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“Fatherly Maxims”

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lass=MsoNormal style='margin-bottom:0cm;margin-bottom:.0001pt'>May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, Lord – our Saviour and Redeemer – Amen 

Today is Father’s day of course, and as you all know I am very fortunate to be a father – 4 times over

            And father’s day always lands on Sunday – for me a work day

Well today, I thought I would do something different, today, being that I am a father on Father’s day I thought I would simply take it easy and there will be no sermon today…


By the response of some of you, and considering my job includes delivering the sermon

Maybe I should have thought this through a little… it reminds me of saying

                                                                        Don’t ask a question if you know you won’t like the response

That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is a maxim

            In case you didn’t know what a Maxim is, I looked it up

Maxim: an expression of a general truth or principle, especially an aphoristic or sententious one

            Well, that might have created more questions…

Aphoristic: 1. given to making or quoting aphorisms…

Well that’s not totally helpful… 2. see maxim

            No, it didn’t actually say that…

I like maxims – I like the efficiency of words to sum up a big thought in a short sentence

For those of you that know Marion Weir, you know that she is great for sharing and knowing hundreds of maxims

Rarely does a Tuesday morning Bible study go by without Marion sharing a thoughtful maxim that ties up a long confusing discussion in a tidy, pithy statement

Here are some well-known maxims for you:

"To thine own self be true," (Shakespeare)

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be" (Shakespeare)

“Clothes make the man” (Shakespeare)

"Before you criticize another man, walk a mile in his shoes"(Shakespeare)

Do you know where those came from?...

Some might guess the Bible, Sunday morning and all…but in fact I’ll bet the English teachers in the congregation might know

Shakespeare – and all from Hamlet, and all from Old Polonius

     Seems that William wanted to share some wisdom and created a character to do just that

They all have a certain quality to them, and today – father’s day, I will claim it as a wise fatherly quality

Incidentally, I think Mark Twain improved upon one of those maxims:

            “Clothes make the man… Naked people have little or no influence on society.” (Mark Twain)

Here are few more that although they have no specific author, you might claim that author to be your own dad

"No pain, no gain!"

"Money doesn't grow on trees"

“As long as you live under my roof, you’ll live by my rules.”

“Do what I say, not what I do.”

"Whenever in doubt don't!"

Maxims aren’t limited to the worldly realm solely

            In fact the Bible has a whole book that one might consider to be a list of maxims

It is the book of Proverbs – and it begins with: The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel (Proverbs 1:1)

And tradition tells us that it is King Solomon’s fatherly advice to his son, Absalom

                                                Here are some of the most famous:

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (Proverbs 16:3)

Pride goes before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18a)

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1)

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! (Proverbs 6:6)

As I said, I like maxims…However there can be a problem – consider the next two ‘truth statements”

Birds of feather flock together…  & … opposites attract

We can all think of situations where both are true and yet… they are contradictory

Therefore both can’t be true

That, of course, leads us to a very important principle – the principle of context or application

All the world’s great maxims are situational to either context or application – taken out of the situation their truthism could be up for grabs

Another problem with maxims is that a short statement could never contain all the wealth of the larger context from which it was plucked

                                    This problem is common issue with some Biblical interpretation      

It is something that can and does happen to two of our readings today

The story from the OT today, where we hear of the prophet Samuel commissioned by God to select a new King to replace Saul because the Lord says to Samuel “I have rejected him from being king over Israel. (1 Samuel 16:1b)

In the story we hear of the prophet going to Jesse’s household and in seeing the oldest seven sons. With each son, as Samuel looks at them, he thinks they will be a suitable candidate - yet the Lord does not select one of them – so they call for the youngest David – who is only a boy who was tending to the sheep – and, of course, he is selected

We are often tempted to reduce this whole long narrative to a simple single maxim

Don’t judge a book by its cover … or… God sees differently

Or we could even use the words of scripture and say “Lord does not see as mortals see” (1 Samuel 16:7c)

I am sure that Glenna wouldn’t have want to read this long reading, if it could be summed up by a single line

God provides much more to learn from the whole reading then a single statement could do justice

Consider the following layer of insight:

Being anointed by the prophet Samuel was for David not an instant rise to glory

It did not entail anything so direct as a receiving a crown and moving into a palace.

Instead, for David it meant entering a world of intrigue and danger.

He was just a boy and still had about 20 years before God installed him as King

He would serve Saul and at times have to dodge Saul's spear,

He had to stay alert to Saul's spying servants, and for nearly a decade outwit and outrun Saul and his army who were intent on killing him.

It meant life on the lam -- a life marked by fighting and waiting -- which would only end upon Saul's death, years later.  

So living as God's anointed, "gripped" by the spirit of God was probably more lonely and terrifying than anything David could have imagined.  

