The first national commemoration for fathers took place in a Sunday sermon at William’s Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, a small church in Monongah, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908. The sermon was a solemn dedication to 362 men who had perished in the worst coal mining disaster in the nation’s history. Over 1,000 children, most of them from immigrant families, lost their fathers in the massive explosion in the Fairmont Coal Company mines on December 6, 1907.
The next year, in Spokane, Washington, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon in her local church, pushed to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for fathers. Raised as one of six children, Sonora held deep admiration and respect for her father. A civil war veteran, he was a single parent to Sonora and her five brothers after her mother died during childbirth. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers, and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and was eventually successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1916, President Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged all state governments to observe Father’s Day.
For those fortunate enough to have been blessed with a loving father, this holiday is a special opportunity one day a year to honor them or their memory. For those less fortunate, who perhaps never had a loving relationship with their father or a father figure, or worse, have only troubling memories of a harsh or abusive father, there is still a reason to celebrate this day.
Have you ever stopped to think about why the Lord’s prayer begins with the phrase “Our Father which art in heaven”? Why do we call God father? Many pagan religions in the world have female deities. For example, Shakti is one of the most powerful Hindu goddesses. She is even referred to as “The Great Divine Mother.” Celtic, Egyptian, Greek and several other cultures all worshipped female deities. Why is the Christian religion different?
The Bible refers to God “the Father” simply because that is who He is: He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3). In John 5 Jesus refers to himself as “the Son,” and he also talks of his “Father” (5:19-23), a reference to God (5:18). Throughout scripture, God’s nature as the creator and giver of life is cast in the context of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-forgiving, all-powerful Father. The imagery of a welcoming father is perhaps best illustrated in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. This parable resonates universally. Who has not been prodigal or felt lost or separated from God? As Christians, Paul reminds us that we are no longer slaves, but are adopted sons and daughters, joint-heirs with the Son.
We can call God “Abba Father”, a phrase that Jesus himself used in his Gethsemane prayer as he cried out for strength to face the coming day’s crucifixion. The word “Abba” in Aramaic signifies a close, intimate, endearing relationship between a child and their human father. But ponder for a moment this word in the context of our relationship with our heavenly Father. One who knows all there is to know about us; who formed us in the womb, and yet pursues a close, intimate relationship with us. What a privilege it is for us to be able to run to his arms and cry “Abba Father!”
Larry L. Crain, www.Crainlaw.legal