Happy Father’s Day! Happy Summer Solstice! I am hoping this Sunday will be just gorgeous outside so that you can worship under the sun. (I am recording this a bit early as I am currently on vacation! So, for all I know it might be pouring down rain outside!)
And before I begin “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” for younger ones there is also a children’s homily today. It’s called “Good, Good Father” and it’s based on the song you just heard by Chris Tomlin. You can click on it in the service or right here, as well: Joani Reads “Good, Good Father.”
Today we remember all of the fathers, all of the dads, all of the grandfathers and great-grandfathers. And all of the beloved father-figures in our lives — whatever gender they might be!
So, today, of course, I remember my dad — who was a totally unforgettable force-of-life in my life. (And I know what you’re thinking! “Groan!! Is she talking about her dad again!) Yes, I confess I am and yes, it is way too often. (Though my dad might disagree!)
My father, God rest his soul, did every fatherly thing he thought he should do. Every fatherly thing – that could help him become the dad that he aspired to be. That he would “raise up his children in the way that they should go” – as it says somewhere in the Bible.
Every time we left the house and went out the door, my dad would invariably remind us,“Remember! You’re a Peacock!” As if we could forget!
Above all, he cheered on our education.
If he caught us watching television in the middle of the day, he would turn the TV off and tell us to go read a book – and our house was full of books – a veritable library.
Even our vacations were quasi-educational – meaning we went to Colonial Williamsburg a bazillion times! (I can still recite the dialogue from the Visitor’s Center little film “The Story of a Patriot.”)
And my father was very protective of his family – specifically, from the outward and visible dangers. Being a doctor, he went above and beyond the run of the mill precautions to keep his family safe.
At the beach, he would stand on the sand, making sure he could count all six of our heads bobbing up in the waves.And if got in the water, we had to get out because he would not be able to watch us.
Before smoke detectors, my dad had fire alarms installed and had us practice fire drills.
My dad did not allow ashtrays in our house. Smoking was forbidden – for both fire and lung cancer prevention.
Firearms – even BB guns – were NEVER permitted. My dad had lost too many young men on his operating table in southeast D.C.
And just a little over the top, he would not even let us twirl sparklers on the Fourth of July!
My dad died in 2004. He would be 94 years old today. So, if you can hear me, dad, I miss you very much and a very Happy Father’s Day in heaven!
And today, I also remember the father of my children – William – whom you have never met before. Though we parted ways in 2003, from the very beginning of fatherhood, he has always been a really good dad. He was a stay-at-home dad – when barely anyone knew what that was. He went to the Lamaze classes, changed diapers, and coached baseball teams. An excellent cook, he did all of the grocery shopping.
And he too was a protective dad. Not as zealous as my dad, but protective in his own particular way. We lived in Del Ray on East Windsor Avenue – directly across the street from the fire station. When the kids were little, they loved it! Whenever they heard a siren, they would come running and press their noses up against the front porch windows to watch the red fire engines speed away. But it was a fairly dangerous road, so my kids were not allowed to ride bicycles or roller blade in the street. They were pretty bummed about that — and still are to this day — and of which they will never let me forget!
It may seem like a little thing, but William always made sure the kids reapplied their sunscreen – at least SPF 50 – when we were at the beach! And now that is where William happily lives.
Happy Father’s Day, William! Thank you for our amazing kids!
And by the time you hear this, I will have just gotten back from my trip to North Carolina. My baby boy Jacob is also a father and a wonderful dad. Jacob, along with his partner Loucie, is father to four! Three rambunctious, inquisitive, gifted and remarkable boys. Zhen just turned fifteen and is bummed the pandemic has thrown a wrench into his plans to get his learner’s permit. Zakai is nine – loves super soakers and is crazy about Roblox. (If you know what they are!) And Zell, who is six, loves race cars and video games. (Well, they all love video games! Jacob and Loucie too.)
And now Jacob and Loucie have a new baby girl, Zelda Quinn – just four months old! Born on March 15th, she shares a birthday with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, her first rag doll and feminist hero!
And they, like all families in these pandemic times, have been up to their eyeballs finding creative ways to manage all of these days.
Jacob is on the front lines and has continued to work for Publix Grocery Stores. And when home, he is a fulltime dad: mowing the lawn; making dinner; supervising the boys’ homework; rocking baby Zelda to sleep. Tender, firm, funny and patient – everything a dad should be. (And losing his hair just like William.❤️)
Happy Father’s Day, Jacob!
And in this time of protest and upheaval, there is another aspect of parenting that is paramount to Jacob – because Loucie and their children are African American.
Black Families Matter.
Black Lives Matter.
And in this nation, it is exhaustingly way beyond time, that this be true. That instead of making hollow promises, we dedicate ourselves to make dreams come true. Not in some airy-fairy future, but right here and right now.
So that for my grandchildren — in this imperfect union — there will be just as much liberty and justice for all. Just as much educational and economic opportunity for all. Just as much freedom of speech, movement, and expression. Just as much security and just as much safety.
I want my grandchildren free to grow up and fulfill their dreams. To grow up to be astronauts, famous authors, celebrated artists, organic farmers, Supreme Court Justices, Presidents of the United States or video game designers! Whatever their heart’s desire. Free to grow up to be anybody and anything they aspire to be. Free to live lives – free of racial injustice. Free to walk down any street, free and respected citizens – free as a breeze.
Six year old Zell, the little philosopher asked me this question: “Is the future real? Will there be more than one person there?”
“Yes, Zell, yes. The people who love you will make sure that the future is full of wonderful people and wonderful things and wonderful you.“
And isn’t this what God, our Father intended for all?
Now, I am not so sure how helpful Jesus is today in the Gospel of Matthew. The Father’s only Son never became a father himself in the literal sense of the word. And Joseph, his carpenter dad disappears after safely returning his family from Egypt to Nazareth. After chapter two, Joseph is written out of the story.
Jesus’ first century rhetoric grates on our twenty-first century ears. And he definitely has issues.
“For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”
This passage is part of Jesus’ own come-to-Jesus meeting with his followers — as they head out to preach the love of God. And in a hostile world, it is not going to be easy. He is no champion of family values. Jesus instead, champions the values of the Kingdom. So, set aside your nuclear family obligations when required for something greater — something larger — the kingdom of God. Because in the kingdom, God is Father of all and all God’s children are made in his image.
And this is how Jesus talks to Abba – in Hebrew – his dad.
Our Father, who art in heaven.
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.
On earth as it is in heaven.
Maybe your dad taught you this prayer when you were little. The words are so familiar that we often recite them like a nursery rhyme – not always remembering what they mean.
So, let me share with you another version of the “Our Father” which you may never have heard before. It’s from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer.
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and shall be.
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.
It’s beautiful isn’t it? Evocative and provocative, too.
Of this love we are all begotten. Born of this love, we are able to love in return — empowered to strive for the fullness of life and for justice for all. In this world every single day, in every single way – on this earth, as it is in heaven.
So, let us pray and give some serious thought to what outward and visible and concrete things we will commit ourselves to doing – in the days ahead. What are we going to do – no matter how big or small – to help usher in the just and peaceable kingdom of God?
Happy Father’s Day, Holy One!
Happy Father’s Day to one and all.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog