June 18, 2017 Sermon (Father’s Day)
Last Sunday, we talked about the Holy Trinity and its images and symbols. I mentioned that the patriarchal language of Father and Son can be oppressive to some people; mostly women and those who have bad memories of their fathers. Today is Father’s Day, and this day also can be an unpleasant or hurtful day for some. There are children who suffered either the absence or the inadequacies of their fathers. Some fathers are negligent; some fathers are abusive; some fathers are overly controlling, as some mothers are too. I would like to start my Father’s Day reflection by acknowledging those who cannot rejoice on Father’s Day. Apart from the absent and inadequate fathers, there are gay men with a lot of love to give but cannot have children. There are men and women who have to be both father and mother; including gay men and women who are parents.
When we step outside the gender binary imposed by the society, we’ll see that fathers come in many forms, including women who “father” their children as well as mother them. The gender of the parent is ultimately not important; what is important is what the parent/ parent figure should do and be. The parable that is commonly called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son/ Lost Son” shows us what a father/ parent should be.
We are all familiar with this story; the second born son asked for his inheritance money, left home, and squandered it away. Then when he became desperate, he realized that his father’s servants were better treated than him, decided to go back home and beg to be received, not as a son (because how could he after what he had done), but as a servant. But the father ran out even before he reached home, hugged him, ordered good clothes and a banquet for his return. His older brother who had always been a good and faithful son got jealous and resentful.
Since we are reading this parable on the Father’s Day, let’s just focus on the father, although in general, this elder son’s resentment is crucial to the lesson. From this story, we learn that a father is someone who loves unconditionally and forgives infinitely. There is nothing so bad a child can do that will make the father reject him or her. That is why whenever we hear stories of parents rejecting or disowning children who come out as gay, we are shocked and outraged. There are a lot of homeless gay teenagers because their parents kicked them out for being gay. This is not what a father/ parent should ever do. Parents should love and accept their children unconditionally. No conditions. Period.
This parable is intended to teach about God as our loving father/ parent. With the “Father God” language, we have been forced to think of God as our Heavenly Father; but since there are people who have been hurt by their fathers or suffered the absence of their fathers, let’s not be forced to call God our father. God could be our father, mother, uncle or auntie, faithful friend; anything we need God to be. Of course, if we had a bad father or grew up without one, we can receive God as the good father we’ve never had. What a comfort!
On this Father’s Day, let us remember our biological fathers, step fathers, or any parent figure who played an important part in our lives and had a positive influence on us. Let us remember women in our lives; biological mothers, step mothers and all who mother us in different ways. Let us remember gay dads and moms, gay couples who long to become parents but have to face the many challenges and obstacles. Let us remember men and women who don’t have children, not by choice. Let us remember transgender men and women, both with and without children; because Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, is about family; not just for biological fathers. And family is much wider than our immediate family, since we believe in God’s community inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, on this day, let us think not only of our immediate families but the much bigger family of God’s kingdom that we are commissioned to form. Oh, and by the way, let’s thank our fathers.
Rev. Sunny Kim