Psalm 86: 15
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
I have come not to bring peace on earth but a sword. Matt 10:34
Today in our worship we focus on Fathers, we give thanks for them and we hold them before God in our prayers.
This has not been a good week on one level for us in the Western Cape and in our country as a whole – the numbers contracting the Corona virus continue to grow and we have been hearing news since the lifting of the ban on alcohol how women and children have been killed and abused by men. For many women and children the home and marriage is a battle zone – a place of lamentation and devastation, a place rent by a sword not of peace but division and destruction.
We are all aware that this is a vast social problem which makes demands on all of us.
But today I don’t want to focus on that – l want to move to a more positive place – to places where families are committed to making families work, and fathers are being fathers in the best way they can, despite the difficulties and challenges – into the homes in our parish where fathers are loving and caring and respected and honoured by their wives and children.
The loving and nurturing of fathers and mothers that happens in our families over many years is gradual and unobserved except by those within the family. It was the same for Jesus. Have a careful look at this painting Christ in the House of his Parents by John Millais 1828-1896
Millais was criticised for this painting because he made the Holy Family look so ordinary and poor. Dad is making a door in his workshop and the whole family is involved. The boy Jesus has cut his hand and blood has dripped onto his feet. It is a lovely scene of father being present and sharing his skills and also showing a gentle concern for the hurt boy. Mother is making it all better with a kiss. There are a number of symbols that speak to us of the unity of this family. The ladder suggest Jacob’s ladder which reminds us of Jacob’s prayer and his struggle with God. This is a family of prayer. There is also a dove sitting on the rung of the ladder, a symbol of the Holy Spirit which tells us that this is a family that is united in their commitment to each other. There is much more and you can discover it for yourself.
I asked a family to tell me what their dad means to them, and this is what I received from them:
A Dad is a mentor, your first and most important example of what it is to be a man. From Dads, we learn to rough and tumble, and we learn our power and that special line between playing rough and hurting. In this, Dads teach us when to stop, when to use our physical power and when to withhold it, how to be strong, but principled in how we use our strength.
The way Dads treat our Moms and other women, teaches us about how to respect and love women. As a daughter we learn to value ourselves in this way, and as a son, to value the women in our lives. Along with our mother, he teaches us how to love. This has a huge impact on our future relationships, and especially intimate partnerships.
Dads bring a sense of play. When my children were little and I was home with them all day, the arrival of their dad involved giggles, and running around, and chaos and fun (usually just at the time when I was trying to calm them down for bed)! Pillow fights and pool-noodle swordfights, tickles and turning them upside-down. As a mom, being with me in the week was the children’s norm, but being with Dad was a treat to be looked forward to.
Dads bring a little push out of the comfort zone, and a bit of competitiveness and adventure. In our family, I am a gentle place to return to when things get tough. Going somewhere with me is an outing, but going somewhere with Dad is an adventure where all mom’s rules can be broken – rocks and trees are climbed to their outer limits, and children return with scrapes from falls that prove they did something exciting and new and out of their norm.
Dads bring security – the buck stops here. Dads are an important part of creating boundaries, the family culture and communicating principles. The boundaries parents create together for their children bring an enormous sense of security. We can rest assured that our Dads have us. If we are lucky in our Dads, we can relax and just be children, while the adult stuff is taken care of.
For me, I am one of the lucky ones (and daughters) in our dark dark world. I have a father who loved me, who didn’t abuse me in words or deeds, who respected and nurtured me, who celebrated my achievements and didn’t dwell on my failures, who supported me and challenged me, who I felt I could talk to about the big questions in life, who laughed and played with me and taught me skills, who shared his passions (art, reading, sport, and so much more), who was emotionally available and able to express his love in so many ways. He is my true mentor and soul-mate and I love him to bits.
Being a dad is a responsibility. There is joy, pride, a sense of being a guardian/ protector. It is a burden. It challenges your own personality, and ability to deal with situations/ character flaws. It forces you to grow up. Moments of wonder at what your children achieve. They disappoint you but also surprise you by being the opposite of what you may expect. When you hope for your children to do something they don’t do it, but then they surprise you by doing something else that completely exceeds your expectations.
Young Son 9
Dads look out for you and what a Dad is, is the male part of a couple as long as they have a baby. Once my Dad saved my life. Dads usually like the same things as the children, like they like the same games, so they usually spend a lot of game time with us. A Dad is not just a human, crocodiles, lions, hippos, cheetahs – they all have Dads. They all look after their cubs or ducklings or goslings or whatever baby fish are called.
Young Daughter 7
Fathers care for their children and they help them if they are in need of help. Sometimes they can’t help but they always try their best. A Dad saves the family by working to save the house, because without a house we can’t survive and we’ll be so cold.
One can never undervalue the role that Joseph played in the maturity of Jesus. He must have been a significant role model.
I loved being a father of young children and enjoyed entering into their world. Being a father of teenagers was so much more difficult. I often felt inadequate and looking back see that there are things I wish I’d done differently, and had more knowledge at the time.
We all know the story of the prodigal son or lost son who returns to his father after making so many mistakes. He finds when he is still on the way home that his father is there for him. You will remember this picture by the artist Rembrandt,
Welcome to Soul Food. This week we have Sue Gow, a lover of Miniature Art, poetry and literature, reading a poem she discovered by Henry Reed. Sue confessed she knew nothing about the man. Henry Reed ( 1914 – 1986) was a British poet, translator, radio dramatist and journalist who was born in Birmingham, England, son of a master bricklayer. He served in naval intelligence during World War II. He contributed poetry, criticism, plays, and adaptations of older works to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio from 1944 to 1979.
Sue is reading a poem you may remember from School called Naming of Parts
Dorian Haarhoff, poet and story-teller has been sending me a story every day during our South African lock down. I share one of these stories with you.
A Quotation from the Poet and Sufi Rumi
I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing you is your life’.
Now my loving is running toward my life
What a bargain, let’s buy it.
John Donald photograher – bird life photograph
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The Art historian H. W. Janson has said that this is one of Rembrandt’s quietest paintings—a moment stretching into eternity. There is a mood of tender silence, which we feel, an intimate bond.
Fathers cherish those quiet moments of daughter/ son intimacy
Fathers are not produced instantaneously once the first child arrives. They are vulnerable men growing in relationships with their partner, learning to leave the small self behind them. They are learning to be men, a process which takes many years – the journey is to combine the two hands Rembrandt’s father places on the shoulder of his son – the one hand feminine, the other masculine – he must find that in himself and love that fullness, that wholeness of the self in him.
We see that in Jesus, in his wonderful humanity
We celebrate you fathers, continue to grow, abounding in love and faithfulness
This is a meditation on Four Quartets, a long poem by T.S.Eliot. I use the beautiful words of Eliot from the four poems, Burnt Norton, East Coker, Dry Salvages and Little Gidding with silences and the repetition of a key line in the poem as a mantra – At the still point of the turning …
I recently completed the Book of Ezekiel on-line with my Housegroup. We have discovered an interesting way of working together, with members themselves doing some research and reporting back to the group. I had studied Ezekiel at Theological College but had never looked at the last Chapters of Ezekiel which is a prophecy about the …
Dear friends and followers of my blog, I hope you have been surviving the pandemic and are well. Within a number of Christian denominations it is the Season of Creation when the focus is on the ennvironment and climate change. I recently produced a Season of Creation Reflection for our Taizé group focused on Cop …