This Sunday, June 18, is Father’s Day — the day when we honor fathers, father figures, and paternal bonds. I did a little research (thank you, Wikipedia!), and found out that the holiday was founded by Sonora Smart Dodd as a complement to Mother’s Day. Dodd and her five siblings were raised by her single father. When she heard a Mother’s Day sermon at Central Methodist Episcopal Church in 1909, she told the pastor that there should be a similar holiday honoring fathers. The first celebration was held at a YMCA in Spokane, WA, on June 19, 1910.
For those of us who have wonderful fathers, Father’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate them, as well as the contributions they have made to our lives, to our families, and to the world. But the day can be sad for those of us whose beloved fathers have passed away. And it might be painful for those who have a strained relationship with or who are estranged from their fathers or who simply don’t have a father.
A quick skim through our scriptures reveals a wide range of different fathers. Adam is the first father, but his son Cain kills his other son Abel. The patriarch Abraham was rewarded for his great faith with his son Isaac, even though Abraham and Sarah were long past child-bearing age. But then he also sacrificed Isaac (at God’s command!), and he put his other son Ishmael (by his wife’s maid Hagar) out of the camp to wander in the desert with his mother. Far worse were Manassah and Ahaz, who sacrificed their children to idols! Jesus’ earthly father Joseph might be the best of the lot, since, against all common sense, he married the mysteriously pregnant Mary and helped raise a most extraordinary boy!
Perhaps the most loving father figure in the bible is the father in Jesus’ story of the Prodigal son — the father who comes running to embrace his wastrel of a son who has finally come home. This father is simply loving and caring and forgiving and compassionately parental. This figure is one of the most enduring images of God that the Bible presents — the God whom Jesus himself called “Abba,” which is an intimate term of endearment in Aramaic, rather like “Daddy.”
May you all have a wonderful day this Sunday, and no matter what Father’s Day means to you, be assured that our loving God who is your heavenly Father (and Mother!) is always rushing to embrace you!