Father’s Day is a wonderful celebration that was invented to complement the much older celebration of Mother’s Day. It provides an excellent opportunity to preach sermons on the importance of fathers and biblical family leadership. The idea was introduced in 1910 as a petition to the Ministerial Association in Spokane, Washington, by Sonora Dodd with the backing of the local YMCA. As Leigh Eric Schmidt notes, “Dodd’s petition was a classic blend of popular Protestant liturgics, sentimentalism, moral reform, and republican civics”.
Trinity Sunday had the misfortune this year of falling on Father’s Day. Throughout the Western Church, Trinity Sunday is observed on the Sunday after Pentecost. Unlike the just over 100-year history of Father’s Day, Trinity Sunday goes back to at least the 11th century in some places and was universally recognized in the 14th century. But on the other hand, it has not had the support of Hallmark Cards, Inc., which was also formed in 1910. (I confirmed this by checking the Hallmark website, where a search for “Father’s Day” returned 39 results with internal links to various kinds of products, whereas a search for “Trinity Sunday” returned no results.)
It is a sad indictment of the church in America that sentimentalism and republican civics and make-it-up-as-you-go-along liturgics win over the sanctification of time that beats with the rhythm of the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Our heart-tugging, tear-jerking moments mask our lack of real depth.
One of the reasons Sonora Dodd, the YMCA and the Spokane ministers needed to invent Father’s Day was because their culture had already divorced itself from the Father’s Day already celebrated in much of the Church. Father’s Day was originally an extension of St. Joseph’s Day on March 19. (It is still celebrated as such in some countries.) It was tied to the earthly father of the Lord, with the Holy Family as the model family.
It’s funny how that works. We ditch something the Church has already had and then invent something else to replace the void created. Churches that would treat “tradition” as a dirty word would never miss the opportunity to trade on the new tradition of Father’s Day each and every year.
But that’s where that republican civics comes in. Sure we can celebrate Father’s Day in church, but we don’t have to. Making it a civic holiday, we make fatherhood whatever we want it to be. Father’s Day cards can be risque and ribald or just celebrate manly-man-ness. Of course on the other hand they can also be flowery sanctified sentimentality.
Who needs to associate it with St Joseph, the old guy that risked his own reputation to marry his pregnant teenage fiancée, who hadn’t gotten that way because of him, just on the word of an angel in a dream? He then had to flee with his family as refugees. This same guy raised God’s Son as his own son. I’d go with him as the model father.
And let’s not forget Trinity Sunday. It’s not just important because it re-affirms to us that most important of doctrines that is unique to Christianity – that God is at once One and Three.
It’s also important because it displays to us to perfect love and unity of the Godhead, which is to be the model for the love and unity of the Church. Just like the first Sunday in Advent kicked off the half of the year that recounts to us the story of redemption, Trinity Sunday is the beginning of the long green season. It is the time of growth in Christ. It is sometime called Ordinary Time. It’s the time to put it all into action and make the ordinary extraordinary.