I sympathize with fellow church leaders who wrestle with what to do at church on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Some of us avoid them altogether, as if they didn’t exist, while others craft the sermon, even the service, around the day.

I once heard a pastor remark that those opposed to “high church liturgy” often have instead a “Hallmark liturgical calendar,” so not Pentecost or Epiphany but MLK Day, a summer series bounded by Memorial Day and Labor Day with Fourth of July in the middle, and a fall calendar with Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving.

Our church tends to fall in the middle. On the one hand, we mark Lent and Advent, but we miss all the national holidays except Mother’s and Father’s Day.

But even when a church highlights Mother’s and Father’s Day, it’s not always clear the best way to do so. My church, just like your church, is filled with some people rejoicing and other people weeping.

Father’s Day, which is just around the corner, amplifies the pain of infertility, miscarriage, abuse, abandonment, divorce, and death. But Father’s Day also highlights the joys of parenting and being parented and that children are a wonderful gift from the Lord. It’s also a day to encourage the fathers among us who strive, however imperfectly, to image the love of the heavenly Father.

During our church services on these days, I’ll often do the announcements or pastoral prayer, briefly mentioning this tension and praying in such a way as to cover the spectrum of emotions and to lift our eyes to the Lord.

Some years on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I also write a poem and read it to the church. Two years ago, I wrote a poem for Father’s Day based on Proverbs 23:26, which says, “My son, give me your heart.” I stumbled on that short verse a long time ago, being struck by the audacity of asking for something of such significance: a father not asking for mere good deeds done with indifference, but rather his son’s heart, the very center of who he is. It strikes me that this is what God asks from all of us. “Give me your heart,” our Father in heaven says.

My poem is an imagined conversation between a loving father and a prodigal son. I’ve included the poem below. I only share it in the hope that it might stir an idea as you prepare yourself and your church for this Sunday.

When I shared the poem in church, the feedback was good but certainly not glowing. That’s what I expected. The poem is good but not great. And that’s okay. I ain’t Will Shakespeare or John Piper.

But this winter, a year and a half after I shared the poem at church, I went to the house of a member who had died a few days before. I sat around a kitchen table with the man’s widow and three grown children to plan the funeral of the father and husband they loved and will only see again in heaven.

After we planned and prayed and hugged, I went to leave. And as I did, I saw my Father’s Day poem taped to his fridge. I smiled, thanking God that even though most of the time pastors don’t get to see the fruit God grows through our ministry, sometimes we do.


“My Son, Give Me Your Heart”

Dad, there’s a cuddly dragon outside
I’d like to take him for a ride
He’s just beyond my window pane
His breath is steaming in the rain

My son, no
Dragons grow

I see him when I close my eyes
His whispering sounds so wise

Son, a dragon’s purr becomes a roar
He won’t be thrilled except through more
He’ll stretch his wings and won’t be tamed
His claws cut deep in hearts he’s claimed

Okay, okay, I understand
For you I’ll live a life that’s bland
I’ll clean my room and mow the yard
Grit teeth and tithe, and do what’s hard

My son, give me your heart

Remember that dragon outside?
I’m going to take him for a ride
His shiny scales feel soft and fast
We’ll swoop and soar over oceans vast

Don’t be deceived when they entice
The scales that shimmer also slice
Though his highest intension sleeps
A dragon only plays for keeps

Between your shoulders is his prize
Never believe him when he lies

My son, give me your heart

Then ride a stallion, pick a cause
Don’t live for fleeting man’s applause
Follow God, love him first to last
Then you’ll soar over oceans vast

Now, I’ve failed you; I blew it bad
I’ll run away; I’ll fix it, Dad

My son, give me your heart

You said, Love a woman, love her well
But I loved ten
You said, Follow all the rules
I ran with fools

That’s neither what I said nor meant
A father’s love will not relent
Run and run away you may
Never so far that you can’t pray
And I will surely love you still
Though you rebelled against my will
My son, give me your heart

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Benjamin Vrbicek
Benjamin Vrbicek is a teaching pastor at Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Brooke have six children. He blogs at Fan and Flame, tweets at @BenjaminVrbicek, and is the author of Don’t Just Send a Resume and Struggle Against Porn.

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