Happy Father Day!
Wishing all Fathers a most blessed Father’s Day! This includes those dads who shared in the birth of their children, but also those dads who are fathers by choice. Whether they helped raise their children, shared in caring for any child, or just served as a positive role model in any capacity, this day is dedicated to them. But I propose this day, as in every day, be also dedicated to the Father of us all.
“ Give ear to my words, O LORD; give heed to my sighing. Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray. O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you. The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful. But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me”.
The Origins of Father’s Day
The campaign to celebrate the nation’s fathers did not meet with the same enthusiasm–perhaps because, as one florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.” A West Virginia church sponsored the nation’s first event explicitly in honor of fathers. A “Father’s Day” service was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father when, on December 1907, the Monongah Mining Disaster in nearby Monongah killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children. Clayton suggested her pastor Robert Thomas Webb to honor all those fathers. Clayton chose the Sunday nearest to the birthday of her father, Methodist minister Fletcher Golden. Clayton’s event did not have repercussions outside of Fairmont for several reasons, among them: the city was overwhelmed by other events, the celebration was never promoted outside of the town itself and no proclamation was made in the City Council.. The original sermon was not reproduced in press and it was lost. Finally, Clayton was a quiet person, who never promoted the event or even talked to other persons about it. Clayton also may have been inspired by Anna Jarvis’ crusade to establish Mother’s Day; two months prior, Jarvis had held a celebration for her dead mother in Grafton, West Virginia, a town about 15 miles (24 km) away from Fairmont. A Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910. In 1911, Jane Addams proposed a city-wide Father’s Day in Chicago, but she was turned down. In 1912, there was a Father’s Day celebration in Vancouver, Washington, suggested by Methodist pastor J. J. Berringer of the Irvingtom Methodist Church. They believed mistakenly that they had been the first to celebrate such a day. They followed a 1911 suggestion by the Portland Oregonian. Harry C. Meek, member of Lions Clubs International, claimed that he had first the idea for Father’s Day in 1915. Meek claimed that the third Sunday of June was chosen because it was his birthday . The Lions Club has named him “Originator of Father’s Day”. Meek made many efforts to promote Father’s Day and make it an official holiday.
Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1916, President Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day. However, many men continued to disdain the day. As one historian writes, they “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.” In 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday at last. Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.
So as we celebrate dads everywhere on this day, I suggest we also celebrate our Father, who has given His children so much. By simply confessing our sins to the most holy Father, all is forgiven and we are surrounded by His “steadfast love”. Palm 32 reminds us of this: “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart”.
In Luke 7:36-8:3, we learn about a woman, a sinner, who learning of Jesus’ visit to one of the Pharisee’s, brings in an alabaster jar. What happens to her, serves as an example of God’s love, and how, only through faith, are we truly saved.
“One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him–that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven. But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.”
On this day, I give thanks to my own father, our most heavenly Father, and also to those men now in my life who daily help this wayward daughter find her own path in faith. To my Dominican Father, and Brothers, and to those “fathers” in OCACNA, I am honored and humbled by your generosity and love. Thank you for not only showing me the way, but also giving me a helping hand when I stumble.