Monday, June 16, 2014

In consideration of Father's Day, A Message Delivered to the Congregation of Tapestry Ministries, Disciples of Christ Church

Prayer, In the name of Jesus, my own great appreciation for Father’s Day –

Before I get into today’s message, just for a moment I invite each of us to meditate on the sacred text, to really engage what these text’s mean to us today as Christians and people of faith.
Ephesians 6:1-4

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”[a]

Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Joel 2:28-32
“And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance,
    as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
    whom the Lord calls.[a]

I.     The Calling of a Prophet
Today’s message is about God’s deep and intimate love embodied in each one of us here today. Beloved, love inhabits the heart, soul and mind of each of us.  It is proclaimed as we choose to give it place through our actions.  And so today we celebrate God’s love as exhibited through those who live out the role and presence of the father today.   We celebrate this day acknowledging that the title of “father’ is an access point to a much larger, dynamic and more diverse inclusive human presence.  This message also acknowledges the  various challenges and concerns encountered each day by father’s as well as mother’s, as they seek to grow, in partnership with God a progeny meant to impart God’s message of hope to communities of people who long for the day of jubilee, when liberation of heart, soul and mind would be made real.   In the context of this message the father, like the mother, is called to usher in the day of the lord and in this sense they take on the mantle of the prophet.

The foundational thoughts for this message are How shall the father instill hope, How shall the father instill strength, How shall the father instill freedom and liberation. 

While my desire is to bring a hopeful message on this father’s day, to gather around a peculiar faith grounded in the grace and mercy poured out for us in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the awesome love of God, I cannot ignore or overlook the reality, or the context in which the father lives.  The reality of the New Jim Crow, the murder of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and Stand your Ground, Stop and Frisk, an ever increasing poverty rate, homelessness, and a broken immigration system, an overcrowded prison industrial complex and mass shootings, in a country where, for some, the murder of innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as the recent shootings in Santa Barbara, and gang violence exists on the periphery of a second amendment more important than the lives of our children.   I cannot ignore or overlook these realities.  I must also lift up the father’s who long to be with their children, whether separated because they came out as LGBTQ or because of incarceration or some other form of separation.  How does the family reckon with this?  Even more so, how do we as a society and church reckon with this calculated and unfortunate situation.   Beloved, I, for one, cannot ignore or negate a particular longing present even in these circumstances that father’s want to love and, yes, to be loved.  I ask then, “What is a father without love?” 

Prayerfully reflecting on the sacred text I am mindful that scripture emerges from an engagement of the situations, challenges and joys of real life.  The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6:1-4 and the prophetic writings of Joel 2:28-32 were written to address particular concerns and challenges of the human condition in their time and we are blessed by the wisdom of these writings poured into our time.  For me these scriptures beg a question, “How does the father proclaim the love of God in the midst of good and/or trying times?  What does the father say?  And to what end is the father’s love.   I know there were many times when I asked these questions of myself as I talked with my own children living through our changes in life.   

II.        Faith of our Fathers

The father imparts wisdom to God’s progeny knowing that God has a passion, mission, and purpose for the child’s life and in this sense the child must be considered a new hope, even a new intimate revelation.  As it is written in Matthew 19:13-15

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.  But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  Jesus said, let the children come to me, and do not hinder them because the kingdom of heaven belongs to these.  When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. 

Looking at the actions of Jesus we see a man, a prophet, a rebellious fellow,  even the son of God acknowledging and respecting the sacredness of children.   And this is the father’s call as he moves in the footsteps of Jesus.

We must be mindful though that the forces of empire are very much aware of the powerful presence of the father in the life of the family.  You might say that this particular text Matt 19:13-15 is a dangerous biblical text to those who embrace a people enslaved to the oppressions which define, for some such as myself, life in the U.S.   Looking at the mass shootings by youth from seemingly stable families, the influx of drugs in the ghetto’s, and barrio’s, the charge for wealth and gain all work in tandem to separate the family in thought, word and deed ensuring that privilege for the few remains steady similar in this sense to the plantation culture of the old south.   

So, in the midst of these realities the father becomes the real and present hope as he exhibits a particular courageousness, rebuking, by his very presence structures meant to maintain the oppressions that inhabit life in America.  I can’t help but think of Martin Luther King’s father and what he instilled in his son to cause or compel his son to become the man who had a dream.  What manner of father was this?  What manner of love is this?  

I am sure that each of us could think on this even in our own lives. 

III.  The Father, A household of love and the sharing of God’s peace (Joel 2:28-32)

In the midst of a mufti-faceted life today, Fathers and mothers, more than ever are called to create and maintain a household of love.  Beloved, love requires toughness, attention, dedication, a committed time together as a family.   Giving up or saying “I have had enough” through action or inaction is not an option” simply because the work is so great, so important.  As we do our work as father’s, mother’s, parents, we work not just for the fierce urgency of “now” but for the new horizons of tomorrow and God’s calling upon their life.  God’s peace emerges as we see God’s children become fully engaged in the daily affairs of life.  

Father’s day is a day to appreciate the love of God through the Father figure, through the one who would seek to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.