I recently came across a fascinating story about a heartwarming discovery that was made during the renovation of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Hidden in a crevice underneath a display case, workers found a photograph of a man who had a bat resting on his shoulder, wearing a uniform with the words “Sinclair Oil” printed across his chest. The man’s demeanor was gentle and friendly.
Stapled to the picture was a note scribbled in pen, by an adoring fan. The note read, “You were never too tired to play ball. On your days off, you helped build the Little League Field in town. You always came to watch me play. YOU WERE A HALL OF FAME DAD! Love, your Son, Pete.”
Isn’t that beautiful? A son named Pete found a creative way to put his dad into the Baseball Hall of Fame!
And, tonight/this morning I’d like to talk about what I think it takes to be a HALL OF FAME Dad, or for that matter, a HALL OF FAME Mom.. or Aunt or Uncle or Grandparent!
Now I realize that our church calendar has designated today as “Trinity Sunday”, and I know that many of you came to church tonight/this morning, yearning for a deep, theological treatise on the meaning of the Trinity!… (You did didn’t you?) But doesn’t the doctrine of the Trinity remind us that God is a Community of Persons, and that the FIRST HALL OF FAME DAD was and is GOD?
And so, today, I have chosen to salute our fathers. (And ladies, what I’m going to say applies equally as well to you!) — Hopefully, you will agree with me that the role of a Christian Father is more important in today’s world than ever before! Being a Dad in 2019 is a very different role than it was in earlier generations. In most households today Dad is called upon to play a much more nurturing role in caring for his children. — With at least half of all Moms working outside the home these days, Dad must take a more active role – a more EQUAL ROLE “Parenting Role” by chauffeuring the kids and doing household chores. (And, that’s a very good thing!)
And the fact that the most common image Jesus used in describing God was that of “FATHER,” makes me think that JOSEPH must have been a VERY SPECIAL KIND OF DAD! True, we center much of our attention on Jesus’ mother, MARY, but Joseph surely combined those very special qualities of strength and gentleness that we associate with Jesus.
Jesus certainly had a very keen knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures, and in the Jewish home, it was the father who had the primary responsibility for his son’s religious instructions. It goes without saying, of course, that Jesus enjoyed a very intimate and unique relationship with God; but still I like to think that Joseph, (although barely mentioned in the Gospels), was probably an important and influential ROLE MODEL for Jesus, as well! — Why else would Jesus have taught us to address God as “Abba,” or “Daddy”? — My guess is that Jesus had a wonderful relationship with both his earthly father and his Heavenly Father!
Now there might be someone here who is thinking, “But Joseph was not Jesus’ real father.” — But, as far as I’m concerned there are many Dads who are not biological Dads, but who function more as a real Dad than many biological Dads. — And today we honor all the men in our faith-family who put in the time, love and instruction to be a Dad to a young person regardless of whether they have a blood relationship or not. (The same is true of the women in our congregation! Some of the greatest Moms in the world are not biologically related to the children they love and influence. So, WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A “HALL OF FAME” DAD?
A recent poll done of children between the ages of 5 and 10 came up with the following qualities: At the TOP OF THE LIST was, “He takes time for me.” Other qualities were: “He listens to me.” “He plays with me.” “He invites me to go places with him.” “He lets me help him.” And, here’s a biggie: “He treats my mother well.” “He lets me say with I think.” “He’s nice to my friends.” “He only punishes me when I deserve it.” And finally, “He’s not afraid to admit when he’s wrong.”
I won’t go into all of those attributes, but the number one attribute; “He takes time for me,” deserves special attention. Not too long ago I read that the AVERAGE AMERICAN FATHER gives UNDIVIDED ATTENTION to his children only thirty-eight seconds a day! And that’s pretty scary! — He does give them partial attention for an additional twenty minutes a day – but he’s otherwise engaged when he’s doing it – on his cell phone, or computer, or watching TV, or working on some papers he’s brought home from the office or on some other project! — In his book “Healing the Masculine Soul,” author Gordon Dalbey asserts that too many young men today are growing up in a masculine vacuum – with fathers who are non-nurturing, uncommunicative, or absent most of the time; leaving their sons (especially) in a no-man’s-land of confusion about how to express authentic maleness!
The SECOND ATTRIBUTE for a HALL OF FAME DAD is that he makes certain that his children know the difference between RIGHT and WRONG. This is especially urgent because we are very quickly becoming an “anything goes” society, particularly with regard to sexual morality — and we wonder why our families are falling apart!
I know that there are many influential people in our society, today, who no longer believe that there any MORAL ABSOLUTES – which is ABSURD! I’ll bet that they would become a convert to absolute standards of conduct if someone stole their car, bullied one of their children, or ran off with their spouse! They would feel that something sacred had been violated – and they would be RIGHT!
Notice what Jesus says in today’s Gospel. Talking to his disciples about the Holy Spirit Jesus says, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you to all truth.” — And, isn’t that a primary characteristic of a HALL OF FAME DAD? He LEADS his children into TRUTH?
Three brothers, ages 12, 8 and 4 were playing outside, a distance from the house. Dad called them home for supper; but the busy boys weren’t ready to come in and kept on playing. Dad called a second time – but still no response. The third time Dad called there was a definite “edge” to his voice which indicated that he meant business.
So the boys came running into the house, and when the four-year-old passed Dad, he said, “Daddy, we didn’t hear you the first two times you called!”
Of course, nothing like that ever happens at your house. Because I’m sure your children hear you the very first time! — But in today’s world it’s really important to bring up our children as people of character and honor – people who know the difference between right and wrong – people who tell the truth. BECAUSE we’re not going to get role models for this kind of upright behavior in Hollywood or Washington, D.C. – are we? If our children don’t see models of character and morality in their own homes; then heaven help them! — What kids need today is Christian Dads who are willing to take TIME for their children and help their sons and daughters to understand the difference between right and wrong.
FINALLY WE NEED DADS WHO WILL SHOW THEIR CHILDREN HOW MUCH THEY LOVE THEM. — I love to see a young father (or young grandfather, for that matter) who is able to express his love physically for his children; because Fathers in my parents and grandparents generation often were not able to do that, — STILL, most fathers of earlier generations expressed their love in other ways.
When famed baseball player Hank Aaron was just a boy, he learned a powerful lesson about love and sacrifice from his father. Every day Hank’s father would give him a quarter to buy his lunch at school. Later in life, Hank discovered that his father had skipped his own lunch, each day, so that he could give his son that quarter. If Hank ever doubted his father’s love for him, that daily quarter reminded him of how far his father would go to provide for him. —- As I said, there are many ways in which a father can communicate his love for his children; and I hope to God that those of you who are fathers are exploring every one of them!
In my own life, I knew down deep inside, that my father loved me, because he worked very hard to provide for his family; but it took until I was in my early forty’s to actually hear him say, “Son, I’m very proud of you, and I LOVE YOU!” After that day, Dad and I always ended every visit or phone call with the words: “I LOVE YOU.” And it was great. But PLEASE don’t make your children wait forty years to hear those precious words – or to feel you warm and loving embrace!
Remember that Jesus spent his whole life, here on earth, showing us and telling us how much His Father-God loves each and everyone of us. Try to follow his example!