This sermon was given by Pastor Jim Kniseley at Resurrection on Father’s Day, June 19, 2011.
(Pastor announces at the beginning of the worship service that a bell will sound every time we hear a mention of the Trinity or are asked to use the sign of the Cross)
Boys and Girls, today is Holy Trinity Sunday. Do you know what the word “Trinity” means? It means “three.” In church we remember God has three names: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The bell has already rung several times, so we know that the Trinity is named lots in our worship service. I want you to look around the church today and see if you can find symbols for the Trinity…See the front of the bulletin and see the front of the kids’ bulletin. I’m going to give you something today to help you think of the Trinity, 3 pieces of candy. Please don’t eat them in church. Wait until the service is over. And, I invite you to share your candy with others. Let’s pray: Dear God, thank you for Father for creating everything, thank you Jesus for saving us, and thank you Holy Spirit for continuing to inspire us. Bless these children and their families. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
My sermon today is not about the Trinity. Rather, I’ve chosen to talk about Father’s Day. It seems appropriate to address Fathers here since the whole idea of Father’s Day was thought up in church. In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in Spokane, Washington. Sonora had been raised by her father after her mother died. She wanted her father to know how special he was to her, since he had to be both mom and dad for so many years. So, she chose to hold the first-ever Father’s Day in Spokane on the 19th of June, 1910. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge officially proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.
Christian fathers have a tremendously important role to play in faith formation for their children. A study of church attendance sometime back showed that if both Mom and Dad attended church regularly, 72 percent of their children remained faithful to the church. If only Mom attended regularly, only 15 percent remained faithful. That is a big difference. So the Church is thankful indeed for Christian fathers who take their role seriously.
Some of us here today are not traditional fathers. We may not be the biological father, but we have been chosen or find ourselves thrust into the role of father. We are step-dads and grandfathers and uncles and teachers and coaches and Sunday School teachers and confirmation leaders and pastors. Our role in the lives of children and youth can be a vocation or calling, if we allow God to lead us in how we carry out our roles.
At the time of baptisms around here, we ask parents and godparents and sponsors to make promises to do their part to keep the child or youth or adult on the right track in their walk as Christians. We also open up this responsibility to the entire community. We are all promising to accept responsibility to encourage/help/inspire/reprove/pray for and work with those being baptized. I hope we never make that promise lightly.
Dads, here is another study that may be of interest to you. It involves Christian character formation. This study was done on groups of boys in nursery school. In the first part of the study the boys were given 18 pieces of candy. They were allowed to keep the candy for themselves or, if they chose, they were free to share the candy with their 2 closest friends. In the second part of the study the boys were asked 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 also turned out to be more cooperative, sympathetic and kinder than the boys who perceived their fathers in a less favorable light. Here’s the lesson: children need to feel loved. We Dads need to go out of our way to communicate our sincerest love to our children.
We also need to consider our own character. Children need parents they can look up to. Our children need to see us as people of integrity. A Scottish poet put it this way: “If I have been privileged to catch a more comprehensive glimpse of life than many other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of my parents.”
One cynical father, speaking from his own experience noted that children go through 4 fascinating stages. First they call you DaDa. Then they call you Daddy. As they mature they call you Dad. Finally they call you collect.
Erma Bombeck wrote some wonderful Father’s Day newspaper columns. Here is one of her best, “What Does a Father Do?” She wrote this in response to a single mom who wanted to know just why she should keep the baby’s father involved:
…It wasn’t until my husband and I had children that I was able to observe firsthand what a father contributes to a child’s life. What did he do to deserve his children’s respect? He rarely fed them, did anything about their sagging diapers, wiped their noses or fannies, played ball, or bonded with them under the hoods of their cars.
What did he do?
He threw them higher than his head until they were weak from laughter. He cast the deciding vote on the puppy debate. He listened more than he talked. He let them make mistakes. He allowed them to fall from their first two-wheeler without having a heart attack. He read a newspaper while they were trying to parallel park a car for the first time…
If I had to tell someone’s son what a father really does that is important, it would be that he shows up for the job in good times and bad times. He’s a man who is constantly being observed by his children. They learn from him how to handle adversity, anger, disappointment and success.
He won’t laugh at their dreams no matter how impossible they might seem. He will dig out at 1 a.m. when one of his children runs out of gas. He will make unpopular decisions and stand by them. When he is wrong and makes a mistake, he will admit it. He sets the tone for how family members treat one another, members of the opposite sex and people who are different than they are. By example, he can instill a desire to give something back to the community when its needs are greater than theirs.
But mostly a good father involves himself in his kids’ lives. The more responsibility he has for children, the harder it is to walk out of their lives.
A father has the potential to be a powerful force in the life of a child. Grab it! Maybe you’ll get a greeting card for your efforts. Maybe not. But it’s steady work. – Erma Bombeck.