For some of us in the ministry, sermons for Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, July 4, and the like come easily. But other pastors have a difficult time planning such sermons. Some ignore those days altogether.
Here is my approach. It might possibly help a pastor somewhere find how to pull this off without feeling that he was caving in to the culture and turning his back on his call to preach the Word.
Right now, I’m thinking about my sermon for Father’s Day. That Sunday, I’ll be filling in for Pastor Craig Beeman at the First Baptist Church of Winnsboro, Lousiana. It’s nearly 3 weeks away and a good time to get to work.
Typically, we pastors close the door to our study and sink into our chair and say out loud, “What do I want to say about Father’s Day? Lord, what do you want me to say?” And, if I may say so, typically no answer comes. We’re stuck. That’s why this sort of thing is no fun.
I suggest those are the wrong questions. A better question is: “Lord, what lesson have you taught me about fatherhood?”
Sit there for a few minutes and consider your own role as a father, your dad’s role, the men you have known who were fathers and granddads, and sermons you have preached on this subject before. What key points, what definitive stories, what lesson looms large in your mind?
In my case, as I consider that question, two things occupy center stage in my mind.
1. “Forgive your father.”
Many times at funerals of older men, I have learned that one or more of the adult children are carrying grievances against the deceased for something he did ages ago or should have done and failed. In such times, I try to work into my sermon a bit of counseling. “Forgive your father,” I tell them. “He’s human. He made mistakes, yes. But who among us has not sinned? And we will want our children to forgive us.”
On the cross, the Lord Jesus looked at His executioners surrounding Him. “Father, forgive them,” He prayed. “They know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
In this case, we say, “Forgive your father. He may or may not have known what he was doing. Forgive him anyway.”
Once, years ago, I contacted my three adult children to ask, “Are you carrying any kind of hurt or pain from your growing up years from something I did or did not do?” Two of the three assured me they were not and that all was well. The oldest son said, “Just one thing. For many years, you were always gone on my birthday.” I remembered exactly what he referred to. During almost all his entire youth we lived in Mississippi. The state Baptist convention held its annual evangelism conference the first of February. Lasting two or three days, it frequently fell right on Neil’s birthday. We would celebrate his day early and I would give him his present, but I was gone the day of his birthday. It mattered to him. I asked him to forgive me, he did, and we hugged.
One of the shining lights of Jewish history was King David, the singer and poet, the man after God’s own heart, the epitome of what a godly ruler should be. However, to some of his children, he was anything but an example and role model. II Samuel 12-18 tells the story of Absalom, a young man of extraordinary promise whose life was hijacked by the assault of his sister by a half-brother. When he saw his father David intended to do nothing about it, Absalom killed the perpetrator, Amnon. Then, he fled for his life, knowing that surely David would be enraged and would punish him.
To his amazement, David once again passively stood by and did nothing. Gradually, Absalom was filled with rage against his father. Eventually, he led a full-scale rebellion to overthrow the throne and seize the kingdom, resulting in his own death.
One can just hear Absalom saying about his father David, “Yes, he’s such a godly man. Ha! Such a man after God’s own heart! What a joke! He’s such a hypocrite.”
It would not be the first time a church leader’s child knew his/her father differently from how the world saw him and came to entirely different conclusions about him.
We do not fault Absalom for his anger. He had every right to fault David for his negligence as a parent as well as his failures as the king.
We could wish, however, that Absalom had found it in his heart to forgive his father. His hatred, his resentment and anger, ended up destroying him and bringing great suffering to the kingdom.
Here are some reasons to forgive your father….
–He’s human. That means he is prone to failure and a great deal short of perfect. According to Romans 3:23, we have all “come short of the glory of God.” And Psalm 103:14 reminds us that God is all too well aware of this: “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”
–You are too. This means two things: you are a lot like your dad insofar as being flawed. And, being human, you will require an extra dose of God’s grace to be able to forgive him.
–Your father is the product of a fallen world and flawed parents. It’s easy to think of your father as choosing to become (insert here whatever he became–an alcoholic, a wife-beater, a party-animal, whatever) and thus holding him totally responsible. However, remember that he was a child once too, and God alone knows to what extent he became whatever he was due to his parents’ failures, the faults of the schooling he received or did not receive, and other influences.
–You will be wanting mercy too. Therefore, you would do well to show mercy. “Forgive us…as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12).
–Forgiveness opens the grace channel. And resentment clogs it up and shuts off the daily supply of God’s grace you and I continually need.
Pastor Gary Inrig writes, “Forgiveness is ultimately an act of the will, not a stirring of the emotions. For a Christ-follower, it is a choice to obey God and let it go. This is an inward choice that produces a declaration given, a promise spoken: ‘I forgive you.’ When I speak those words, I declare that the issue between us is dead and buried. I’m saying that I will not rehearse it, review it, or renew it. When it comes to my mind, I will take it to the Lord and to the foot of the cross, not to you.”
The other thing I wanted to share with you as a possible lesson for a Father’s Day sermon is this….
2) “Things Real Men Know.”
Veteran readers of this website have read the story of something my (then) 8-year-old granddaughter said once. We were in Abby’s front yard and I was pushing her in the swing. She told how her mother Julie had been teaching Abby and her twin Erin about childbirth.
“I’m not going to have children, Grandpa,” she announced. “It hurts too bad.”
My first thought was to tell her that if her mother had felt that way, she and her sister would not be here, since they have an older brother. And that if her great-grandmothers had felt that way, none of us would be here.
But what I said was, “Yes, it does hurt. But the pain goes away and you’re left with this beautiful child and you decide that it was worth it.”
Abby looked me in the eye and said, “You’re a man. What do you know?”
I fell on the grass laughing.
My wonderful granddaughter was exactly right. Everything I know on this subject I learned from the women in my life or from reading.
You’re a man; what do you know?
Great question, isn’t it? And a perfect kickoff for a sermon on “What men know” or what they should know.
I do not have the sermon, of course. I’m only now beginning to work on it. However, it appears that such a sermon on “what real men know” would have to include the following:
–Who I am. The man who does not know who he is will be forever trying to find out and to prove himself a man in unhealthy ways.
–Whose I am. Is he accountable to any one? or is he on his own in this world? The man who knows he is a creation of Almighty God and the redeemed of a loving Savior is likely to live a different kind of life from one who doesn’t.
–What am I here for? He needs to know what his role is in life? Why was he put here on earth? Is it to find himself, express himself, fulfill himself, or is he here for a higher, nobler purpose?
–Where I’m going. I love the testimony of beleagured Job. In the midst of his pain and suffering, in the darkness of his soul’s depression, still his faith was intact. He called out, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold and not another” (Job 19:25-27).
In his own dark days and in the last writing we have from his hand, the Apostle Paul testified, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that day” (II Timothy 1:12).
The Apostle John put it this way: “By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (I John 2:3).
We know that we know.
What do you know? And what difference has it made in your life?