“What’s A Father To Do?”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – June 17, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

    Psalm 20; Mark 4:26-34

Father's Day    

    Father's Day can be an awkward moment to celebrate for some people. During my childhood, fathers were not around during the day.  Being present between supper and bedtime was the reality faced by many children.  In those days, fathers had a distinct role.  Most fathers were the providers for the family.

    Times have changed dramatically during recent years.  Mothers have joined the work-force, childcare is being provided by pre-schools, nannies, and in many industries, fathers have been given paternity leave when children are born.  What is a father to do to influence the lives of his children?

    During a fishing trip years ago with a group of men from my church, we had the occasion to discuss parenting with a father who had three sons and two daughters.  The men on the boat knew his family.  We all agreed that his children had evolved into wonderful, warm, loving, and very spirited young people. They could communicate well.  They had their own interests.   They achieved academically and all five of them had attitudes that were spiced with a wonderful sense of humor.  

    We asked him what he and his wife had done to create such wholesome and emotionally stable children.  He laughed and said:

Thank you for your compliments!  However, I would be stretching things to say that our children are emotionally stable. Teenagers are never emotionally stable. Their highs are so high and their lows are really low. From their lack of life-experiences, they often do not use good judgment.


Samantha and I blame such mood swings on raging hormones. Each one of our children has had their own challenges. The more confidence they have, the more independence they seek.  One thing for sure, with all that they are exposed to these days, they grow up fast. It has been tough for Sam and me to keep up with them.

    As the conversation continued, he spoke in more personal terms:

Sam and I have done very little but to supply them with a garden that met their material and emotional needs.  We allowed them to grow freely into becoming whatever their genes designed them to be. The only variable in our family that has been consistently present is that we laughed a lot. When all of us were together on vacation or having a picnic, humor just flowed. That quality has been a real positive influence in our family's chemistry. We enjoyed being with each other.

    The comment that stood out for me was when he said that he and his wife supplied a garden that met the needs of their children.   They sprouted into being the individuals they were becoming.  John and Samantha allowed their children to find their own way at their own pace.  

    In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus was searching for metaphors that would produce an image of the Kingdom of God that his listeners could understand.  He was not saying what such a Kingdom will be like; he was giving examples of what the Kingdom is like right now in their lives.

    Jesus understood his audiences.  Very few of his listeners could read or write.  He knew that they could not absorb or learn what they were incapable of understanding.  (Mark 4:33)   He used descriptive story-telling, hoping that they could catch a glimpse of the potential that their Heavenly Father had provided for all people.

    If we go beneath the surface of what Jesus was teaching, we might learn some insights that we can use today to nourish our 21st Century understanding of what he taught over two thousand years ago.  Just as the father on our boat described their home environment as a garden, it would be easy for us to understand the earth as God's garden.  

    Jesus told his listeners that their lives were like a tiny mustard seed.  At birth, their lives in these temporary, limited, physical forms were beginning their experiential adventure, a journey that will allow them to be influenced by their surroundings.

    Further, he taught that each of them also had everything that they could possibly need packaged inside of them that would remain dormant in their spiritual DNA until they chose to access it.  Jesus said that each of them had the potential to grow into a gigantic shrub as their genes guided them toward various likes and dislikes during the periods of their decision-making.  Jesus taught this by telling them that the Kingdom of God is within them. (Luke 17:21)

    For some people, God can be understood as an absentee landlord.  For people who have not developed vision that goes beyond what their senses tell them, they cannot see any evidence that God exists.  People can easily reason that if there is a God who cares for us, why does God allow such unfortunate things to happen to so many people? 

    What kind of a divine parent is our Creator if God could intervene during life-threatening times and chooses to allow everyone to find our own way at our own pace even if that means that some people will die in the process?  We will cover this quality of God later in my message.

    Try to imagine what Jesus would tell audiences in our present time.  We are accustomed to abstract thinking.  We are acquainted with scientific inquiry none of which was available during Jesus' ministry. We have Sociology, Spirituality, Psychology, Metaphysics, Astronomy, Philosophy, and Physiology among countless other disciplines engaged in expanding their known horizons.  

    There have been scores of people with no religious background who have experienced being out-of-their-bodies during surgery.  We have the research from people like Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who have documented testimonies of what people have experienced when they communicated with those who are deceased.  Such claims were supported by substantive information that they would have no other way of knowing but through direct communication.   

    For years people have engaged in Regressive Hypnotherapy where people began discussing their past lives in remarkable detail.  When they come out of their hypnotic condition, they had no memory of what their recorded conversation revealed.  There are so many testimonies that they are hard to refute.  Either a lot of people are making up these stories, or people hearing them are not open to possibilities that our base knowledge of Spirituality is constantly expanding.

    Parents do not know a thing about where their children have come from nor about what kinds of talents and abilities are being held in suspension within their spiritual DNA.  After children are born, they have amnesia concerning any prior existence. 

