You are a Father!


   I cannot call you “Father,”     “And be ye not called masters,”

    Because I’m C. of E.,            The text announces too;

   With such un-English customs     So, do not call me “Mister,”

    I strongly disagree.             Which also is taboo.

   I can’t forget a precept         Such narrow exegesis

    That I was taught from birth:    Will, one day, drive you mad;

   “Call nobody your father,”       If “Father” is forbidden,

     The Bible says, “on earth.”     What do you call your Dad?


That is from a longer poem titled “No Father” by S.J. Forrest.  While some Missouri Synod pastors are addressed as “father,” most of us are not except by Catholics fooled by a collar.  However, during the difficult days of Lent, I think it helpful to remember that after all is said and done, I am a father.

   I don’t know how it is at your house, but my young kids thanked me for every meal I put on the table.  They’d say, “Thanks Dad for buying the food.”  And when I came home for supper, which like most of you was during the middle of my day because I was going back to church after supper, my kids always asked how my day was.  They never rushed to show me some building they made or picture they’d drawn.  They didn’t ask me to play basketball or football because they knew how tired I was. And because they knew how busy I was during Lent, they didn’t bother me on my day off.  No, it was, “Whatever you want to do Dad; go ahead and do it.  Never mind about us.”

   That’s how it is for you too, isn’t it?  In a pig’s eye!  My young kids never thanked me for putting food on the table.  (They were on the verge of doing so when I foolishly let them try steak.  I had convinced them up till then that scientific studies had proven steak harmful for children under the age of 18.)  And when I came home for supper in the middle of my day, I was bombarded with whatever was important to them that day and with more offers to play sports than any free agent.  And as far as my day off went, in the words of one of my children (perhaps all), “What are you going to do with me today?”

   The point is, just like you, I expected my kids to be kids (and in fact now miss that they aren’t any longer.)  I didn’t expect them to understand what I did, know what I know, look out for me the way I looked out for them, or thank me for everything I did for them.  So why do I expect my children in the heavenly Father to?  Why do I expect them to come out of church, fall down on their knees, and thank me for feeding them again with Word and Sacrament?  Why do I think my children in the Lord should have my feelings, needs, and hurts first in their hearts when even my own kids didn’t?  Why do I think another Father’s kids should be concerned that my day off is not violated when my own weren’t?  I’m a father. It’s part of being a father to be used, taken for granted, and have your feelings hurt.

   Don’t misunderstand.  I’m not saying there is no sin involved on the part of the children of the heavenly Father.  There is even as there is sin involved in how our own flesh and blood kids relate to us.  But you don’t ask a kid to repent of being a kid.  You pray, you teach, you work to raise him or her up in the Lord.  However, in some sense, a kid is always going to be a kid in relation to his or her father.  I was reminded of this when I went back home a 12 years ago.  Whether we talked, walked, drove, or worked.  My dad was the father and I was the kid.  He gave to me and I took…but I had grown to the point where I said thank you.  Well some of the time anyway.

   I can’t ask my children in Christ to repent of being kids, so I repent of being a fed-up father.  I confess that I’ve been expecting the leopard to change his spots, a summer fig to have figs in Lent, a child not to be a child.  I confess to being a poor miserable father and take great comfort that I have a Father in Christ who never tires of me forgetting to thank Him, burdening Him with My needs, and whining about my life.  More than that, I rejoice that I have a Father through Baptism who constantly mistakes me for His Favorite Son – you know the One with whom He is well pleased.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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