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Father's Day

On Sunday, the lessons and sermon will concentrate on the Scripture message for the day, but in recognition of the fact that it’s also Father’s Day, your service leaflet will include a special insert.

The insert, “The Best Advice My Father Ever Gave Me,” is a collection of quotes that your fellow parishioners of St. James’ have shared with us over the past several weeks. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

I submitted two quotes from my own father. One was from a sign that hung above his desk while I was growing up:

Children need models, not critics.

I’d like to share, again, an image with you.

Imagine, if you will, a child working in the backyard, helping his father build a mini barn. The child is doing it wrong: cutting the wood the wrong length; using the tools wrong, even dangerously. Taking too long to do the work.

The father knows he’s doing it wrong. He has several ways to respond:

One possibility is to ignore it, to “celebrate the child’s individuality,” to pretend there are no standards; to expect no excellence. To passively watch the job get screwed up.

Another possibility is to ridicule, to belittle, to criticize unhelpfully. To eventually knock the child out of the way, to take over. “Get out of the way, let me do it; you’ll never amount to anything.”

And then there is a third way: to say, “Here, let me show you.”

To step in, yes, and take a tool, but to stand beside the child, rest the child’s hand on his hand, guide the saw back and forth until the child picks up the feel. And then to step out of the way long enough to see if they’re catching on, and step back in when encouragement, direction -- modeling -- is needed.

I had the good fortune of having an earthly father who, while not perfect, took that third role with me and my siblings. Every Father’s Day, I thank God for him.

But my real point in sharing this story is to make a point about God.

So many people believe those roles about our Heavenly Father:

That God ignores us…the God Deists believe in…a God who doesn’t get involved, who has wound up the world and is just watching it without judgment or involvement.

Others believe that if God does step in, it is only to nag…or to smack us upside the head for our transgressions. A stern God, one who rolls his eyes at our efforts or even punishes them, or who, if allowing us to do any good, does so only by robbing us of our free will.

But isn’t it possible to believe that our Heavenly Father relates to us in the third way?

Isn’t it possible to interpret our Heavenly Father’s role in sending Jesus that way?!?—as God saying, “Here, let me show you.”?

Isn’t God saying, “I’ve been trying to reach you through creation, through prophets, through my law, but you’re not picking it up. And so here: Let me show you. Let me live a life as one of you…and in such a way that, 2,000 years later, it will be an example -- a model -- an enfleshment of who I am… so that whenever you wonder who I am, and what I care about, you can turn to this life, and know.”

God knows we need models, not critics.

And if you want a pretty concise summary of Christianity, you couldn’t do too much better than this:

In Jesus, God models, not criticizes.

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