This is the third Sunday after Pentecost. It is also the Summer Solstice, or the first day of summer. And, of course, it is Father’s Day. There are probably some other things to sneak on to the calendar if we check those obscure lists. (National hop on one-foot day, or celebrate biscuits and gravy day, something like that anyway.) As followers of the Spirit that comes from Christ, of course the “after Pentecost” designation takes precedence. But that doesn’t mean we can’t observe other markers in our midst. In fact, Pentecost invites us to bring life to anything and everything that we do as the people in worship.
So go ahead and bring the signs of summer into the worship of the people of God, not because we want to be confused as sun worshipers, but because the Son who rose from the dead sent us a Spirit to bring us life abundant. Let the colors be green and growing, sparkling with life and energy and joy. Let the liturgy speak of the glories of summer, give thanks for trees and warmth and for rain and growing things of all kinds. Celebrate the laughter of children and the refreshment of cold drinks on a hot day. Let summer be the language by which you praise God today. And then, of course, remind folks that the church is at work all summer long, and don’t forget to put church in their summer plans.
But then it doesn’t look like we are back together worshiping together as one family of God. This is written in the midst of the quarantine, and despite the hope that by June 21st we will have been back together long enough to have forgotten what it was like to long for one another’s presence, we may not be. We may still be sheltering in place, worshiping online, wondering when we will gather again. But even if we are back, and some churches are opening, some of us may have chosen to keep some of the online activities going. Some of us may continue our online worship because for some reason it drew people in ways that the face to face didn’t always. So celebrate summer however you gather, virtually or in person.
And don’t forget Dad. Yes, it is a delicate thing. Whether it is Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, some will be hurt by the words, by the memories, by the associations. No matter what you do, there is the possibility of pain. But ignoring won’t make it go away either. So, let there be a moment, a segment of the service where there is a prayer for Fathers. Pray for the fathers we honor and the fathers who struggle; pray for the fathers in name and the fathers in action, for mentors and guides and models by which we find our way into adulthood. Let there be a testimony or two giving honor to a father. But don’t let that be the only voice, the only word, as if to say that the word itself implies perfection. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Acknowledge the struggle—both for those who have done more damage than healing as fathers and those whose experience of father brings only memories of pain and rejection.
And why should we do such a thing? Because those voices, those people, those stories deserve to be heard. The “Open Our Eyes” series leans into the hymn (454 in The United Methodist Hymnal), moves to the second verse, which invites us to sing “Open my ears, that I may hear, voices of truth thou sendest clear.” Those stories are stories of truth that need to be heard and need to be acknowledged.
Father’s Day, however, is not the center of worship. Don’t build the order around defining fatherhood. Let it be a background; let it be one of the voices heard, along with summer, along with the echoes of Pentecost. The center of our worship is always Jesus the Christ and the call placed on our existence as disciples seeking the transformation of the world. So today we are asking for the Spirit to open our ears to the voices striving to be heard, the voices of truth that God is sending us through what have become the most unlikely of sources. So, how do we hear those voices?
Today might be a day for listening to those outside the church—those who cry for justice, yes, but also those who work for justice from a different perspective. They are partners with us. Today is the day to listen to music that might be called secular, and yet has themes of redemption and resurrection and hope. Today might be the day to find a poem or a story in which the Jesus we know by name is hidden or longed for. What movie tells a story we need to hear? Venture out of our enclave, though. Don’t just turn to “Christian” films or books or writers. We’re trying to hear all the people, to hear other voices. Of course, we have limits; this isn’t about shocking and offending the people in the pews, although the gospel is often shocking and offending. But this is about listening to other voices.
Not only outside voices, however. There are inside voices that are rarely heard. How can those whom no one pays attention to be given voice on this day? The underrepresented communities among us? From whom should we in worship on this day where we hope to “Open Our Ears”?
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.