Being that we are celebrating Fathers’ Day this weekend, I invited a younger Dad, in our midst, to reflect on the Scriptures today in the light of his role. He shall remain anonymous in this venue for personal reasons. I think he has given us some rather good thoughts to ponder–enjoy!
Thank you, Kathy, for the opportunity to speak here today. Kathy asked me to speak to
everyone gathered here because Father’s Day is tomorrow and I’m a father. I haven’t been one for very long, so what I say here today may very well be wrong – and I hope the fathers in the room will tell me as much afterwards. More fathers need to talk to fathers about being fathers. I, of course, wouldn’t be much of one without [my wife]. You may have met our little guy in back there. He’s new to all of this, but he’s doing a very good job of learning and we’re very proud of him for that. I know it can be disruptive at times, and I thank all of you for your patience with that. But as I’m sure you all know from your experience with All Are One, learning and progress are disruptive. For that matter, Christ was disruptive, and Christianity is disruptive. And I think that’s because love is disruptive and all of these things are in their strongest form when they focus on love. Of course it is also a trying time to be a father, having to fight a resurgent toxic masculinity that urges simple and destructive answers. The last two weeks have been no respite as we learn of the violations of human rights occurring on our southern border where children and infants are being taken from their parents and held in inexcusable conditions because their parents did not happen to be born in the right place. There cannot be a just society that puts children in cages, and if there were ever a task to test how disruptive of the status quo love can be, this is it.
In the Gospel today (because I have no idea what to do with the other two readings), we hear about Jesus trying to teach the disciples about the reign of God using stories of things that start small and then grow and flourish. Around Father’s Day that might remind us of parenthood and seeing our little ones grow from tiny mustard seeds into beings we can read with, and talk to, and on whose branches birds can come nest (you do have to wonder where Jesus’ audience were getting their mustard seeds). The analogy gets a little strained because I don’t think we should ever intend to “harvest” our children; I know I’d be more partial to [our little boy] growing unharvested to have metaphorical birds rest in his metaphorical branches. But Jesus was using
these stories to explain the “reign of God”, and presumably God is the “sower” of the seed in these stories.
At least that’s what I thought at first. There are many places in our society and our philosophy where notions of fatherhood are undergoing significant change today. We might traditionally be expected to understand a father as the sower of the seed—a simple creator. But I think that as more men resist limiting patriarchal norms and come to understand what women and mothers have always known about what children need, we should consider that the seed can be sown in any manner of ways, but what makes the real difference is the soil. In fact, our roles as mothers, fathers, and community members might be better understood not as sowers but as soil. For it is the soil that nurtures and teaches and provides what the seed needs to grow. While the soil cannot supply everything and plants will always face challenges that restrict them from growth, it is the soil which essentially says “yes” to the seeds and it is this “yes” that spurs their growth. As the ground and soil for the next generation we shelter our seeds and have to be firm with our “no’s” when it comes to something unwise or dangerous. But these “no’s”
never need to come from a place of belittlement, anger, or jealousy. They are always “no’s” in service to some greater ”yes”: wisdom, life, the benefits of less processed sugar. A parable is also a way of teaching that says “yes” by connecting to ideas that are already familiar in an audience. It teaches by saying, “Yes. You already know this, but in a different form.” Maybe a good way to think of fatherhood, whether it be in God or a human father, is as the art and work of saying “yes”. We may want to move on from simply being creators, and explore the part of creating that lives on in creat-ivity — a work that is never done. Just as the parable assumes the soil has a (complicated) way of saying yes to the seeds that grow in it, so we as fathers should commit to the art and work of saying yes to those who depend on us, whether it be at our southern border, our congregation, or our very own families.