Skip to comments.The Rev. Samuel Edwards: "On Honoring Father and Mother"
Posted on 03/25/2006 4:26:28 PM PST by sionnsar
From the Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter in Alabama, we have this sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent:
Sermon on the Third Sunday in Lent (2006)I suppose perhaps one reason Christianity perhaps has fallen on hard times in the West is the overall spirit of rebellion in our society and culture. If we are not willing to recognize the authority of parents or of government, it is not likely that we will recognize the authority of Scripture or of the Church. May God help each of us to accept the authority of each of these in our lives--and fulfill this commandment.
Countdown to Godliness
Sermon VI. On Honoring Father and Mother
God spake these words and said: Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
The commandment to which we come today, together with the one that precedes it (which we will consider next week), serves as a sort of hinge or pivot between the first four and the last six of the Ten Commandments. The primary focus of the first four commandments is on our relationship with God; the primary focus of the rest is on our relationship with one another. Yet it would be a mistake to think that this means these concerns are completely segregated from one another. They neither are nor can be: We cannot love God truly without loving our neighbor, for he has commanded us to do so, and if we love him, we will keep his commandments. We cannot love our neighbor rightly if we do not love God, in whose image our neighbor is made.
In this commandment, Honour thy father and thy mother, we have enunciated a principle that is essential to the survival of any society of any kind the attitude classically known as filial piety. It is not too much to say that to the degree that this attitude is absent, a family or a society, a club, an educational system, a nation, a church, any institution whatever is dysfunctional and can no longer fulfill the purpose for which it was ordained. When the children do not honor the parents, they are poisoning their own well and shadowing their own future.
It is for this reason both that this commandment is given with a promise attached to it (the first one so embellished) and that its violation can lead to capital punishment for stubborn offenders: If you would live long in the land, the Lord tells the Hebrews (and us), you shall honor your father and your mother. If you will not do so, refuse correction and persist in your defiance, then your parents may accuse you before the elders of the community and they shall stone you to death. Shall, by the way, not may: It is not an optional sentence and the failure of the elders to impose it might well be construed as a dereliction of duty. (See Deuteronomy 21:18-21) It is noteworthy that, when he refers to this passage in his teaching, Jesus gives no indication that he considers this penalty unduly harsh, even though by his time it may not have been used much, if at all. (Of course, if it were used at all, it most likely would not have to be used much.)
Now, before going any further, a couple of things need to be understood lest we who are parents, or elders, or leaders get unduly complacent in this knowledge. First, we who are in authority are also under authority. This commandment, together with its promise and its penalty applies to us as much as it does to those who are under our authority. If we would have honor of those in our charge, we must pay honor to those in whose charge we are. If we are entitled to have an accounting from others for their performance, we must be aware that we also will have to give an account for our performance. There is but one Father without a father of his own, and he is not us. Even among absolute monarchs and totalitarian dictators, there is at least a pretense of accountability to something greater than themselves: Even if most of them obviously dont really believe it, they say they do. (Hypocrisy, it is said, is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.) Our authority will be honored to the extent that we honor those who are in authority over us, and not a bit more.
Furthermore, Scripture makes it clear that we who are in authority have an obligation to exercise it wisely and gently, as well as firmly. Jesus says that we are not to exercise it harshly, as the Gentiles do, but keeping in mind that we are servants. Paul exhorts fathers not to provoke their children to wrath and masters to forbear threatening.
It is very important to pay very close attention to just what it is that God commands us here. We are enjoined to honor our father and our mother. The word means that we are to respect and give due reverence to them. It does not mean that we must agree with their every opinion or that we must render unquestioning obedience to every directive. However, it does mean that when an opinion is expressed, it is to be accorded a special degree of consideration and that when a directive is given, the burden is on us to justify our disregarding it. We are to start with a presumption that it is the right thing to do a presumption that must stand until we are morally certain, on the basis of divine revelation and right reason, that another way is not merely better but also required to be followed. It is possible to give due honor to someone with whom we disagree, and often that means doing what they tell us to do when we dont want to do it. It is possible to believe a person is honorably mistaken rather than that he is stupid or evil. It is possible for to be vigorously but loyally opposed to a policy instead of engaging in sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion against duly constituted authority.
