Sunday, June 16, 2019
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
In the winter of 1993, there was a fascinating story about a remarkable, heartwarming discovery, made by workers at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
While renovating a section of the museum, they found a photograph that had been hidden in a gap underneath a display case. The man in the picture had a bat resting on his shoulder; he was wearing a uniform with the words “Sinclair Oil” printed across his chest; he looked like a gentle and friendly man.
Stapled to the picture was a note, scribbled in pen. The note read: “You were never too tired to play ball. On your days off, you helped build the Little League Field. You always came to watch me play. You were a Hall of Fame Dad. I wish I could share this moment with you. -- Your Son, Pete.”
Isn’t that beautiful? A boy named Pete found a creative way to put his dad into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
This morning I would like to talk about what it takes to be a Hall of Fame Dad, or for that matter Mom . . . or Aunt or Uncle or Grandparent.
Now I know that our church calendar says that this is “Trinity Sunday.” And I know that many of you came to worship today yearning for a deep, theological treatise on the meaning of the Trinity. You were, weren’t you?
But doesn’t the doctrine of the Trinity say to us among other things that the first Hall of Fame Dad was God? After all, the first two persons of the Trinity in traditional religious language are the Father and the Son.
I can see why women would feel left out whenever we use that language. I hope you know that I know that God is Spirit and not flesh and therefore has no gender. But change is slow in an institution like ours. Please bear with me.
Today we salute our fathers. Dad, we love you. The role of a Christian father is more important in today’s world than ever before. Being a Dad is a different role than in earlier generations. In most households today Dad is called upon to play more of a nurturing role in caring for children. If Mom works outside the home, Dad must take a more active role, an equal role, in doing household chores.
The most common image that Jesus used in describing God was that of “Father.” I think Joseph must have been a very special kind of dad. We center much of our attention on his mother, Mary, but Joseph surely combined those very special qualities of strength and gentleness that we associate with Jesus.
Jesus had a very keen knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures. In the Jewish home it was the father who had the primary responsibility for his son’s religious instruction. Of course, we know that Jesus had a unique relationship with God. Still, I have to believe that Joseph, though barely mentioned, was probably an influential role model for Jesus. Why else would Jesus have chosen the imagery of “Father” to portray God? Why would He also have taught us to address God as “Abba, Daddy”? My guess is that Jesus had a wonderful relationship with both His earthly father and His Heavenly Father, the same kind of wonderful relationship He had with His mother.
Now someone is going to say, “Well, Joseph wasn’t His real father.” As far as I’m concerned, there are many Dads who aren’t biological Dads, who function more as a real Dad than many biological Dads. Today we honor all the men in our congregation who put in the time, love and instruction to be a Dad to a young person regardless of whether they have a blood relationship or not. The same thing is true of our women. Some of the greatest moms in the world are not biologically related to the children they love and influence. Some may be a grandmother or aunt or stepmom or whatever. These Mom substitutes are the child’s real Mom just as some men who aren’t biologically related are their children’s real Dad. So, we ask the question: what does it take to be a Hall of Fame father?
Today’s average American father gives undivided attention to his children only thirty-eight seconds a day, thirty-eight seconds a day! That’s scary! He does, however, give them partial attention for an additional twenty minutes while he is otherwise engaged, watching TV or working on some project.
That’s a problem for both our sons and daughters, but perhaps more so for our sons. Many people believe there’s confusion among young men today about what it means to actually be a man. Think of how many single moms there are today struggling to bring up their son without an appropriate role model. That’s the first attribute for a Hall of Fame Dad: he makes time for his children.
Here’s the second, he makes certain that his children know the difference between right and wrong. Am I the only person concerned about the moral downward slide of our society? I know, I’m a pastor. I’m supposed to be concerned about such things. But we’re very quickly becoming an “anything goes” society, and we wonder why our families are coming apart?
I know that there are many influential people in our society who no longer believe that there are any absolute values, which is crazy! I’ll bet they’d convert to absolute standards of conduct if someone stole their car, bullied one of their children, ran off with their spouse. They and you would feel that something sacred had been violated and you’d be right!
Notice what Jesus says in John 16. Jesus is talking to His disciples about the Holy Spirit that is to come upon His disciples. Listen to what He says: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
Isn’t this a primary characteristic of a Hall of Fame Dad? He leads his children into truth. But what if Dad is confused about what is true and what is false, particularly when there’s so much false information nowadays?
Three brothers, ages 12, 8 and 4, were playing outside, a little ways away from the house. Dad had a special call when it was time to come in. Supper time came and dad called. The boys weren’t ready to come in and kept playing. Later, Dad called a second time and the boys still wouldn’t come. They were busy playing. The third time Dad called was in a voice that told them he meant business. The boys came running into the house. When the four-year-old passed Dad, he said, “Daddy, we didn’t hear you the first two times you called.”
Nothing like that happens in your home, does it? Of course, they heard Dad or Mom the first two times. And, of course, you wouldn’t have made a big deal about such a small transgression. But in today’s world especially, it’s important that we bring up our children as people of character and honor, people who know the difference between right and wrong, people who tell the truth. We’re not going to get role models for such upright behavior out of Hollywood or Washington, D.C., are we? We have to see models of character and morality in our own homes.
We need Dads who will show their children how much they love them. I love to see a young father who is able to express his love physically for his children. Fathers in our parents and grandparents’ generation often weren’t able to do that.
Comedian Ray Romano, who starred for so many years in the popular sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, was asked in an interview if his parents were funny people. He said that his mother was very creative, but his father was more eccentric. Ray’s father loved him, but he didn’t express that love very easily. Ray said, “I used to say that if my father had hugged me once, I would’ve been an accountant. I wouldn’t need to do comedy.” Of course, some of these fathers of earlier generations expressed their love in other ways.
When Hank Aaron was just a boy, he learned a powerful lesson about love and sacrifice from his father. Every day, Hank’s father would give him a quarter to buy his lunch at school. Hank knew that his father skipped lunch each day so that he could give his son that quarter. If he ever doubted his father’s love for him, that quarter reminded him of how far his father would go to provide for him.
There are many ways a father can communicate his love for his children. I hope those of you who are fathers are exploring every one of them. I wish we could put up a Hall of Fame in our church for fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers and aunts and uncles and foster parents and stepparents and all those adults young and old who are involved in having a positive influence on our young people. I know your names are written in the Book of Life.
We’re facing some real problems in our society . . . and I don’t know anyone who can make a big enough dent in those problems except those who are raising our children. Can we count on you to be a Hall of Fame Dad or a Hall of Fame Mom by giving your time, by teaching your children the difference between right and wrong, and by showing them the love of Jesus Christ who showed us how much His Father loves Him and how much His Father loves each of us?
Today we celebrate the Trinity and what our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit has done and does for us. Today, we rejoice that we have the best Father ever, that He loves us beyond our imagination, that He sent His Son to pay for our sins and sent His Holy Spirit to us to guide us into morality and love for each other. We praise the Trinity in unity and the unity in Trinity. As we confessed in the Athanasian Creed.