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.”
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