A FATHERS ADVICE
The Sunday on which we commemorate fathers has rolled around again.
A day that came into being by the initiative of a young woman, Sonora Dodd who
in 1909 wanted to honour her father for raising her and her siblings without the
benefit of his wife and the mother to his children, for she had died several years
A day that sees the fifth highest total sales of greeting cards each year,
and surely the highest total sales of ties for any one day, the third Sunday of
June was declared Fathers Day by a proclamation signed in 1966 by then US
president Lyndon Johnson.
But we might wonder a little bit about the whole mystery surrounding
father’s day. Wrapped in love most certainly, recognition of fathers, and mothers
in May, serves to focus our attention on family. A role that is taken on as a
volunteer, for no one gets a salary to do it, it has to remain one of the most
challenging of undertakings, particularly in these days in which we live. A job if
you want to call it that, that’s learned as one goes along. Full time, demanding,
with plenty of trips and falls and judgement, but one that brings with it necessity
A role that is ordained by God in the nature of things, we listen to the
words of this poem, whose author is unknown, entitled, What Makes a Dad.
“God took the strength of a mountain, the majesty of a tree, the warmth of a
summer sun, the calm of a quiet sea. The generous soul of nature, the
comforting arm of night, the wisdom of the ages, the power of the eagle’s flight.
The joy of a morning in spring, the faith of a mustard seed, the patience of
eternity, the depth of a family need. Then God combined these qualities - when
there was nothing more to add, he knew his masterpiece was complete, and so
he called it…Dad.”
Fitting sentiments, we would like to think that God was creating fatherhood
in his own image, and yet we know that fathers often fall short on attempting to
live up to the expectations. Some fathers, sadly, are just not up to the task and
fail miserably, while others seem to make it look the easiest thing in the world.
Some kids end up damaged, and others are well prepared for the road of life
But then that only applies to the strictly traditional view, doesn’t it? For
fatherhood is more than just that. Fatherhood could be thought of as anyone
who provides guidance and nurture – just like the man who, motivated by love
and willingness, adopts a child into his family; or the grandfather or uncle who
provides a father figure to a young boy whose father has passed away.
Or all the other ways that we use the word; for example, a father of the
church – a leader or founder. A father, in the title ascribed to the priest of a
parish, or the way in which, by the example of Christ we have permission to
address the Creator of all, by the most familiar of terms.
It’s about recognizing the duty of care; the care of the father, and the need
of the child. And care takes form in many different ways, as all of you fathers
know – being a provider for the family and often a decision-maker. Trying to see
what makes the most sense in which direction to take in navigating the minefields
of life; using correction when necessary to steer one clear of the pitfalls. Being a
loving and supportive spouse to the one with whom you share this family
And to be honest and truthful - even when it hurts. Just like God was to
the ancient people of Israel. Just like Jesus was in the face of his disciples and
the religious leaders. Dads know – sometimes the right thing isn’t the popular
thing. That the kids don’t want to hear it, and that their not quick to receive it.
But still it needs to be said. And the child needs to hear it. And with that
in mind, we have the theme of the message this morning. A Father’s Advice.
Not in the biological sense, but more in the sense of a church father; a spiritual
life overseer; a coach in the right things by which to grow in faith.
To hear from what scholars call “the most neglected letter in the New
Testament.” For the letter of Jude, it doesn’t even merit division into chapters.
Just 25 verses in length, it deals with a single stream of thought. Maybe like a
deacon standing up at an annual meeting to address a concern, or like the father
that sits a child down at the kitchen table. Jude was concerned with what seemed
to be a common issue for the church of the mid 60’s – a church that would have
been full of people who had known or heard of Jesus firsthand. Some of its
members may have been there at Golgotha; others may have been in the crowd
that saw the Risen Christ; the ones that should have been the most faithful.
And yet, it appears that in a short span of 30-some years after the fact, the
cracks were beginning to show. The rebellious years of youth had come upon the
church. The influence of our nature - to chart our own course contrary to the rest
of the family - was manifesting itself in the church. The way some fathers
experience their own children – the one who is heading down the right path, and
the one that has got in with the wrong friends and is into the drugs, the late
nights, the parties, maybe a run-in with the law. Exasperated father’s who say,
“why is my one child so good and how did the other, become so bad?” And so
they try to make it better.
Just like the Beatles song entitled, Hey, Jude. With it’s opening verse
which says, “Hey Jude,…take a sad song, and make it better.”, we read this
letter, a letter to the church, an attempt to make it better. To correct, to guide, to
offer some fatherly advice in the sense of our father in heaven, for Jude begins
with the reminder, vs. 1, To those who have been called, who are loved by God
the father and kept by Jesus Christ. 2. Mercy, peace and love be yours in
CARE FOR THE CHURCH
To consider the care of the church and the care of the family. The father of
each knows, or should know, their responsibility and so Jude reminds us that this
letter is addressed to us, the present members and trustees of the church. Don’t
we all take on a fatherly-like role in overseeing its health? That it isn’t just up to
the men of the church. It’s not just left to the few on the Property and Finance
committee or the Deacons or the trustees, but rather to those - all of us - who
have been called. For it’s my prayer that we all feel called to be here. And to
those who are loved by God the father; don’t we all feel loved by God – again, I
hope so? And doesn’t scripture tell us that God’s love for us is manifest in
Christ? Well, as we read it, that has to be one conclusion that’s obvious.
