home, work, and family. The old Law of Moses administered by the Pharisees would complicate that balance making protective custody more like imprisonment than freedom.

This Fathers Day we can celebrate the freedom God granted us by replacing the Old Law with the New Law. The New Covenant that was sealed with the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ freed fathers—and mothers—simpler and more expansive: Love God. Love your neighbor, as you want to be loved.

Paul explains to Galatians how the law worked: “24 . . . The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.” God demonstrated how fathers raise their children. As our children develop through childhood, the parents keep children in “protective custody.” The rules are firm, the boundaries are defined, and the parents model behaviors preparing the children for adult freedom.

Parents today need God to show them how to raise their kids. Looking at the Old Testament, we can analyze the stories. Those who followed God’s law in a balanced manner raised healthy, faithful families. Yet, some Old Testament stories tell us that making too many laws, demanding unreasonable expectations, and putting others in front of God separated the families from God and sometimes separated the families.

Of course a cautionary statement in this conversation is necessary. God gave humans free will and there is evil in the world. Parents exercising strict application of the law can discover that being legalistic separates them from their children. The Pharisee’s strict application of the law and the evil that crept in also combined to destroy the relationship of God and his children.

God’s law became the Pharisee’s law and through the strict application of the laws added to the original Ten Commandments. Understanding the Law of Moses became difficult for faithful families. Mistakes were made, distance developed, and evil’s influence grew. God, as the Heavenly Father, had to make a tough decision.

Despite the centuries of prophecies, God could not manage the Pharisee’s overly strict development of the Law of Moses, nor could he control evil influences that were luring the faithful away from the parent-child relationship God had with humanity. A change had to happen.

As parents, we all know that sickening feeling that comes when we have to administer an appropriate consequence or punishment. God must have had that same sick feeling, but he made the decision to do what was best for his children. He stepped in personally in the form of Jesus Christ, the man.

Fathers, and mothers, who experience the pain of wayward children know that they do try to do everything they can to keep them from self-destructing. Would not they make a decision to exchange places with the child to protect them from destruction?

God did just that. As a parent, he decided to make some changes personally rather than leave it up to the Pharisees and the prophets. A hands-on approach was the final parenting method that God chose to remove the “protective custody” and teach a better way to live as caretakers of this world. God chose love over law.

This week in particular (June 12-19, 2016) we have witnessed parents experience heart-wrenching pain as their children are destroyed. Evil lurks in some of the most surprising places. Every time newscasters, politicians, friends, or families talk over the events that have cost lives of somebody’s children, a question is posed: How come this evil keeps happening?

The question for Christians is really more about how come God’s New Covenant, the new law, of loving one is not more widely used. Do we raise our children knowing the immense value of applying God’s Golden Rule: Love one another, as you want to be loved. Parents faithful to God raise children to know how to love one another.

Sadly, though, the free will factor and evil can step in and destroy the loving child parents struggled to raise. Yet, knowing that all our best efforts may not provide the ‘protective custody’ needed to guarantee our sons and daughters live a Christ-like or Christ-filled life should not keep us from trying.

In answer to the cries heard on the news broadcasts this past week begging for an answer as to why all the evil keeps happening, one can only ask: Have you remained faithful to God, our Heavenly Father? Faith in God may not prevent the violence or tragic accidents, but with faith in God we are given the strength to manage the grief, the outrage, the sorrow, and the hate that can creep into our lives.

This Fathers Day can be the perfect day to reaffirm our faith in God. In the lectionary’s commentary the points out some truths we must remember:

  • It is time to let people know that being Christian does not mean that every day we “Put on a Happy Faith.” (p.171)
  • When we see how far we and the world (and also the church) fall short, we have reasons to grieve. But we also have reasons to hope that our holy grief will not have the last word. (p.172)
  • Christ really can step into the hurts of our lives and make us all new (p.172)

These truths remind each of us that God, our Heavenly Father, experiences the same parent emotions we do. When a world is shocked by evil’s actions such as we witnessed this past week, as God’s children we must reconfirm our own relationship with God.

We need to remember that evil is always close at hand. We need to remember that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. We need to remember that being Christian is not a one time agreement, it is a life-long commitment.

