Father's Day Message: Unforgettable

This sermon was originally preached by Rev. James Morasco on June 17, 2018.
A man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child.
— Unknown
The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
— Deuteronomy 31: 8
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
— John 14: 18 - 20

I believe that when Jesus taught us to pray the, “Our Father”, it was a continual, lasting reminder, that we are not forgotten.  He was saying that although he wasn’t going to be physically here in body, he is still here through the spirit.  He was saying; you are my children, you are special, you are mine and I am yours.  I will never forget you or abandon you.  Just call my name and know that I am listening.  So, for us, truly, everyday is “Father’s Day."

Author Craig Bullock, Director of the Assisi Institute, writes - In reflecting on the power of responsibility, it is essential to realize that our ability to respond to life’s challenges with wisdom and love does not arise from the ego or the personality. No; it is the soul, what Yogananda referred to as the Self that generates thoughtful, creative, and meaningful responses to life’s vexing issues. The soul is eternal, that is, outside the flux of time. The soul is transcendent to life’s sorrows; it is literally God’s dwelling place within us, possessing the very attributes of God. This is what Jesus meant when he said. “The kingdom of God is within you.” As such, the soul is neither clouded by prejudice nor driven by fear. The soul constantly works to guide us, to illumine our awareness, and to direct us to our highest and noblest possibilities. Therefore, without silence, meditation, prayer, humility, and an attitude of surrender, it is virtually impossible for the soul to guide us in our day-to-day lives. For this reason Lahiri Mahasaya tells us, “Attune yourself to the active inner Guidance; the Divine Voice has the answer to every dilemma of life. Though man's ingenuity for getting himself into trouble appears to be endless, the Infinite Succor (Help) is no less resourceful.”

But of course, today is a special day as we celebrate our earthly fathers.

Scholars believe that the origin of Father's Day is not a latest phenomenon, as many believe it to be. Rather they claim that the tradition of Father's Day can be traced in the ruins of Babylon. They have recorded that a young boy called Elmesu carved a Father's Day message on a card made out of clay nearly 4,000 years ago. Elmesu wished his Babylonian father good health and a long life. Though there is no record of what happened to Elmesu and his father but the tradition of celebrating Father's Day remained in several countries all over the world.

Modern version of Father's Day celebration originated in United States and thereafter the tradition spread in countries around the world. The world owes thanks to Ms. Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, a loving daughter from Spokane, Washington, as it is because of her struggle that Father's Day saw the light of the day.

The idea of Father's Day celebration originated in Sonora's mind when she per chance listened to Mother's Day sermon in 1909. Fairly mature at the age 27, Sonora pondered if there is a day to honor mother then why not for father? Sonora felt strongly for fathers because of the affection she received from her own father Mr. William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran. Sonora's mother died while childbirth when she was just 16. Mr. Smart raised the newborn and five other children with love and care.

Inspired by Ms. Anna Jarvis's struggle to promote Mother's Day, Ms. Dodd began a rigorous campaign to celebrate Father's Day in US. The Spokane Ministerial Association and the local Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) supported Sonora's cause. As a result Spokane celebrated its first Father's Day on June 19, 1910. Though there was initial hesitation the idea gained gradual popularity all over US and Fathers Day came to be celebrated in cities across the country.

So you see, even our earthly Father’s Day has its beginnings in Christ inspired organizations.  I don’t believe that it’s a coincidence.  Looking back at my own journey, I can identify certain people who were my father figures.  I wrote this tribute to them many years ago.  I’ve used it here before, and it’s in my book.

Borrowing Fathers

Susan Kennedy-Sark writes in, “Making Your Creative Dreams Come True”:  When I was 10, my best friend was 80 years old.  His name was Mr. Boggs.  His house was my refuge.  He and I discussed my creative dreams and he inspired me to tell stories about what I saw in the world.

Mr. Boggs became very ill and went into the hospital.  My mother explained that because of his age and health, he probably wouldn’t be coming home.  I vowed to create something for him every day that he was in the hospital, and sent him handmade books, cards, and posters.

