Fathers ~ Heros Mei Semper!
Old Testament Reading- Proverbs 4:1-9
New Testament Reading- 1 John 3:1-3
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -June 20, 2021
I guess when I was growing up, I didn’t think much about what my father did in his role of being a father. I knew that he worked a lot, often multiple jobs, but that he also found time to coach mine and my brother’s baseball teams. In fact, I was mad at him for a while when he left as the coach of my team to go coach my brother’s team. I just couldn’t understand it, my mother told me it was only fair and eventually I accepted it, but really Dad, we went from the second-best team in the league to the last, at twelve that is hard to swallow. I always knew though that whatever my brother and I did, we would have our father’s support, within reason that is.
When we think of fathers, we often think of lessons taught, protection, teaching us how to be in the outdoors, how to fix things, and for discipline or what some call, tough love. My father taught me many lessons, and I wasn’t always the best student. I was strong willed, some call it stubborn, I call it strong willed when it applied to me. I could be a know-it-all, impatient, and sometimes I just couldn’t have cared less about what he was trying to teach me. I can remember being around 14 or 15 years old, I swear I got a lecture every single day. I felt like more of a nuisance to Dad than anything, how could he love someone like me, what a screwup I thought I was. How could I ever live up to where I could fill his shoes. I am not saying that is how he meant me to feel, but at the time, that is how a teenager takes it.
As I got older, I found that I was more like my Dad than I realized, maybe sometimes, too much. Over the years we have learned a lot about each other, our similarities and our differences. I have learned that my Dad will always be in charge, and finally at my age, I’m ok with that. I also have learned how to discern emotion where not too many people can. My dad is not quite the grizzly bear that he portrays himself to be. Sorry Dad, let that secret slip. I guess, over the years, I have discovered not just the man who my father was, but the man my mother fell in love with. That is what today is about, what is at the heart of a father.
I have discovered not just the man who my father was, but the man my mother fell in love with.
A little over a month ago was Mother’s Day and, in that message, I talked about how caring, compassionate, and loving mothers can be. Fathers are no different, but often in a much different way. First of all, fathers are lazier than mothers, maybe lazy isn’t a good word for what I mean, as many fathers are not lazy at all. Fathers strive though to make things easier, to do things the easy way. We all know God’s wisdom in leaving childbirth up to women, if it were up to men the world’s population would be much less. If men would have been tasked with childbirth, I have no doubt, we would have figured out a way to be like the marsupials and give birth at a very small size and carry the young one around in a sack, that is a father. In the autumn, fathers don’t rake leaves they blow them away with a high-powered blower. Fathers don’t use hand saws anymore, they use power saws and nowadays, not even one with a cord on it, that’s too much bother, battery operated will work just fine. Cut down a tree with an axe, yeah right, pull out the gas-powered chainsaw and take the thing down quick. Like I said fathers do it easier.
Even how fathers interact with their children can be different than how mothers do it. For example: My wife calls upstairs to our son’s bedroom to tell him to come down and get ready to go to the store. “Zach, come on down honey we are getting ready to go to the store.” Me: pound on the wall at the bottom of the steps- “Yo, let’s go.” Here’s the funny part, she always would say to me, “be nice,” to which I would say, “I am, he gets it.” If my wife would have said that the same way, he would have thought she was mad at him, with me, he just knows I’m not wasting words. From a fourteen-word question to a three-word statement, that is a father.
Fathers are also known to be fierce protectors. In my Mother’s Day sermon, I mentioned watching a program on television about a pride of lions. In this pride there were many females, and cubs, but there were only three adult male lions. In everyday life it looks as though the females do everything, and mostly, they do. The females kill prey to feed the pride, they take care of the cubs, and they scout out the area to keep tabs on the herds. The lionesses are well equipped to take good care of themselves and each other in most instances, but there are times when that can change. In the video a pack of hyenas move into the lion’s territory and try to gang up on the lionesses. They put up a gallant fight, but the numbers are too great, the risk is too high. Who would take care of the cubs? Soon the calls of the lionesses have attracted the attention of the males. They charge into the melee, heedless of harm, the pride is in danger. These three lions make short work of the hyenas, one or two males may have had trouble, but three adult male lions are unstoppable, they don’t call them king of the jungle for nothing. If you couldn’t understand the lions role in the pride before the attack, you definitely could now. I can tell you, I never worried about someone coming against our family growing up. I had a father that could protect his own. We often equate this with strength, and even though, as an adult, I know strength isn’t in violence, as a child it feels good knowing your father has your back.
Our Old Testament lesson today teaches us to allow ourselves to be taught wisdom by our father when it says, “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”
Wisdom is something they do not teach in schools. Wisdom combined with understanding is
unstoppable and is more valuable than money. A large part of our wisdom is to know and understand that we also have a father, and not just a father, but an Almighty Father in heaven. Many, many times in the Bible scripture points to this, Deuteronomy 6:6-7 states, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Again, in Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Scripture also reminds us of God’s strength and love in Deuteronomy 1:29-31, “Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’”
Unfortunately, not all human fathers are great ones, sometimes we find other people in our lives that fill that role more adequately and sometimes they are not even men. One thing you can always count on though is your Father in heaven. He loves us beyond words and if you will allow Him, you can feel His warm embrace. Our New Testament lesson tells us, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” What great love God has for us, so much so that He gave us His only Son to be the sacrifice to save us all, so that we may be where He is forever.
One thing you can always count on though is your Father in heaven. He loves us beyond words and if you will allow Him, you can feel His warm embrace.
When I became a father, I learned just how smart my father really was and that being a father isn’t always easy, but it is the best thing I have ever been in my life. It is the greatest responsibility, the greatest challenge, the longest hours, the longest lectures, and the most wonderful joy. I have learned that a father is not a friend, not a buddy, not a mother, and not a boss. I have learned that a father can be each of these things at certain instances or at different times in our lives, but a father is much more, it is the biggest insight into what God may feel about us, His children. I can see now why he is so forgiving of our stupidity and our never-ending mistakes. As I felt a nuisance to my own father during my teenage years, we often feel unworthy of God the Father’s love and mercy. Know this though, God loves us more than you could ever imagine, all you need to do is seek Him out, He is waiting for each and every one of us. If we can be forgiving of our own children, and we are imperfect, how much more will God forgive us? Infinitely more.
As I felt a nuisance to my own father during my teenage years, we often feel unworthy of God the Father’s love and mercy.
In my Mother’s Day sermon, I told you that I gave a Latin motto to mothers, ‘Semper Amandum,’ which means, ‘Always Loving’. So, to fathers, what comes to my heart is this “Heros Mei Semper,” always my hero. That is what a good father is to me. That is how I feel about my earthly father, the man who showed me how to live, not always by word, but by deed. I thank God the Father for all that He has done for us and continues to do for us, and for taking that little bit of Himself and infusing our earthly fathers with that spark of awe and respect that allows them all to be our heroes. Thanks be to God, Amen.