Much of this seems to have been forgotten over the last forty or fifty years in our own society. It has been replaced with a reflexive skepticism about authority. Many of those in government, the media, and the church who cut their teeth in the heady campus activism of the 1960s and 1970s, (when the watchwords included, Never trust anyone over thirty and Question authority) cannot understand why they are now mistrusted, why their authority is under constant challenge, why they are always having to duck stones hurled in their direction. They are simply reaping what they sowed. They have digged a pit before me, and are fallen into the midst of it themselves. [Ps 57:7]
It is noteworthy that this commandment enjoins the honoring of both father and mother. It does not collectivize them as parents, nor does it permit honoring the one without the other. This is evidence both that the divine design for the family includes a father and a mother and that their roles are not fundamentally interchangeable. Mothers and fathers do different things for us spiritually. Years ago, a Christian psychologist who was a friend and colleague gave me a simple description of the difference. She said that at the most basic level, our father imprints our soul at the level of identity, while our mother imprints us on the practical level. That is, we look to our father for the answer to the question, Who am I? and we look to our mother for the answer to the question, What am I supposed to do about it? The absence of genuine fathering and mothering all too easily can result in rootless and ineffective people, easily led, easily used, easily thrown away, and socially destructive. When we honor father and mother and that supremely includes God our Father and the Church our mother we are not doing them a favor: We are doing ourselves and our children and our childrens children a vital service
Finally, and most importantly, we must remember that no one is exempted from this commandment because our Lord did not exempt himself from it. It is recorded that after his parents found him in the Temple among the rabbis when he was twelve, he returned with them to Nazareth and he was subject unto them. If he who arguably could have commanded their subjection because he was Who He Is was willing to be under their authority and to honor them, what excuse have we to offer if we refuse to do likewise?
He it is who now invites us, in his Fathers Name and in the fellowship of Mother Church, to come to the family table and to receive and be received by him, so that we having our identity as adopted sons of the Father confirmed, may go forth into the world to serve and to bring others to share the feast.
This is a good sermon. I'm working on an essay on how the yearning for godly fatherhood is a major factor in the modern world, and Rev. Edwards touches on some of the points I'm making.
I'm glad you like it. Our rector knows Fr. Edwards and holds him in very high regard.
I believe I'll print it out and read it to the Offspring at morning prayers on Monday!
Fr. Edwards has been doing a series of sermons on the Ten Commandments; links to earlier ones (about six of them) can be found on the page in my tagline -- just search the page for "edwards".
Thanks! I've been reading some of them here, and the general content is consistent with our Baltimore Catechism - "The First Commandment commands us to (a,b,c); the First Commandment forbids (x,y,z)." - but he has a really good way of putting things.
What is the "Baltimore Catechism"?
What is funny, or sad?, is that our Rector has started presenting sermons that I think are every bit as good as Fr. Edward's.
I say "started" because I wasn't doing any comparisons until recently... but I also think our Rector, who is relatively new, is beginning to relax a bit. Still, he's a bit shy about publication, and I certainly can't blame him.
I think the Baltimore Catechism is a summary of Catholic beliefs specifically drafted for American members of the Catholic church to understand it.
Now to the sermon...as an Bible-believing evangelical Christian I would say this sermon is pretty consistent with the Bible teachings. If you didn't mention it was Anglican, I would have guessed a Baptist or Bible church pastor delivered it - it is so unlike the wishy sermons I hear from many average Anglican priests (eg John Paterson, the Archbishop of Auckland for the NZ Anglican church).
Yes, the Baltimore Catechism is a set of books used in the American Catholic Church for generations to teach basic doctrine on faith, morals, and practices. It's a very useful tool, because, although there is always more to be said on any subject, you can be sure that the formulations in the B.C. are an accurate statement.
Regarding other Protestant or Evangelical congregations, I expect that the B.C. treatment of the Ten Commandments would be largely consistent with their beliefs. Certainly it's similar to a traditional Presbyterian or Lutheran Catechism. There would, of course, be significant differences of belief in other areas, but in the Good Old Days, Christian morality wasn't something with a lot of "local option"!
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