Do all that you can, with your children, the neighbors’ kids, the kids down the block; in any way that you can whether a friendly wave, a casual conversation, an invitation, a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies, or a hug when there are tears. We are God’s presence in our communities. We are the only way some will ever meet God. We, as faithful followers of God, the father, the son and the Holy Spirit, are the fathers and the mothers of the future.

Closing prayer

Our Father, who are in heaven,

Give us the nourishment of faith

Needed to protect our families from turmoil.

Grant us understanding of scripture’s wisdom

So we can continue to live in your protective custody.

Fill us with the Holy Spirit

In order to serve one another in love.

Thank you for the leadership of your Son

Showing us that the Golden Rule works.

May we revel in your unending love.

May we discover the strength faith provides.

May we use all the gifts you provide

So we may be Christ-like witnesses today. –Amen.


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Our Father’s Foundation

given on Sunday, June 21, Father’s Day 2015

Consider this statement: “God’s highest aim is for all to experience love, justice, peace, and abundance. . . “ Is not that exactly what our fathers want, too. The child’s cry in the backseat of the family car, ‘are we there yet,’ is being echoed this week by so many in very different contexts.

The calendar may read Father’s Day 2015, but the mood swings everybody right back to Father’s Day 1965—fifty years ago! In 1965, the United States launched its first offensive in Vietnam. Robert Luther King, Jr. was arrested during the march in Selma on February 1. Malcom X was shot to death on February 21. The country was polka dotted with race riots, protests, and marches.

Lyndon Johnson was the president, and the LA riots came at the end of the hot summer. The science world was focused on space travel with Gemini VI making the first space rendezvous with Gemini VII.

The label ‘hippy’ began being used to identify the young people who were dressing in bright bold colors, smoking pot, and listening to rock music. Unemployment was at 5.2% and a stamp only cost a nickel.

The Sound of Music premiered that year along with another favorite Dr. Zhivago. Popular books included James Baldwin’s Going to Meet the Man, Alex Haly’s The Autobiography of Malcom X, and Ralph Nadar published Unsafe at Any Speed.

The “Girl from Impanema” by Stan Getz was the record of the year—and remember that was vinyl. The song “Hello, Dolly!” was the song of the year.*

And the tone of the world was unsettled. Father’s Day 1965, did not come without notice, I am sure, but it was a day to honor our dads; but the truth was that it was overshadowed by so many conflicts found within the communities. Fathers fifty years ago wanted what was best for their children just the same as today’s fathers.

On Wednesday night, a community was torn apart from a violent hate crime. One young man steps into an AME church, sits down for an hour and then begins shooting those safely praying in God’s sanctuary. Shocking. Horrifying. Unthinkable. And this is 50 years since the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, before the Civil Rights Act, and before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

And the question is heard: “Are we there yet?” Are we, as a Christian-society, able to say we have equality, that the protests of the 1960s worked and that society treats each race equally, fairly, and respectfully? In Charleston, South Carolina, we are not there yet.

The story of David and Goliath parallels the ugly reality of hate crimes. And consider Paul who struggled to carry the message to distant communities. He, too, was arrested and persecuted. God’s story was not well-received by everybody, yet the story of unconditional love for all people was so important then, as in 1965, and yet today 2015.

The most significant way we can honor our fathers is to continue fighting for the very purpose of Jesus’s birth and crucifixion: “God’s highest aim is for all to experience love, justice, peace, and abundance. . . “   We honor our Heavenly Father each time we love one another. We honor our earthly fathers each time we go to church, study scripture, serve one another, teach our young people, and tell our story of how God makes a difference in our lives.

The Abingdon Theological Companion to the Lectionary (Year B) carefully weaves the four readings into one theme: “. . .God helps us when we are threatened by forces that threaten God’s purposes.” The story of David and Goliath may not seem very connected to the readings from 2 Corinthians or from Mark, but none of us can deny that we have run into situations which seem to be way too big for us to handle.

The truth about faith in God is that no matter how overwhelming a situation appears, God will give us the strength and the skills to manage. David might not have seemed a good choice for destroying Goliath, but he had faith that with God he could—and he did.

