Today is Father’s Day and a day when we reflect I suppose on what it means for someone to Father well .. what are the qualities of Fatherhood we look for in someone who will father us..and in various ways how we will father others. Whether our actual Father’s with all their limits and failings or those who act in a fatherly way towards us .. most of all to a God we so often call Father!!
We have I think a tendency to think of good fathering as being strong and instructive and perhaps protecting .. and this is of course part of what we hope for from Father’s and indeed God. But it is not the whole picture because our passages this morning invite us to think of a more mature kind of fathering .. a different stage of fathering perhaps we might say .. a fathering which knows when to leave us alone to get on with life because that is how we grow and learn once we are older.
Imagine in it in relation to the father of the prodigal son whose story you will remember. In this story the original fathering is a fathering which gives in to the longing for freedom within each one of us. We relate to the prodigal son not just because of the need for forgiveness and restoration he shows us but because we also relate to his original desire to make his own decisions .. to go off into the wildness of our own desires and creative longings .. to explore the world and in doing so to perhaps squander and spend some of what God has given us in our lives. And yet our good Father embraces this wild and free part of life .. in the way any good Father must. Without our freedom and independence what we truly are cannot be revealed.
So Fathering is about strength and protection yes .. and God is a source of strength and security .. but good Fathering is also about allowing us the independence to explore who we are and what we might be able to become through creativity and wildness. And God is also a source of such freedom and generosity of heart.
In the parable we read it was taught that the seed must be left alone to grow and sprout without tinkering .. I’ve learned that in both parenting and gardening over the years .. too much attention and tinkering is no good for growth. The seed produces the stalk and head and full kernell through being left to do what it was planted for. The loving intention is still there but it is the seed which if left will grow to be the thing it was intended to be .. to fulfil its purpose!
When we pray Our Father then we have a model of the prodigal’s Father who sent his son off with a generous spirit and resources to go into the world. A good Father who did not want to limit or contain his child and all the exploring they might do and what they might become through it. A Father whose strength meant letting go and being willing to see what such freedom might produce. And when things became difficult went to meet his child on the desert track and show them the way home.
This is Our Father in heaven. The One who does not simply embrace and protect but allows us to share in the gift of life so fully that God sends us out to choose how we will spend our days and our lives. God, through Jesus, opens our eyes to the freedom of wandering into the big wide world with wonder and certainty that wherever we find ourselves Our Father will not be far from us keeping us as the apple of His eye.
What a wonderful model of Fathering for us to reflect on this day. A Father in heaven who trusts us to be left alone .. to grow in ways which are unique to us and allow us to make the most of the gift of life. A Father in heaven who takes pride and joy in you and me even when we make mistakes is a generative presence in our lives through the message of Jesus of our promised welcome home at the end of our wanderings!
2 Corinthians 5
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Mark Chapter 4
The Parable of the Growing Seed 26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” 30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” 33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
On this Fathering Sunday, we remember all the people who have nurtured us, especially the important men in our lives, those who have seen, not just with their eyes, but with their heart. Hear our prayer for fathers around the world…
We remember fathers, whose families are torn apart by jealousy, fighting and misunderstandings.
We remember fathers who are older, but who still bear the responsibility of raising children and grandchildren. And we remember fathers who mean well, but make mistakes…….
We remember fathers who are unable to support their children, and are forced into unimaginable decisions, who have to sell a child into marriage or human trafficking in order to feed his other children ….
We remember men who, because of various circumstances, are unable to become fathers. We remember fathers who have adopted children and fathers who given up their rights as fathers…
We remember fathers who rejoice in the achievements of their children. Who joyfully watch a new generation take hold. We remember fathers who are single parents, who through personal sacrifice and perseverance provide a loving home for their children….
We remember fathers who helplessly watch their children suffer and die from malnutrition because of famine, drought, flood or war. We pray for the fathers where recent disasters have occurred and those taking their children in hope onto the high seas. We remember fathers whose children are sick or disabled and who will try anything to cure or help them…
Nurturing God, thank you for those who have nurtured us. Open our eyes to the plight of so many fathers and mothers around the world for whom life is difficult. Help us share your love and mercy with them…
In the silence of this moment, hear the prayers of our hearts. [pause]