Rev. D. K. Schroeder
June 18, 2006
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
414 "Let The Whole Creation Cry"
----- "Our Father By Whose Name"
572 "Children Of The Heavenly Father"
557 "Fight The Good Fight With All Thy Might"
TEXT: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Today is not an easy day for me, for a couple of reasons. First of all, out of the 51 Fathers’ Days that I have known in my life, my father has been around for 50 of them. Now I have not always been around my dad on those days, but I would at least talk to him on the telephone. That won’t be the case this year.
As you are aware, my dad passed away on May 31st, and we had his funeral on June 6th. And now, just twelve days later, here we are celebrating Fathers’ Day.
I guess in kind of a round about way, my attention has been focused upon my father for quite a few weeks. There was his rapidly declining health, helping him get his affairs in order (which included a trip to the mortuary), and having some rather deep and emotional conversations. Then there was the task of going to the house, helping him out of his chair and into the car, with both of us knowing full well that he would not be returning. The neighbor’s dog even came over to say good bye.
Then came the admission into the hospital, and the days of being with him as he rapidly declined, and his body began simply shutting down. I would give him sips of Diet Mountain Dew from a straw, and at the end I would swab his mouth and lips with a water-soaked sponge on a stick. And then, very quietly and unceremoniously he just simply stopped breathing. And that was it.
In the time before his death, and now in the weeks after, almost all of my attention has been focused upon dad in some degree or another. And now, along comes Fathers’ Day.
And that brings me to the second reason this is not an easy day for me. I never realized it before, but in my entire ministry, even though I’ve preached numerous Mothers’ Day sermons, I don’t believe that I’ve ever preached a Fathers’ Day sermon. During my years in Australia, Fathers’ Day did not receive the same notoriety that it does in the United States. And when I was in Georgia, I was gone every year on Fathers’ Day, because that was the beginning of synod convention, and somebody else was occupying my pulpit. So I don’t have any “previously preached” material on which to draw. I guess there’s no time like the present to start.
As a text for Fathers’ Day, I’ve chosen a small section from Paul’s Epistle to the church at Ephesus. In this section, Paul begins with instructions to children. He says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” You can’t get any more direct and to the point than that. And then he goes on to back that up by quoting the fourth commandment: “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
The topic of home and family was very important to the Apostle Paul. He witnessed a lot of dysfunctional homes where everything was totally messed up.
He also knew that the key to the future of the world and Christ’s Church on earth depended a lot on home and family life. If Christ wasn’t the central figure in the home, then it only stood to reason that Christ wouldn’t be the central figure in people’s lives. A proper Christian home needed to be functioning on “all cylinders” so-to-speak.
In consideration of all this, it seems like God is placing what would seem to be an almost unfair amount of responsibility upon husbands and fathers. Just a few short verses before our text, in Ephesians 4:25 we read: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
This indicates a type of love that the world and secular society just can’t fathom. A husband is supposed to love his wife in a sacrificial sense, even to the point of trading his life for hers if that were necessary. Jesus points this out too in John 15:12-13: “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
And when it comes to his children, we read the following directive in our text: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Wives and children are not to be treated as slaves, or as second class citizens. There is no excuse for neglect or abuse. A husband who loves his wife and children as the Lord has directed has a great responsibility. In every way, the Apostle Paul tries to drive this point home in equating the love a husband and father must have toward his family with the love Christ has for his church.
Unfortunately this is not the case in many instances. I remember seeing a movie 20 some years ago, entitled “Who Will Love My Children?” It was a made for TV movie shown on ABC. I saw it in a sociology class at the university, and I have since shown it to various study and discussion groups.
The movie is a true story, and stars Ann Margaret. She plays the mother of ten children. The father, played by Frederic Forrest is an alcoholic who was sporadically employed.
When the Ann Margaret character discovers she has terminal cancer, she goes about trying to find homes and families to raise her children. She knows that her husband is completely incapable of taking care of the family. If things were to be left as they were, it would mean the older siblings would be raising the younger ones on virtually no money with no real father figure.
The father is in complete denial, not really believing his wife is going to die. His answer for coping with all of this is to sit in a bar talking it over with one of his drinking buddies. He didn’t plan on changing his ways, and his wife in a realistic sense didn’t think he ever would. And so, she sets about the task of finding people who would love and raise her children.
This isn’t to say that the father didn’t love his children; he certainly did. Nor was this a ploy to try to keep the children from their father; the children would still be able to keep in contact with him, and they were to still love and respect him. But the family just couldn’t continue without the mother in the home.
It is a sad movie, but a good one, and it is well worth seeing. Just keep a box of tissues handy.
It was just about six weeks ago that I preached a Mothers’ Day sermon about “faithful grandmothers.” I used as a text 2 Timothy 1:5 where Paul writes the following to Timothy: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded now lives in you also.”
Timothy’s father, being an unbelieving Greek, did not fulfill his responsibility as a God-fearing father whose duty was to bring up his son in the training and instruction of the Lord. So this duty was faithfully carried on by his mother and grandmother. Certainly Paul was well acquainted with families who had a dysfunctional father figure, and most likely Paul could relate to the situation portrayed in the movie, “Who Will Love My Children” in a variety of circumstances.
