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Today is Fathers’ Day. So we will spend some time meditating on this topic. This is one of those days which can come to us with very diverse emotions. For some it can be a day of good memories, joy and gratitude, for some a day of sadness, unfulfilled longings, or even pain and anger.
In his Large Catechism Martin Luther wrote that „God distinguishes father and mother above all other persons on earth, and places them next to himself.” We are to „respect them very highly, and to give them the very highest place next to God.” They are „God’s representatives […] however lowly, poor, feeble, and eccentric they may be, they are still our parents, given by God. They are not to be deprived of their honour because of their ways or failings.”
As Christians we believe that the office of parents and the office of fathers are God’s gifts to us. God Himself created these offices for our benefit, so that through our parents He could care for us and pour over us His love and blessings, even if people in these offices are imperfect. We are to be grateful for these offices and to appreciate them.
This sounds right and good and wonderful. And it is so according to God’s design for our lives. But… then we face our real situation. Take your time and reflect – what are your memories about your father? What emotions do spring up when you hear this word ‘father’. What events, attitudes, feelings come into your mind?
They may be very, very different. They may be heart-warming. They may be heart breaking. There may be rich and pleasant memories, there may be no memories at all. We live in wonderfully created, but broken world.
The undeniable fact is, that we all are so much influenced by our fathers. For better or for worse, by their presence or their absence. We are influenced by them in ways we even don’t realize.
Today there are more and more research data that shows that father’s influence is, indeed, much more significant that we could imagine. It extends from fathers’ influence on children’s intellectual, psychological and physical development, to their function as role models for both boys and girls.
That is to great extent in fathers’ hands to shape how children will lead their lives, how they will build their relationships and what kind of people they will be. And what is especially important, fathers’ influence is crucial for children’s faith.
If fathers teach their children and lead them to Christ with their example of Christian discipleship, there is a very high probability that also children will grow as followers of Christ. This we need to remember.
This is why Luther begun every part of the Small Catechism with these words: „In a simple way in which the head of a house is to present [this teaching] to the household.” This is mainly fathers’ responsibility to raise our young one as children of God and disciples of Christ. That’s how God has designed it.
We thought a little bit about our fathers, let’s now think about what kind of fathers we are, those among us who are fathers. God has entrusted to us this high responsibility to care for our children. It is good to know what His will for us is. What do we need to do?
It is necessary to take a step back and reflect on how our fatherhood begins. We don’t become fathers as soon as we grow up. First, we become husbands to our wives. This is the first step to the office of father.
This first step helps us to prepare for self-sacrificial role of fathers. God in His revelation has been very clear about how to go about marriage and what is the role of husbands in marriage.
I’ll read it, and these are very challenging words. This is how Paul, the apostle put it in his letter to Christians in Ephesus: „Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her […] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. […] This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church […] let each one of you love his wife as himself.”
You see, what enormously high standards are set for us as husbands. Paul explains that marriage is the closest analogy to our relationships with Christ. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves His Church and to give up their lives for the sake of their wives if needed.
Who can ever fully match these standards?! Not we and not in this life. Christ Himself with His self-sacrificial love and care for His Church sets an example for every husband. This is our main mission, to care for our wives and children as Christ cares for His Church. This is what we are created to do.
I’ll tell you a story. Cyprus is an little island in Mediterranean Sea. Recently archaeologists discovered in Cyprus the ancient Greek city of Kourion which was buried during devastating earthquake in 365AD. In the ruins of this city they found what they called „fossilization of family love”.
They found a family of three buried under debris. When the earthquake struck there was no time to think what to do. 20 seconds was all that they had. There was no time for rehearsal. And there was no need. For the man and his wife, they knew what they were supposed to do.
She drew her child to her breast, he wrapped his body around his wife and child to protect them. In a few second everything was over. 16 and half centuries later three skeletons remain in the museum of Kourion as a testimony to what family love is.
To what our roles are. Husbands, we have very high standards to follow. Christ is our example, and we need all His help to be able to carry on what He has entrusted us to do, and He is happy to give His help any time.
But, this is not all, as Christ sets standards for all husbands, God the Father defines what it means to be a father. Sometimes we may think that we call God the Father this way because He somehow reminds of our earthly fathers. In fact, it is the very opposite.
We don’t call God the Father because of our fatherhood, but instead, God the Father is an example of what it means to be a father. Christ sets standards for husbands, God the Father sets standards for fathers.
We are to care for our families and children, we are to love them without ceasing, we are to protect them, to provide for them daily, we to be with them when they need us the most. It is not an easy task, sometimes it can be very challenging, but we are blessed with such joy when we do it.
We need to remember that our action as fathers are to reflect Heavenly Father’s care for us, so that our whole lives point to Our Heavenly Father. So that when we teach our children that God is our Father in heaven, they could say – then He must be the best person in the world!
This is what we as fathers are up to. Our Heavenly Father has set very high standards for us as earthly fathers. … and you probably can guess what I’m going to say next. Yes, we fail. We all fail. We do not live up to these standards.
Do we even clearly realize what a blessing it is to be co-creators with God? What a miracle to see children growing up! What a responsibility to raise and teach them until they are ready for their own lives! Do we put our families as our first priority? Do we live so that our lives point our children to God the Father?
But even if every earthly father has failed in one way or in another, we still need to give thanks to God that He has given us the office of fathers to care for us. We need to give thanks for them, and we need to pray, if that is the case, that we could forgive the things that they have done wrong.
We need to pray that the Holy Spirit would heal all wounds and bring peace and reconciliation either in our relationships or in our memories.
We, as fathers, also need to give thanks that our God has entrusted to us this enormous honour and responsibility, and to pray for His help; to give us wisdom, to give us patience, to give us time what is needed and desire to be as good fathers as we can be.
The last thought for today, and I want you to take this one with you. We may have different experiences with our fathers. Good and great, bad and miserable, joyful and sad, and sometimes no experiences at all.
But whatever our personal experiences are with our fathers, whatever good or bad we have been as fathers to our children, there is something wonderful, there are good news for all of us.
In your baptism you were made a child of your heavenly Father. That’s right. You are a child of God and you have your Father in Heaven. The One from whom all fathers receive their name.
This Father forgives you all your failures. He gives you strengths and wisdom to be better fathers. Whoever you are and whatever you have done you can be sure that your Father in Heaven will never reject you.
He will never fail you. He will never abandon you. He will always, always be with you when you need Him. He will always support you, even if others won’t. He will always listen to you even if others won’t.
He will always forgive you, and accept you, He will never push you away, will never ignore you. He will never be too busy to be with you. He will always be here for you.
He will do everything to teach you His wisdom and to bring you closer to Him. And eventually, be sure, He will bring you into His eternal Kingdom, and you will be with Him forever.
He is your Father in Heaven and will always be. You can count of Him!
Blessed Fathers’ Day to all of you!