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F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Sermons -- Audio Version
Trinity III - 06/20/10 Father's
Jer. 31:1-14; Psalm 27; I Peter 5:5b-11; Luke 15:1-10
Happy Father's Day! ...to God and to all of us human fathers...!
There are some secular holidays which have themes appropriate for sermon topics -- not the least because the secular world co-opts many themes which are fundamental to the Christian life. Fatherhood is one of them. One can be glad that the secular world does (at least more or less...) honor Godly things.
If we Christians understood how properly to honor and uphold and manifest most of these Godly things, the secular world would be paying much more respect to the Christian faith. And fatherhood is among the chief of those. The radical side of the feminist movement has been eagerly behind the subversion of the Christian faith, with an agenda to subvert masculinity and manhood often openly expressed.
Clearly, women have legitimate complaints against the behavior of many men and in many cultures. But that works both ways. Men, on average, are about as abusive as women are. We do sometimes go about it in different ways. Any person will use his or her strengths in a contest of wills and power. Women have certain strengths of which men have less, and men have certain strengths of which women have less.
Godly persons use their strengths according to how those gifts from God are meant to be used, not in power struggles to dominate and control other persons, but to manifest strength, intelligence, and personal presence as Jesus would if He were among us today.
That, of course, is the point. We are the Body of Christ, we are to be Jesus present in the world around us. So we need to learn what the gifts we have are, and how to use them to the honor and glory of God. Fatherhood is one of them.
It all begins, oddly enough, at the beginning, with the creation story where we learn that we are created in the Image of God, male and female. That suggests two things, first that there is a dual spiritual quality in God which is reflected in our own gender nature. If we are like God, then God must also be like us. And secondly, that this Image of God must be important for the way God wants to conduct His cosmos.
That is clear from the Biblical notion of who God is, what it is that makes Him God. God is first of all the creator of all that is. Then, because He is the creator, He is also the Sovereign over all that is.
Ownership of what we create is a principle recognized in law. We give the inventor or author of something a special right to gain an income from that newly created thing -- he owns the right to create it for a while. We humans do not own what we create in the total sense that God does because we ourselves are created beings, so God owns whatever we produce. But we do have a partial right to determine how our new things will be used. God has an eternal and comprehensive ownership of all things, we have a partial and temporary ownership. Then at some point it enters the public domain.
The ownership comes because the creator of something (and only he), can determine, decide, the reason for the existence of that created thing. That is a logical fact having to do with the nature of creating. Creating is done by persons with an intention. We have and assign reasons to those objects we create. They are "for" something. They have a reason for existence. And just so, we also have a reason for our existence. We are for something.
That reason for existence is the basis for all "ought" and "obligation". Jesus was using that principle in Matthew 22, when He declared the meaning of the law -- that the two highest commandments are to love God and to love one another. That is why we exist.
The law is God giving us our meaning for existence. The Decalogue is God spelling out the practical details of those two highest laws. The first four commandments, called the First Table of the Decalogue, teach us our duty towards God. Those are examples of how we can love God. The six commandments of the "Second Table" of the law point to our obligations to each other. Doing those things are examples of how to be loving toward one another. Violating any of them is contrary to love of God or of neighbor.
The giving of the law, our purpose for existence, is the essence of fathering. The fathering role is spiritual authority, which is the essential complement to the mothering role of providing security and stability of our being. God gives us our being, and then He gives us our reason for being. It is all very logical, nothing mysterious about that. Mothering has to do with our being, and fathering has to do with our doing. Authority has to do with giving rational order to our doing, our activity.
When God creates human beings, He gives them a limited kingdom over which to rule, the kingdom of self. That means that God gives us a limited amount of creative ability. We are all creators by virtue of having a freewill. Every choice, every act of freewill, is bringing something new into being. Before I make a choice, I contemplate the possibilities. Those possibilities are still just possibilities. I will go to church this Sunday or I will go golfing. I can do either one of them. That is within my freewill capacity. If I am not programmed to do one or the other, if I am not forced by external constraints to do one or the other, then the choice really is mine.
God Himself recognized this capacity for freewill decision-making in us when He says to the Hebrews:
And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. Deut. 8:2
God tests us to find out what our heart intends, whether we intend obedience, whether we are willing to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbor just like we love ourselves -- or not. God tests us to find our deep inner intention, not just the surface intentions for which we can too easily manufacture a pose or an impression. God tests us to find out what is deep inside, how we will react under stress, in the heat of spiritual battle. God wants to know whether we will live in the light with Him, as He is in the light. Will we be open and honest with Him and with one another?
This is the fathering role -- the role of God for decision-making about our reason for existence -- and the human role of passing that decision on to children, and the human role of implementing that decision in society, in education, in politics and government, and in all aspects of society.
The Hebrew word for father is "ab", as in ABraham, father of a multitude. 'ab' means in Hebrew 'he who decides', 'the deciding one'. The father was expected to provide leadership for the family or clan, much as we see in strong, patriarchal families such as in the movie, "The Godfather". The mafia, for all its criminal intent, is sometimes an example of strong fatherhood. When dedicated to Godly ends, the effect is electric. Family life improves in every measurable perspective.
Joshua gives us an example of Godly fathering. The Hebrews had conquered much of the Promised Land, and Joshua was about to end his days. They gathered together to again reaffirm their covenant with God. Joshua challenges them:
And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15.
Even at the end of his life, he was giving direction to both his own family and to the whole Hebrew nation. Significantly, 'Joshua' is 'Yeshua', which in Hebrew means 'Yahweh Saves', or 'I AM saves' -- the name by which Jesus was called.
Jesus, the Son, tells His disciples:
...I do nothing on my own authority, but speak thus as the Father taught me. John 8:28.