The lectionary companion explains Goliath:

Many people today are ground down by forces similar to Goliath, the storm on Galilee, or Caesar—forces that distort God’s purposes for life and that cause anxiety and suffering and that can make life chaotic. Such forces often act for their own profit or to reinforce their own power. These Goliaths and Caesars and storms have many faces and names, but they all leave people feeling manipulated, alone, powerless, in pain.

Do we have a Goliath? Just what would you consider to be a Goliath for you personally? What is the Goliath—or a Caesar as in Paul’s situation—in the community? Is it local, national or international? Unless the challenge is identified, nothing changes.

Naming our Goliath may be something so personal we cannot share it; or the Goliath can also be a system that seems to be swallowing up our identity. How we manage begins after we name Goliath, then we must begin the work.

The church, whether pastor, Church Council, or laity, has a responsibility:

. . . encourage people to resist today’s Goliath or Caesar or chaos. Resistance is certainly a key aspect of witness for Christian communities today. However, the gospel is good news and therefore call the church beyond the negative act of resistance to pose positive alternatives. . . . imagine specific things the congregation can do to move toward a world liberated from Goliath, in which the values of God replace those of Caesar and in which trustworthy order prevails.

The question is, are you ready? We can honor our Heavenly Father by following the examples of the characters shared in scripture. We may be small, but we can confront our Goliath. Small does not mean incapable of action. We may be few in number, but working together creates a powerful force.

Each faith community needs to ask, “Are we there yet?”   The journey we are does have potholes, wrong turns, monumental obstacles, but the outcome is life eternal and our father will answer, “Yes, you are here.”

Closing prayer

Dear Father of All,

Thank you for all the strength and the skills you provide.

Thank you for the many faithful who are working together

battling all the Goliaths in our world.

Grant us the clarity of heart and mind to see our Goliath.

Grant us the strength to resist the evil swirling around us.

We know that you will enable us to do whatever we can.

We know that you will never forsake us as we confront Goliath.

We know that you will sustain us in the battle as long as it takes.

And, as we near the end, we will hear you tell us, “Yes, you are here!”


*Accessed on June 19, 2015 at http://www.infoplease.com/year/1965.html

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It’s Fathers Day: Whom are you honoring?

given on Sunday, June 17, 2011–Father’s Day



It’s Father’s Day:  Whom are you honoring?


            The question developed while discussing sermons and Father’s Day at Annual Conference.  I mentioned that I was beginning to see some sermon ideas that I could use and how I needed to set them up on my planning calendar.  Offhandedly I noted that Father’s Day was this weekend so I knew I would wait at least a week before getting started on the list of ideas.

“We don’t do Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sermons,” was the response I received.

I was startled.  How could any church simply ignore such long-held traditions!  How would the congregation feel if the preacher simply overlooked the holiday!

But the explanation and discussion made sense because it shared one more horrible truthes about our 21st century society.  When honoring Father’s Day publically, you are risking triggering major pain in those who . . .

  • do not have a father that they ever knew,
  • do not have a father due to death or divorce or deployment,
  • do not have a father to honor due to abuse or sexual misconduct or imprisonment,
  • do not have a father but a step-father who may or may not provide a parental role in their lives,
  • do not have a father who lived to be the grandfather of one’s children
  • do not have a father who provided time and attention and guidance worthy of honoring.

Who is to decide which individual sitting in the pews is going to feel hurt, anger, jealousy, or envy if the entire service is focused on glorifying all the traits we praise in good parents.  So, some churches simply do not focus on Father’s Day.

And thus sat in the quandary.   In our small congregations, parenting is really grand-parenting or even great-grand-parenting.  A few of us are still working through the process, and some of us are ones without fathers to honor.  Still, if our culture decides to ignore Father’s Day are we guilty of not encouraging such roles.  Are we ignoring those men in our lives who have guided us whether they are blood-related or just a positive influence in our lives.

Today is Father’s Day as noted on the calendar and in the stores all around us.  Yet no one has said we have to honor only one male, blood-kin parent.  Let’s look beyond that definition.

To begin, consider who you do call ‘Father.’  We all have one Father we talk to all the time.  We call him “Our Father, who art in heaven” every time we use the Lord’s Prayer.  We refer to him as our Father in many of the hymns, in our private prayers, and more.  We envision his qualities as those of our parent.  Yet, do we send God a card or buy him a gift.  No.