    Spiritual insights have taught us that God created us with free will when it comes to self-discovery.  This does not mean that we have free will up to a certain point and if we cross one of God's red lines, we have put our eternal salvation in jeopardy.  Free will literally means that whatever we do, we are not strong enough to escape God's love.  (Psalm 139:7f)

    We know historically that most religious beliefs were born from ignorance by primitive peoples.  All beliefs were products from those who became focused on what they did not understand about life.  Earlier people once worshipped the animals, the sun, and the rivers.  They gave religious definitions to natural events like solar eclipses, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. 

    Everything from oceans, fire, and wind were thought to be divinities that required sacrifices. People created the awareness that their gods fought enemies on their behalf and that their deities chose favorites from among the various tribes of people living on the earth.  Spirituality was slowly evolving.  We need to understand that.  Primitive thinking is the foundation of all scientific inquiry.

    Conclusions were created by thoughtful people that God worked through particular sons and daughters of God to teach the rest of humanity insights on how to live purposeful and meaningful lives. As people followed such teachings, they developed certain skills of spirit like peace, generosity, forgiveness, and happiness that enabled them to deal creatively with life's accelerating changes.

    The father on our boat was doing the same thing that God does by allowing his five children to grow at their own pace of self-discovery in the garden that he and Samantha had provided.  Maturing and becoming responsible for their lives had to be accomplished by each of their children. 

    No father or mother can teach self-reliance or give their children attitudes that will contribute to their independence, confidence, and vision. By design, the spiritual DNA of our children fuels their imaginations to find and seize opportunities. 

    However, our children also have the ability to look at the material world and become overwhelmed and confused by what their senses tell them.  They can resist the urge to achieve independence.  They can develop an overwhelming need to remain dependent on mom and dad, a spouse, or even God.

    Needy people have trained themselves to seek wholeness by remaining dependent on what the world offers rather than by understanding that they were whole and complete on the day they were born. While mustard seeds are insignificant, they have the potential to grow into large shrubs.  Everything that a tiny mustard seed needs to grow is inside of it. (Luke 17:21)

    One of the qualities that makes our Creator different from earthly fathers is that God knows who we are before we incarnate into the world of physical forms and matter.  This is why God does not intervene every time we have issues that we need to solve.  We are spirit-beings testing our skills while living in very limited forms in a temporary world that only appears to be real.  

    Our Creator has allowed each of us to go on a holiday in a world that offers an environment very different from anything we could have anticipated prior to our arrival. Spirit-beings are as uncertain about coming here as we are anxious and concerned about returning to the world of our origin when our bodies can no longer sustain our energy.  We willingly surrendered who we were when we left the realm of spirit-beings, just as Jesus did, when he came here. (Philippians 2:6)

    Jesus experienced a break-through in the wilderness following his baptism.  What Jesus envisioned for humanity had nothing to do with religion.  It had to do with a process of spiritually awakening, an event that can happen to anyone regardless of their beliefs.  One of the values of the material world is that it presents us with many teachable moments. (Matthew 16:26)

    What is a father to do?  An understanding father is one who has faith in the process that struggling eventually gives a butterfly strong wings so that it can fly.  Also, that the pressures from living can create a diamond from a lump of coal.  

    The model for this process comes from having faith in God's loving and thoughtful nature.  All of us can reflect God's nature as loving parents who allow our children to experience and cope with life as various events come up for them. Happy Father's Day!



Loving God, in spite of our stage presence, our attitudes and activities reveal more about the depth of our spirits than the sum of our spoken beliefs.  We desire peace even though we are easily bothered when inconvenienced. We desire strong faith even though our fears invite worry into our minds.  We desire to be loved, even though our moods can easily make that difficult for others to express. Our world hungers for guidance, for community, and for inspired confidence that your will is unfolding as you had planned.  Help us to remain sensitive to your abundant creativity that surrounds us.   Amen.



Eternal God, we enter our sanctuary this morning realizing that worship is one of the most refreshing and nourishing ways to begin our week.  Until we arrive here, we are seldom aware of the accumulation of distractions that have blocked our awareness of your presence.  Thank you for loving us even when we do not respond, when our vision is fixed on issues of self-interest, or when we slip into pleasures that we hope will neutralize the tensions and stress that are part of each week. 

This morning, we celebrate the presence in our lives of our fathers.  Often our dad’s words stood between us and a mistake we were about to make.  We accused him of not understanding us, while he was protecting us from dangers we could not see.  Thank you for all our dads who took their responsibilities very seriously even though he often felt he was never quite good enough to take even partial credit for what we have become.

There were times when he fixed our broken toys, knowing he could not mend our broken hearts.  He modeled confidence for confronting our inner fears and insecurities by being confident himself.  As the years passed and our understanding grew, he softened from being an authority figure to becoming an advisor who often sought our opinion.  We now know that many of the values we see in ourselves sprouted from seeds our fathers sowed in our inner garden when we were not looking.  Thank you for this marvelous source from which we have learned a number of values upon which we have built our character and integrity.  We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, the Christ, who taught us to say when we pray . . .