Happy Father’s Day weekend, Dads! Whether you are a Dad by blood or a dad by choice, a dad to your children, or to members of your community, we’re grateful for the way your Fatherhood can mirror the love of God. We know that just as with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is not the easiest holiday for all of us. If today is difficult because you are missing your dad, or you have an estranged relationship with your father or your children, or you have lost a child, our hearts are with you. We give thanks for a loving parent God who walks with us in these difficulties. Know that you are not alone.
Our relationships with our “families of origin” are often the places where we learn how best to approach the world and others- for better and for worse. This is certainly true of my life. I am grateful for the ways that both my mom and dad and my relationships with them, have taught me about relating to the world. As I thought about Father’s Day, I reflected with gratitude on the person my father is. My dad and I are incredibly similar. We are both passionate, sensitive, opinionated people. (We even look the same- see below!)
My dad is incredibly outgoing and has never met a stranger. He is a lover of food and coffee and has a deeply compassionate heart. I used to unconsciously twirl my shoes with my toes, just as he would. The similarities run deep! Most of the things I’ve inherited from my dad, I count among my strengths. I am grateful to share strong genetics and these great qualities with him. But our similarities can sometimes turn small misunderstandings into big conflicts when our sensitivity and opinionated natures get the best of us!
When I step back and realize how similar my dad and I are, I can reflect with empathy on our common goals and shared love. This process of conflict and reorientation through empathy has taught me a lot about being a good friend, roommate, and pastor! When I step back and react with empathy to a difficult situation, I’m reflecting on the healthy things I’ve learned from my dad and in my family of origin. Being in a relationship with others, including our own family, even in difficulty, can help us be better Christ-followers.
This is the message that Paul has for the Ephesians in our verses for this Sunday. While the Ephesian church was healthy, it was not perfect. There were certainly conflicts that had arisen among their membership. Throughout the book, Paul is urging them towards unity, but also unity through empathy. As they reflect on the grace they have been given, they can offer others grace in their imperfection, too.
This weekend, we’ll hear a practical message about sharing this grace in conflict. But this is not the only place our empathy can extend. Empathy can help us live as better conflict managers, but also as better neighbors.
Tomorrow our country will celebrate Juneteenth, which is now a national holiday marking the emancipation of slaves in the state of Texas on June 19th, 1865. While the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1st, 1863, slaves in Texas did not hear about it until June 19th, two and a half years later. For many African Americans, June 19th is a holiday of freedom and celebration, representing a time of long-awaited rescue.
If this is not our cultural experience, we can reflect with empathy on times that our families of origin have experienced freedom or the feelings we may have about the Fourth of July. This week, the Senate voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and one we can all learn about as we continue to make our world a place of freedom for all.
Conflict, neighboring, and family of origin relationships all take a lot of grace and empathy. So, this weekend, I challenge you: lean into your empathy muscles as we celebrate Juneteenth and Father’s Day, and as we explore the nature of conflict together with Paul.
See you Sunday,