As Methodists, we often identify John Wesley as the father of our denomination.  We study his historical influence, we read his sermons, we study his expectations for our behaviors, and we sing his and his brother’s hymns.  He has been a father to us and continues to be a major influence in our service-oriented faith.  We work to demonstrate God’s grace to others along the same manner that Wesley did.  Yet, do we do something in his honor or buy him a gift.  No.

Throughout the Annual Conference, we watch and listen to the leaders in our church.   There is the Bishop, who has asked to stay in Missouri for another term.  There are the district superintendents, and there are all the clergy whether ordained or licensed or retired.  And that is not all, the laity is there, too.  The models and the guardians of our church are like our parents.  They are there to make sure we do not stray, that we live our faith honestly, that we are good Methodists—by God’s standards through Wesley’s church.

Whom do we celebrate as our fathers?  I can see a list of them in my own life and I know that each of you have your own list.  This Father’s Day open up the definition from the traditional, biological one to the definition of God, of our faith’s fathers, and our own living role models in our church.

In the process of surfing around the internet, I stumbled onto the image of Monk Bryan.  He was a bishop who was a pastor in one of the churches I attended in college.  He is also the grandfather of another pastor I had while attending First Church in Warrensburg.

I read through one of his obituaries.  Did you know he was one of seven generations of Methodist ministers?  He was a father in our church’s lineage and worthy of recognition.  I googled him and the second listing was from a familiar blog, Enter the Rainbow.  Rev. Andy Bryan, his grandson, wrote about his grandfather:

My relationship with my grandfather as a member of his family is nearly indistinguishable from my relationship with him as a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  That says more about him than it does about me.

Nobody loved the church more than Daddy Monk, and nobody since the Wesley brothers has been more Methodist than he was.  John Wesley’s “The Character of a Methodist” reads like a biography of Monk Bryan.

“He is therefore happy in God, yea, always happy . . . He cannot but rejoice.”

Andy goes on to outline the memories and the behaviors his grandfather practiced.  He lived the eight practices outlined by Wesley.  Consider his morning devotion:

Every morning, Daddy Monk did the Upper Room devotion with my Nana, then with Twila (his second wife during his widower stage of life), and always including anyone who was a guest and joined them for breakfast.  Reading the devotion’s title, the scripture passage, the devotion itself, and then the prayer was only half of the morning devotion time, though.  After the Upper Room was done, he got out his hymnal and found the bookmark he had left in it the previous morning.  Opening to the hymn, he would read (or invite someone else to) the hymn title and author, tune name and composer, along with the dates of both.  And then we would read the hymn aloud.

Andy referenced this practice with another quote from Wesley’s “The Character of a Methodist”:

“. . .his heart is ever lifted up to God, at all times and in all places.  In this he is never hindered, much less interrupted, by any person or thing.  In retirement or company, in leisure, business, or conversation, his heart is ever with the Lord.  Whether he lie down or rise up, God is in all his thoughts; he walks with God continually, having the loving eye of his mind still fixed upon him and everywhere ’seeing Him that is invisible.’”

The blog continues and anybody reading it can see the value that Andy placed in his grandfather’s leadership as a Christian, a Methodist Christian.  Every personal connection was a direct connection to Wesley and therefore to God.

Here it is Father’s Day and I know that even Monk Bryan and Andy Bryan are two individuals to honor.  We have no reason to ignore Father’s Day; we just have to identify our personal fathers.

My dad lives day-by-day waiting to join God and all his faithful, but I cannot share the day like so many do.  I can’t take him to a ballgame or go fishing or even eat a dinner out.  Yet my dad is one of the special people who have demonstrated faith to me and to so many others.  Honoring our fathers includes honoring the fathers of our very own faith whether living or not, whether related or not.  This Father’s Day is for all those who have helped us in our faith journey.

Dear God, our heavenly Father,

Thank you for your grace, your love, and your words.

Help us to see those who have modeled them for us.

Let us strive to be fathers and mothers for others in need.

Help us to keep the lessons taught us by the generations

so we may see this world through your eyes.

Let us shine as a guiding light to others, too.

Help us to serve one another so others may learn of your love.

Let fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends and enemies

find the value of loving one another despite their differences.

Thank you for letting us count so many fathers in our lives

who help us develop a faith to join in your own eternal home.



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