            It was certainly more than “Don’t judge a book by its cover”

It was a life thrust upon him rather than one he chose for himself.

A life he couldn't escape, even had he tried.[1]

                                                David had to live by the great maxim from the movie ‘The Godfather’

                                                            “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”

The word of God is so rich with meaning on every page, every verse, and every word

We can read passages today and they will evoke in us a certain understanding and a year later an entirely different one

            We need to always be alert to the folly of reducing God’s inspired Word to a simple maxim

                        Our Gospel reading today, too, has fallen victim of often been reduced to maxim

                                                The first parable has been shortened to “God’s in the growing”

                                                            And the second – the parable of the mustard seed

                                                                        – “from small beginnings can come great things”

When I was in seminary, one of things that our preaching prof stressed was – “if you think you know for certain what a parable means then you are certainly wrong”

            Jesus’ parables were so rich in meanings that careful work in understanding them reveals only layers

Notice how the Parables leave outsiders mystified, but are an opportunity for further teaching of Jesus' own disciples to learn on their own with him.

All are included in Jesus' teaching, but it is those who follow him who are given further insight.

James Barry wrote a book years ago called The Little Minister.

It's the story of a young clergyman who is sent to a small town in Scotland to be the new preacher.

He is to take the place of an old man who had been minister in the village for many years.

Hoping to be complimentary, the little minister says to the old man,

“I will begin where you left off."

The old man thought a moment and then spoke out of his wisdom.

"No, my son, you will begin where I began." [2]

The Gospel parables today, as a whole emphasizes the hiddenness and smallness of the quiet beginnings of the kingdom

And also underscores the sense in which the sower does not make the kingdom happen by force of will;

Indeed ‘the sower of the parable’ doesn't even water or weed!

The sower just sows and then sleeps and rises night and day, and the earth produces of itself, and the mustard plant puts forth its large branches.

The Kingdom of God grows organically.

And inevitably, as day follows night, God's hidden, mysterious work in the world, and in us, will be fruitful.[3]

Another point, beyond that the mustard plant starts as a proverbially small seed and grows into a shrub of three or four feet, or even higher – enough to shade the birds

It is understanding what a mustard plant is to the people & region of the time, and in fact still to this day.

A mustard plant tends to take over where it is not wanted,

That it tends to get out of control, and that it tends to attract birds within cultivated areas where they are not particularly desired.

            Mustard plants with birds beside a wheat field is an undesirable paring

And that… said Jesus, was what the Kingdom was like (Crossan)

For us, beyond the tiny seed to great bush, we should think of the parable in our context, think of the mustard seed like some invasive species that the Ontario government inform us are growing beyond their welcome, like: Zebra mussels – Purple Loosestrife - Emerald Ash Borer Beetle – Asian Carp – or the Norway Maple

            Jesus is saying that The Kingdom of God is pervasive and a pest to the worldly order

We live in a world in which people are afraid of losing control, or more correctly, of letting someone or something else control their fate.

We have been taught that in order to succeed one must have a goal - after all, as Yogi Berra said,

“If you don't know where you're going, you might end up somewhere else.”

Jesus teaches us that the Kingdom of God, the work of grace and mercy and compassion and in the world, works from a totally different theory.

These parables remind us that we are called to do the work,

Indeed we are called to do the work to the best of our ability;

But they also remind us that the ultimate purpose and outcome of this work is not in our hands, but in God's…which is, I assure you, a reality that is both frustrating and reassuring.

It is frustrating to those of us who don't like to wait, who like to be in charge and in control of our own fate and destiny,

Who like to see progress being made, who like to be able to measure and calibrate and control.

But it is also reassuring and liberating to know that in God's eyes success is not judged by the size of the harvest but by our faithfulness in sowing seeds.[4]

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, began her orphanage with such a vision.

She told her superiors, "I have three pennies and a dream From God to build an orphanage."

A dream and three pennies represented resources as small as a mustard seed.

"Mother Teresa," her superiors chided gently, "you cannot build an orphanage with three pennies...with three pennies you can't do anything."

"I know," she said, smiling, "but with God and three pennies I can do anything." [5]

And so on this Father’s day – may your vision be bold

            May you continue to strive for the rich depth and many ‘layers of understanding’ in God’s Word

                        May you trust in the Lord to doing the growing… in you … and in others

                                    May you see the Kingdom of God spreading pervasively to whatever it touches

                                                May you allow yourself to humbly serve the Lord

The small for the Immeasurable

                                    And may you catch a glimpse of our Father in heaven’s Vision

                                                To see the world as The Father sees




[2] Illustration Sourcebook, # 1923, GROWTH, CLERGY


[4] Dr. John Fairless

[5] The Rev. Dr. Hugh L. Eichelberger

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