The Father is the deciding One, the One who sets the direction and values for all of creation. The Son is the obedient One, who carries out the will of the Father in creation. We creatures are all called to be sons and daughters, children of God, likewise obedient to the will of the Father. We are to pursue our reason for existence with all of the talents and gifts with which we are bestowed, to love God and our neighbors with everything we have.
Well, needless to say, that is not the view of fatherhood abroad in America or hardly anywhere in the West today. We imagine ourselves to be "independent, autonomous decision-makers", just like the serpent was tempting Adam and Eve to declare themselves. They wanted the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil so as to be as smart as God, so that they could be independent of God in their decision-making. They rejected the fatherhood of God.
They, no doubt, did not realize that they were at the same time rejecting the motherhood of God, and with it their ontological security. The results were immediate. Both Adam and Eve became immediately insecure and defensive, hiding behind fig leaves and in the bushes, the opposite of what they expected. And they raised children who were defensive and insecure, one killing the other out of jealousy.
And from there, the world descended into a holocaust of evil and violence. The serpent had lied, they did not become as God, they fell into a world of descending chaos -- exactly where Satan wanted them, vulnerable, to be devoured by himself.
A world without the ordering principle of the love of God will always descend into that chaos. There is no other choice. It will always breed insecure and defensive persons, who then compulsively seek their security by controlling and manipulating others. When we fall, we lose both our ontological and moral stability. We severely compromise both the mothering and the fathering gifts which only God can give us.
The Fatherhood of God is always being eroded and attacked by demonic forces, and by human beings for whom their God-given kingdom of self is more important than the Kingdom of God, and who therefore are unwilling to submit their little kingdoms to that of God. Their kingdoms then become pernicious. That rejection of the fatherhood of God is sinful, suicidal, and stupid, but people do it anyhow.
This open rejection of the fatherhood of God happened in America at a specific point in our history. Christians should understand what happened to America because we Christians had fallen asleep in our various poppy fields, lost and disoriented in our own shabby independence from God.
In 1962, the Supreme Court of the United States officially and openly dismissed God from being sovereign over America. It had been coming for a long time. The inability of Christians to answer secular challenges eroded public confidence in the Bible, the Church, and in God Himself.
The Supreme Court Engel vs. Vitale decision to outlaw prayer in schools was not about prayer, it was about who was sovereign, to whom should we pray? To God or the Supreme Court. The Court declared that it, not God, was sovereign. And, as had been true for well over 100 years, Christians had no audible and credible response in protest. With a tip of the hat to pseudo-experts, we surrendered what God had given us at our founding after the revolutionary war, a nation aimed at being built on Godly principles.
America was not perfect, slavery was an unresolved issue, and the role of women was only marginally seen as part of the image of God. But the Spirit of God was still among the people in such a manner, that if we had pursued and completed the spiritual foundations of our republic under God, those unfinished issues would have been resolved, probably, as slavery in England, without a horrendous civil war.
It was no accident that immediately after that Engel v. Vitale decision, the immorality and criminal statistics began an almost vertical climb:
1. birth rates for unwed girls 15-19 years of age nearly tripled in 24 years from about 13 per 1000 girls to about 35 per 1000 girls.
2. Pregnancies to unwed girls under 15 years old climbed for 12 straight years from 5,000 to 25,000 per year, a five-fold increase.
3. the number of violent crimes, which had been just keeping pace with the population growth, skyrocketed in 28 years from about .3 million to 1.7 million, an increase of 6 times over that indicated by population growth.
4. Sexually transmitted diseases Gonorrhea: ages 15-19, per 100,000 population, climbed from 350 to 1300, a nearly fourfold increase in 12 years.
5. SAT scores plummeted from an average of about 970 dropping for 18 straight years to about 890. We have not recovered that ground.
6. Divorce rates, which had been dropping up to 1962, began a 17 year steady climb to three times their 1962 level.
7. Prior to 1962, our national non-farm productivity increase had been averaging just under 2% per year -- a healthy growth rate. From 1962 to 1989, the productivity increase dropped to just over 1/2% per year. A drop to about 1/3 of what it had been.
Fathering was passť, and the moral lid was off. We were disintegrating as a people.
If a foreign nation had done that to us, we would have considered it an act of war. But we Christians and Americans generally were so intellectually, morally, and spiritually dead that we allowed our politicians, and still allow them, to continue to act as though they are God. This intellectual, moral, and spiritual chaos is what we now honor as "freedom".
It was, and still is, clear evidence that the secular/pagan way does not, and cannot, work.
We threw out the fatherhood of God to replace it with the divinity of mother earth, Gaia, and a resurgent paganism.
The teaching of the fatherhood of God, and its absolute union with the motherhood of God, begins in our homes, and in our churches. In the Kingdom of God, there is not a hairline of divisive friction between mothering and fathering. No battle of the sexes. They are absolutely, indissolubly, and eternally wedded. The joy of the Lord issues out of that eternal wedding, and spills over into the creation, for those who will do as Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord...."
As we men learn what Joshua meant by that, and how to be the men God has called us to be in our time and place, both our personal spiritual lives and the public discussion will turn in a very different direction, working to restore Western Christian Civilization to its rightful place in the world, and going beyond that to be a powerful witness to the Fatherhood of God, Sovereign over all the world, bringing and establishing all the true and reliable freedom with which Christ has set us free.
Father in heaven, we, who call ourselves by the name of Christ, have sinned against You. We have betrayed our loyalty to You, we have played the harlot on the hill tops and under every green tree. We have allowed unbelievers to become the rulers not only of our nation, but even of our churches. Turn us around before we pass the point of no return, raise up fathers who understand and embody Your fatherhood. Bless the fathers of America so that we will soon again become like Joshua, and most of all like Your Son, Yeshua, in whose name we pray.
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