This Sunday is, for serious, my least favourite church service to plan each year. I don’t know if other pastors feel the same, but let me tell you: Father’s Day is a tricky one. Here is the tension:
1. Our men (and our dads) are awesome and I think it’s important to honour them, in the same way we honour our women (and moms) on Mother’s Day in May.
2. It’s really hard to honour men and dads in a culture where talking about dads and men is often a trigger for a whole lot of hard feelings…
In our church, for example, a good hunk of our kids who come to Sunday School don’t come to church with their dads. Their fathers may either be uninvolved, dead, attending another church (because of a divorce), or at home most Sundays. This makes talking about dads awkward, and makes it challenging to have an activity for them to honour dads. I think it’s often harder on the kids’ mothers or other guardians than the kids themselves. I have talked to more than one tearful mother on Father’s Day whose heart is broken because her child or children doesn’t have the relationship she wishes they could have with their father. It’s hard.
Then there are the people who are all grown up and who are still healing from broken relationships with the men in their lives. For many in our church talking about God as a Loving Father seems like an oxymoron because the idea of “loving” and “father” just don’t go together. Talking about and celebrating dads just seems like a kick in the teeth as they remember what they don’t have. It’s less obvious in adulthood when someone doesn’t have a dad to run to and hand a root beer during church, but the pain is still there.
I know the easy out would be to do nothing. The reality is Father’s Day is not a religious holiday. It is a relatively new invention of our culture, and the Church has absolutely no obligation to remember it. God is still God with or without Father’s Day.
But, for me, ignoring it doesn’t feel quite right. I think it doesn’t feel right for all the reasons I just mentioned that it’s hard. We actually need good dads, and when I see a dad working really hard to be a good one, especially when he often didn’t have a good example himself, I think it’s valuable for the church to say “We bless you in this.” “We see you trying.” “We are thankful.”
And so, this Sunday, we will give you a root beer. (We also have another very special treat, but that will have to be a surprise! Trust me – it’s good!). We will wait until the kids are in Sunday School to give the treats out so that our kids whose dads aren’t there won’t feel an unnecessary sting. We will do our best on a tricky day. We will do it because, men, you matter, and when things matter you push through the trickiness. You matter as boyfriends, husbands, friends, uncles, nephews, sons, grandsons, grandfathers, and dads. But mostly you matter because you are children of God. You matter because of who your Heavenly Father is. Men, I wish I could take your hearts and write that truth on it so deep that you’d never forget it. Since I can’t, I’ll give you a root beer, a prayer, and a blessing instead – and hope they go deep enough.