For if all those things are things we can agree on, then this letter should
speak to us, in such a way as to bring what Jude said, “mercy, peace and love”.
What every father knows about if they’ve ever uttered those words, “this is going
to hurt me, more than it’s going to hurt you.” That sometimes, the father in order
to demonstrate love, needs to be harsh. That mercy comes in a rebuke, rather
than in punishment. And that to bring about, to turn around behaviour, is to bring
peace to the house.
It’s good advice for the home, isn’t it? So then it should also be good
advice for the “church home” as well, shouldn’t it? For this was written to the
church of which we are a part. It was to deal with false teachers that were seen
to creep into the church and threaten the unity of the family, but it was also to
deal with the very real threat of apostasy – that of the faithful turning away from
Not unlike the way a good child can end up being the family’s problem
child. The one who brings strife and disruption that leaves mom and dad
wondering, “where did we go wrong?” Why didn’t we notice the warning signs?
And more importantly, how do we correct the situation?
And so we have the challenge for us; the verses that f ollow the two
opening verses of Jude. Verse 4 to 16 - the warnings about the behaviours and
actions that serve to corrupt our spiritual life. As simple as not reading scripture.
Something as simple as reading the words of Jesus and missing the point.
Knowing the theory but not putting into practice, the application. By latching on
to the books of the modern day spiritualists or detractors who malign and
denounce the tenets of our faith, in such a way as to cause us to wonder or
wander. Questioning, not in a way to build up understanding, but rather to tear
down belief. Following those that would take us away from faith rather than
toward stronger conviction.
Maybe it’s something that the father of the family has to deal with. When
friends, or celebrity stars or idols begin to unravel the guidance that he has
provided to his children to their detriment, and the detriment of the family. In the
same way, that’s what Jude is warning us about. What he calls false teachers
that assail the church. And for us – what false teachers do we deal with? What
thoughts, or opinions, or even suggestions do we hear or read about, that
threaten the faith we have? Maybe they’re not in our particular church, but what
about the universal church? We might all be able to think about some example
of how scripture is being rendered, not for the good, but for the bad. Just read
through this letter this week and you might reflect on the negative actions and
attributes of the people that were threatening the church, and draw your own
modern day parallel conclusions. But for now, for rather than focus on their
actions, I want us to focus on what Jude tells us to do, vs. 17. …dear friends,
remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18. They said to
you, “in the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly
desires. 19. These are the people who divide you, follow mere natural instincts
and do not have the Spirit. 20. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your
most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21. Keep yourselves in God’s love as
you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Good advice, isn’t it? Like a father’s advice. Worth hearing and heeding.
What we are to do in the face of the people and things that would seek to hamper
us in growth, or cause us to backslide. The actions that we of the church, to
whom Jude is writing, are to do in the face of internal and external attempts to
hold us down, bring us down, or corrupt us by those who would do so for their
own ends, means or purposes.
Good advice; be built up by faith. Solid. Sturdy. Keep praying, as a means
to keep your line of communication open to a source of leading that’s constant
and true. And focus on the prize, the final outcome, the goal of this journey;
God’s love manifest in mercy. What was witnessed by the church of Jude in the
flesh of their Saviour Messiah which, translated for us, is Jesus Christ.
A letter written to us – first, one that speaks about a promise and a
warning; second, a letter that gives us sound advice as to our actions, and as
the last point this morning, speaks to our response in the face of challenges…
Vs. 22, Be merciful to those who doubt; 23. Snatch others from the fire
and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing
stained by corrupted flesh.
The mission of the church in a few words – be merciful, as God is to us
through the promise of Christ. Help others get out of trouble, that they might be
brought home. And be wary – avoid the obvious attempts that come and
threaten to “rope us in” to following down a wrong path. To avoid clothing
stained by corruption, in favour of what Paul told the Colossians 3:12-17,
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves
with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each
other and forgive what grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as
the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all
together in perfect unity.
Isn’t that the response we should direct to those within the church, but
also to those whom we encounter in our very walk? The response we are to
show to those that Jude refers to as “godless people.”
What Jesus modeled for the church of Jude – to take what the Beatles
called a sad song, and make it better? And in the face of our experience,
society, pressures, isn’t that something we can afford to be reminded of; to be
What the advice of a good father is to his child, we have the same for us in
the letter of Jude. The advice from The Father, to us, his children. About our right
living, and all the threats to it. Both how we’re to respond, and how are to
proceed. And that’s why we have the good news about Jesus Christ. For he is
the Good son, the Son of God, our sibling, our brother, who models,
demonstrates and exemplifies for us what Jude and the others could only write
And so as we prepare to go, let’s consider our Father’s advice – might he
bless us this day, and may we say to our Heavenly Father, on this Fathers Day,
praise be to you, Amen.
Let us go out with the words from our hymn:
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine;
And glory, laud, and praise be ever thine.