Mark 4:26-34; Philippians 4:4-8
Happy father’s day! I wish all the Dads here “Happy Father’s Day,” because (I don’t know about you, but I think) Fathers don’t get much attention/respect nowadays. In the Korean culture, the authority of a father as the head of family is the focal point of the family life. I try to teach this cultural value to my children, but it is not easy because they live in a different culture.
It was a couple of years ago, when Elizabeth called me from behind, “Dad?” So, I turned around and I literally said, “Oh my Goodness,” because I have never realized until that moment that my daughter was such a tall and beautiful girl.
Is this the little girl I carried? When did she get to be a beauty? On that day, she was wearing a black one-piece that she ordered from internet for the first time to show me. I continued, “Elizabeth, this is too short. It’s too sexy for you. Don’t wear that, OK?” Her response was “Are you kidding me, dad?”
Similar conversations keep happening since then. It was last Wednesday when I said, “Your pants are too short and too tight.” Elizabeth’s response was “What are you talking about, dad? You should look at other girls at school.” Well, first of all, you would never hear any Korean child speaking to his/her father, “Are you kidding me? Or, what are you talking about?” This is unthinkable in Korean culture.
It is true that fathers in our culture don’t get as much authority as fathers in Asian culture do. It might be too much generalization, but I think it is very true. Sorry! So, let me say one more time: “Happy Father’s Day!”
I was surfing the net last week and I came across a “Father’s Day Photo Album.” It was a collection of photos of fathers and their children. These photos had been sent in by people who wanted to share them. In one picture a man was sitting with his son in a fishing boat. In another two fathers were with their children on the shore. Each of the photos showed a father and his children smiling and happy.
At that same site there were surveys and discussions of the state of Fatherhood. As I read this discussion I realized that the photo album was not presenting the real life situation. The photos were the ideal of what fatherhood should look like. The discussions brought up the realities of absentee fathers… the reality of fathers who feel the need to work overtime or who are emotionally isolated from their children.
Father’s Day is a little different in the church than in the world. In the church all men are fathers. Each time a child is baptized in the church the whole church promises to nurture one another in the Christian faith and include the child being baptized in that nurturing. We also promise to surround them with a community of love and forgiveness that they may grow in service and love to others and to pray for them. Any Christian man who takes those vows takes the responsibility of raising and nurturing those children in faith.
A good example of this is Paul and Timothy. Paul was not Timothy’s biological father. Timothy’s biological father was an absentee father – at least he is absent from the Bible. All we know about him is that he was not a Christian. We don’t even know his name but we know the names of Timothy’s mother and grandmother which indicates that they had a deeper relationship with him than his father.
In many ways Paul filled this void. He became a father figure to Timothy. He took Timothy under his wing and “nurtured him in the Christian faith.” He even called Timothy his “son” (1 Tim. 1:18, 2 Tim 2:1). And Timothy grew to be a dedicated servant of God in part because of the care of Paul, his father in faith.
So if we were to create a photo album filled with pictures of the ideal of Christian fatherhood what would it look like? It would include men teaching children to pray. It would include pictures of men working beside children in serving others. It would show men and children laughing and playing at Sunday School and fellowship hour and other church programs. This album would show men telling the Bible stories and singing the Gospel songs with children. It would have picture after picture of men passing on the faith.
These are what we want to see. Do you know where we can see this photo album? You can see these pictures on our new church website: umcdarien.org. There, thanks to the diligent update by our IT minister, Barry Seeman, we can see the faith growing in the lives of our children. We also can see the same thing Jesus was talking about in Mark. He said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who scatters seeds and then they grow.” Please, check it out to see how we scatter seeds and how our children grow.
We want to see faith growing like a mustard seed in our children’s lives. We want to see faith in God shoring up the lives of our children. We want to see youth who are standing on the solid rock of Christ. We want to see the love of God coming to full fruit as young people serve others in the name of Christ and devote themselves to Christ.
If we want our children to grow in faith we must be people of faith. We have to live the faith, to study the word of God, to model the love of God. Then those things will fall in the soil of our children’s hearts and minds and grow.
Fathers (and mothers, and grand-parents)…, when was the last time you prayed with your children? When was the last time your children saw you reading the Bible? When was the last time you helped with children in the church? When was the last time you told Bible stories to your children? When was the last time you told them that you love them? This morning? Good. When was the last time you told them that God loves them?
To train our children to follow Christ we first have to be following Christ. To see faith growing in their lives, it must first be growing in ours. To see them devoting their lives to Christ, we must first devote our lives to Christ. To see the fruits of the Spirit growing in the lives of our children they must first be growing in our lives. May our Christian life be a good model to our children, both in our home and church! Amen.
Now, I have a few words for our graduates. Today, I am sharing this as a pastor and as a father as well, because Jonathan, my son, is one of the graduates.
I chose today’s Epistle lesson thinking of you last week. So listen carefully: “Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The LORD is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
Excellent advice to all of us, especially for the graduates! Dear class of 2018, please remember that most of the important things of life are invisible; but they are more powerful then things we see. This starts with the Spirit of God, the spirit that gives life. In Hebrew, ruah (spirit) means wind or breath. Without air, we cannot live. Likewise, without ruah, the Spirit of God, we cannot live. Why? (We cannot live), simply because we are created as Spiritual Beings. We cannot live without love because of the same reason that we are Spiritual Beings and without love, we cannot be spiritual. Love cannot be touched, but it is the most essential ingredient to be a human-being… a spiritual-being.
I think it is very natural that most graduates have been heavily oriented toward the trappings of success – jobs, homes, cars, big THINGS. No question, those things are all within your reach. We are living in an era of unprecedented prosperity. But, for you graduates who have a special relationship with the Lord, a relationship that has taught you what is ultimately important, my advice is to be careful what you wish for. Most important things of life are not those things you can touch or collect. Most important things of life are spiritual matters that give you life. Those are loving matters that help you live the fullness of life. So, my advice to the graduates is this: Continue to come to church! Jonathan, go to a church every Sunday. Continue to involve in church life so that you can grow spiritually, intellectually and emotionally.
Growth is a remarkable thing and it is what our scripture lesson today is about. Each of you has a great potentiality in you. We don’t know exactly how a tiny mustard seed becomes the greatest of all shrubs and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. It seems to occur as if by magic. I would rather say it is a miracle. In our Confirmation Class Affirmation this year, the confirmands declared that we believe in miracles. For me, miracle is not about walking on the water or raising the dead. For me, miracle is a song: “Sunrise, Sunset.”
Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older. When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall? Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small? …. And then, it goes…
Seedlings turn overnight to sun flowers, blossoming even as we gaze.
You know… it’s a miracle… to grow. You are a miracle. You are the miracle of God. Each of you is the miracle of life.
So, graduates, allow yourself to be God’s mustard seed – Open yourself to God and His/Her word – by reading it – thinking about it – acting on it. It is God who sows the seed and provides for its growth into the fullness of life and the kingdom of God. Let us pray.
Image by Sabine van Straaten