He did get out of the hospital, and when he did he said to me, “I think you saved my life.  No one else called or wrote, and I had to get out to see you”.

I immediately started writing my first book; because I thought that if my art and words could affect one person that much, what might happen if I could share them with the world?

A big creative dream was born that summer and it continues to live to this day.

This story got me to thinking about my own life and the influences of certain men that have helped shape who I am today.  It seems that I have been borrowing peoples father’s all my life.  You see my dad was an alcoholic and though he sometimes tried, he was never really there for me when I was growing up.

Early on I borrowed my Cousin Wayne’s dad.  Uncle Fran spent more time with me than anyone else in my childhood.  He taught me the value of being a listener.  He was one of the most religious people I have ever known.  Still he never preached, never tried to convert me, he just lived his life in humble obedience to God.  Years later I learned that in spite of his exemplary life he worried that God would never forgive him for what he had to do as an infantry soldier during WWII.  He was my favorite adult growing up and some would even say that I acted like him a lot.  This was one of the biggest compliments I could have.

I borrowed my neighbor’s dad. He was one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known.  He was a retired plumber.  Wayne would come whenever you needed him.  Seven days a week, 24 hours a day; most of the time he didn’t even send a bill.  I learned the value of work for work’s sake.  I learned that money isn’t the only reward; but that the gratefulness of people has its rewards too.

I borrowed my wife Martha’s dad for a long time.  He would spend time with my daughter, playing, reading books, and sometimes just working in the yard.  He taught me it was okay to get down on the floor and have fun.  He taught me that to hug and kiss my child and tell her I love her every day is natural.  He was a salesman and a non-stop talker, a good fit for a listener like me. As most of you know, before his death he suffered from Alzheimer’s. And even though he didn’t always remember my name, he tried hard to pretend everything was normal.  I’m learning that life is never really in our control, but if you have people that care about you, it doesn’t really matter.

In my mid thirties, I borrowed a coworker’s dad.  He shared with me his story of a difficult life of suffering prejudice and discrimination. He told me about overcoming alcoholism after a lifetime of abuse and the death of a child in a DWI accident he caused.  As he shared his story he opened up his Native American culture to me.  Later I sat at his feet, with a dozen recovering Natives.  Some were learning for the first time about the “old ways” and the Longhouse religion.  From him I learned that life is precious and that there is much more to life than feeling sorry for yourself and drinking away your feelings.

Several years ago, and before his death, my father stopped drinking.  He started coming around and eventually we became friends.  He told me he loved me for the first time and we began hugging each other when we said goodbye.  After all this time, he gave me what I always wanted as a little boy.  He has taught me to never give up on my dreams and that God, whatever you perceive him to be, is still with us working miracles.

I have been lucky enough to be a dad myself.  My daughter was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  She and Brian have given me a granddaughter.   Several years ago she let another little girl borrow me.  Grace was a very smart and beautiful little girl who didn’t know her dad.  We spent time playing, reading books, and sometimes just working in the yard.  She is now following her dreams and attending college.

We all walk different paths in this life.  Hopefully God has given you special people to help guide you on your journey.  As parents and grandparents, either by blood or by choice, we have been blessed; we have the power to positively influence those who, in some way or another, consider us their dad.

As the old saying goes, “Time is money”!  So be careful how you spend it!

In the 1990s, Natalie Cole had a hit record titled “Unforgettable”.  She sang it as a duet along with her deceased father’s voice.  Nat King Cole had made it a hit song years earlier.  It became the song my daughter and I identified with and it was played during the father-daughter dance at her wedding.

According to Webster’s the word “unforgettable" means - very special, unusual, beautiful, etc., and therefore difficult or impossible to forget.  God has told us time and time again that we too are unforgettable; that we too are very special, unusual, and beautiful. Remember the promise from our scripture reading John 14: 18 – 20:

 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. "After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

May you enjoy this special day and every day, knowing each one is “Our Father’s Day” - you are not forgotten, in fact you are, in every way, unforgettable by the one who made you.