Summary: The focus of this sermon is the important of young boys and men having positive male roles such as fathers, and uncles actively participating in their lives.

"Dear Dad"

Genesis 21:8-21

By Reverend A. LaMar Torrence,

Cross of Life Lutheran Church

When I read the story of Ishmael, I wonder what he would say to his father Abraham after being cast out of his home. I imaged him as young man who may have one day, sat down and wrote his father a “Dear Dad” letter.

Dear Dad,

This father’s day instead of buying the traditional tie, watch, golf tee, or something you would probably not used, I decided to send you this letter expressing my most inner thoughts about our relationship. It’s time for us to talk man to man. It’s time for the famous father and son chat. It’s time for us do some male bonding. No longer can I continue to look to the future without dealing with our past. No longer will I hold up pinned frustrations from desiring to express my feelings towards you. I want to come clean and tell you what’s on my mind.

This is a thirsty generation. Young people are looking for answers to many complex situations. Many do not know why they are here. It is evident that for many their births were clearly mistakes. Statistics tells us that approximately two-thirds of African Americans youths are conceived before their time and born out of wedlock. They are interruptions to desired futures and deferred dreams. I count myself lucky that I was planned. The angel of the lord announced my birth. Folks were delighted to hear of my arrival. I was thought to be the promised child. No teenage mother had to hide her stomach in my situation. No one had to consider other options such as abortion and adoption. I was fortunate. When I was born I held in my mother’s arm and blessed by my father. They named me Ishmael meaning God hears. And, I thank God that he hears. I’m thankful that he heard my mother cries when she was at her wit’s end. She did not know what to do. Sarah had turned her out to Abraham to be her surrogate mother. Then later when mom got pregnant with me, Sarah’s jealousy would cause her to runaway into a baring wilderness. But God heard her cry and told her not to worry and not to fret. He would make a way somehow. You see, unlike other newborns, I did not end up in some trashcan abandoned by a crack addicted. I wasn’t born addicted to drugs and going through withdraws and the shakes. I wasn’t born with HIV flowing through my blood or suffering from sickle cell and MS. I was blessed. And that’s important when the mortality rate is higher for minority children than it is for their European-American counterparts. A black child as more obstacles facing him as he matures than his American peers do. Economically, he is crippled. Socially, he is scarred. Politically, he is raped. And spiritually, he is often empty. There is no silver spoon placed in his mouth. In the words of Langston Hughes, “Life for the black child ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, and boards all torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor -- Bare.’ Often too many children come across those bare floors. They are forced to endure the bareness of life.

Much like I was force to endure the bareness of the wilderness when God told you to listen to Sarah and send my mama and me on our way. We were forced to endure the bareness of life. God had set us out on a wilderness journey. In an instance, we became a dysfunctional family. You got the house and the car and mom just got me: no alimony, no monthly check; just a loaf of bread and a bottle of water. Mama joined the ranks of so many women before her- single, Black, female, and disadvantaged. Her husband had cast her and her child aside. Like so many divorcees she had to now become both father and mother to a teenage son. My life began to thirst. There were issues I couldn’t just talk to mom about. There were some things I knew she could give me no answers. Oh, we had a sacred bond. There is a tie that binds sons and mothers. She gave me comfort when life got hard. She wiped away my tears, and calmed my fears. And yet, dad, there came a point in my life where mama could not help. Her witty comments and proverbial wisdom was not enough to feel the void that was in my life. I needed a daddy. I needed someone to tell how to flow with the punches and duck to avoid getting hit. I needed someone to show me the true meaning of manhood and being a man. Mama taught me out to get in touch with my feelings but I need Daddy to show me how to control those feelings for the appropriate time and place. Mama taught me how a woman expects to be loved by a man but I needed daddy to tell me how love a woman without any expectations. Mama taught me how to speak to a woman and be sensitive to her needs but I needed daddy to show me how to implement some authority without threatening a woman’s independence. Mama taught me a lot of things but I still need dad to explain to those things. When I take a look at society at large, I can see nearly half of all children in our society live in single parent homes with mothers as the head of the household. For them, papa was either dead, on drugs, in jail, or just MIA (missing in action). US News reports that thirty-eight percent of our children live apart from their biological fathers. This means that nearly two out of every five children in America do not leave with their natural fathers. Even worse, over half of the nation’s children can look forward to spending part of their childhood without their fathers. And the sad part is that many believed that the problem of boys with guns and girls with babies is directly linked to absentee fathers. Social scientists have made similar links between a father’s absence and a child’s likelihood of being a dropout, jobless, a drug addict, a suicide victim, mentally ill, and a target of child sexual abuse. It is clear that we need our fathers. We need some positive male role models.

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