If you look at the church’s liturgical calendar, there is not much happening in the month of June. But if you look at EAMC’s calendar a lot is going on– youth ministry activities every week, two worship services every Sunday, and fellowship dinners every fourth Wednesday, along with our regular Sunday school classes and Friday Bible studies.
But there is one item on the liturgical calendar in the month of June and that is Father’s Day. “Wait a minute,” you say. “Isn’t Father’s Day a national holiday, not a ‘religious’ holiday?” Well, yes and no. The Roman Catholic Church in Europe celebrated a father’s day in March way back in the Middle Ages, called “Saint Joseph’s Day” in honor of Jesus’ “foster father”.
Father’s Day in this country has its roots in a Methodist church in Fairmont, West Virginia, back in 1908 when they honored 250 fathers who were killed in a mining accident. President Woodrow Wilson gave a speech in Spokane, Washington, in 1916 at a Father’s Day Celebration. But it was not until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed it into law declaring it a national holiday on the third Sunday of June.
So what is the significance of Father’s Day for the modern church? Perhaps more than ever we need to see fatherhood as a God-ordained role in family life. Jesus referred to God as His heavenly father and said that we, too should address God as “our Father who art in heaven….” But Jesus also had an earthly father, Joseph from whom He learned a trade (carpentry), obedience and humility. Both Matthew and Luke write that Joseph was a righteous, humble, loving, caring father; in other words, a God-fearing man of character. Aren’t these the qualities all good fathers should strive for? Again God shows the importance He places on fatherhood by providing His son with a loving earthly father.
We don’t know much about Joseph outside of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, but we do know that he was present during Jesus’ formative years from birth to baptism by John, after which Jesus began His earthly ministry. In other words, Joseph was there when “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). And isn’t this the role of fathers even today: to help their children grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and others?
Happy Father’s Day, to all you fathers. May God bless you and strengthen you for the task He has given you.
Rich Pollock is a retired Presbyterian minister. He lives in Topsail Beach full-time with his wife Julia. Both are active affiliates of Emma Anderson Memorial Chapel. Rich happily fills in at the pulpit when a guest minister is unavailable for Sunday services.