Husbands and fathers are indeed given a tremendous responsibility when it comes to their roles. Love your wives like Christ loves the church….do not exasperate your children…bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord…wow; those are some tall orders to fill.
And if you think that’s a lot, let’s add one more facet to this. In 1 Timothy 5:8 we read these sobering words: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
A husband and father has to see to it that his family is provided for. This does not necessarily mean that only the husband works outside the home while the wife stays home. It’s the arrogant husband who says, “No wife of mine is going to have to find a job, that’s what I do!” It’s an act of selfish pride when a husband is offended if his wife earns more than he does. A faithful and loving husband and father is one who supports his wife and family in whatever way is necessary. And in today’s world, two-income families are pretty much a necessity.
Yes, the business of being a husband and father is permeated with daunting responsibility. God makes no bones about what he expects, and furthermore he holds husbands and fathers accountable for their actions.
In the weeks and months prior to my father’s death, we spent much time discussing and planning finances for the family. Dad was very concerned about my mother and my brother (and myself as well). We established a special needs trust for my mentally retarded brother, so he will be financially secure for the rest of his life. My mother also has been well provided for. Likewise, I should have no financial worries either, and I should enjoy a happy retirement.
My dad knew only too well what responsibilities he had, and he did his best to see that those responsibilities were met. The Lord gave him enough time to tend to his final details so he could close his eyes in peace.
In the 51 years my dad was my father, and in the almost 55 years he was married to my mother (their anniversary is June 23rd), and as much as we all loved him, we know that he wasn’t the perfect husband and father. There has never been a perfect husband and father to have lived upon this earth. I’m not trying to tarnish his image; rather I’m being realistic.
Dad was a very busy and active man. Our home life suffered sometimes because of that. I can remember thinking in my younger years that other kids had better dads. My mother probably thought at times that other wives had better husbands. There are those times in our lives when we convince ourselves the “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” But of course, when all was said and done, we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Dad was definitely a blessing to all of us.
Sin of course is the problem here. We weren’t the perfect family, and we never pretended that we were. Growing up in a parsonage is like living in a glass house. And when things don’t go right, any problems tend to be magnified simply because they happen in the pastor’s home.
Certainly my father wasn’t the perfect dad. But then again, my mother wasn’t perfect either; and I most certainly was anything but a perfect son.
That’s why Paul’s directive to bring children up in the training and instruction of the Lord is so important. Because we weren’t the perfect family, that’s why it was so important for us to know Jesus. When we prayed at every meal, “Come Lord Jesus, Be Thou Our Guest,” we meant it.
Jesus came into the world and into our family to be our Saviour from sin. He came to mend broken hearts, to heal the hurts, and to comfort us when we were troubled. He came so that through faith in him, we would find forgiveness for our many sins, and hope for the future. Jesus came so that when we are less than perfect in being husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, and children, we would find restoration at the Throne of Grace. In our house, Jesus was always our Lord and Saviour, and our faith in him was always nurtured.
As I reminisce about Fathers’ Days in the past, I can remember that they weren’t always the most pleasant for my dad. For the first twelve years of my life, Fathers’ Day wasn’t the stereotypical picture of the day of rest and relaxation it was supposed to be for fathers.
Fathers’ Day Sunday was the day we ate a very hurried lunch at home after church, and then packed up the car to go to Bible Camp at Niobrara Nebraska, up near the South Dakota border in Knox County. This camp lasted for two weeks, and my dad was the camp director. So Fathers’ Day was the beginning of a very hectic schedule for him.
Fathers’ Day evening usually found my dad collapsing in our cabin very exhausted from an extremely busy day. And to top that off, my parents usually celebrated their wedding anniversary at camp as well. I guess Fathers’ Days and wedding anniversaries are what you make of them, regardless of where you are, or whatever the circumstances.
But do you know what? We enjoyed ourselves, we had fun, and we loved each other through everything. And now, my dad is enjoying Fathers’ Day with his heavenly Father, and enjoying his true Sabbath rest.
Yes, my first Fathers’ Day without my dad is difficult, and I most certainly miss having him around.
But I also remember his dedication. God’s people still need to be fed. The Word still needs to be preached. The message of sin and grace still needs to be heard. Jesus needs to be the Lord and Saviour of all.
Over the years, I’ve heard people lament over the death of their father by saying such things as: “I wish I could have seen dad again,” or “I wish that I could have told dad this or that,” or some other regret.
Thankfully, I don’t have those regrets. Dad told me everything he wanted to tell me, and I was able to tell him everything I wanted to tell him. I was able to be with him a lot during his final days on earth, and my mother and I were with him when he drew his final breath. Dad testified to his faith in Jesus Christ, and he knew he was going to heaven enfolded in the arms of his Saviour.
Dad’s death came as a blessed release from a miserable disease. He filled his final days as full as he could. He tried to beat the disease, but pancreatic cancer has a higher than average mortality rate. He was always hopeful, but also realistic. We prayed that God’s will would be done in his life, and indeed it was.
Today, we can indeed be thankful for our fathers, whether they are living or not. I’m thankful for mine, and I rejoice that he is now enjoying the best Fathers’ Day he ever has, with his Father in heaven.
NOTE: If you would like to read the obituary from my father's funeral, go to the tab marked "Dad's Obituary" on the left-hand side of the homepage screen.