At a recent staff meeting, I was sharing about upcoming themes for worship services here at East Brentwood Presbyterian Church. For Father’s Day (June 19th), I said I was going to use Father’s Day to talk about “Men’s Issues.” A fellow staff person replied: Men’s Issues? Well, that is going to be a long service!” Jokes. My staff is always full of jokes. But there is a grain of truth. We’ve got issues. A recent survey by the Shriver report found that four in nine men said it was harder to be a man today than it was in their father’s generation, with most citing women’s economic rises as the reason.
“I think American men are confused by what it means to be a man. No matter our age, we need to be taught to think beyond our own confining stereotypes of what masculinity means.”
For a lot of guys my age masculinity has meant someone who can provide for his family, one who can wrestle the bear and protect his children.
Ask our youth and young men about what is “The Bro Code.” What it means to “Man Up”; in school how it is better to earn your “Man Card” than to succeed in school like a girl, all in the name of constantly having to prove an identity to yourself and others.
The documentary, The Mask You Live In, discusses the masculine psyche and the shame young men experience over feelings of sadness, despair or strong emotions other than anger, let alone expressing it and the resulting alienation. Many young men, compose artful, convincing masks, but deep down they aren’t who they pretend to be. The question before us today is: What makes healthy men and how are we teaching boys to fill those roles?
In this day and age, we need to have a better understanding of what it means to be a man. It seems that everywhere we turn there is another news story about men in crisis: mental illness, terrorism, abuse, youth violence which is getting out of hand here in Nashville and mass shootings at the nightclub that recently happened in Orlando.
On this Father’s Day, I am going to talk about men -- our relationships, our feelings and the shifting stereotypes grown men and young men have to navigate. We need to be taught to think beyond our own stereotypes.
So I am going to talk about friendships among men. For fathers, I am going to talk about whatit means to be an imperfect father and about our ability to live well imperfectly in an imperfect world, with imperfect children in an imperfect world that is going to remain imperfect this side of the Kingdom of God.
I knew that I wanted to preach on the shifting, what people would refer to as the confining stereotypes of masculinity on this Father’s Day. Then I looked to see what the lectionary texts were for this day. Oddly, there was this story of the Gerasene demoniac.
Many people are bound. Some are bound and don’t even know it. Men can feel bound by the stereotypes. The difference between being free and being bound is at the center of our Gospel text this week.
Jesus goes to the land of the Gerasenes and is met by a man who has demons, so many that the name of the spirit is Legion. The man has to be bound with chains and shackles - and when he breaks his chains, the demons drive him into the wilderness. It is as if the man were behind actual prison bars: he is isolated from family, community and society. By the time, this man meets Jesus, he has been suffering a long time with these demons, living in the tombs, away from everyone else, alive, but living in a dead place. Imagine the loneliness. When he encounters Jesus, he is set free.
Many people are bound. Some are bound and don’t even know it. Anxiety, fear, anger, bitterness, disappointment, the past -- all these things can affect a person’s perceptions, experiences, and quality of life.
In our own day, many people - many men - are like the man in this week’s gospel text: they are oppressed or imprisoned by “demons” or “spirits” that keep them from operating to their fullest. (Luke 8:26)
Nowadays on a regular Sunday, going to church is not on the top 5 list of things for many of the men I know. And on Father’s Day, on the day they get to decide what the family will do, “it will unlikely be heard: Honey, kids we are going to church.” I hope to see you all this Sunday. But at the very least, thank you for listening to this message and I hope you will share it with those who might find this helpful.
And if you are looking for a special Father’s Day gift for the dad, step-dad, granddad or special man in your life, skip the tie or the card. Invite him to go do something with you: it could be a hike, a bike ride, a trip to get ice cream. Tell him something that he does well. It will mean so much to him.
Hope to see you Sunday.
Resources and More information:
The Mask You Live In Documentary - The documentary explores the masculine psyche - the shame over feeling any sadness, despair or strong emotion other than anger, let alone expressing it and the resulting alienation. Young men are taught from day one to “man up” and compose artful, convincing masks, but deep down they aren’t who they pretend to be. East Brentwood Presbyterian Church owns this video if you are interested in viewing it.
A youtube video of a young boy getting a vaccination and being told by his father to “be a man” and not to show fear and pain. Fathers of sons: we have all said something similar to our boys.
A Blog by Chip Dodd about fatherhood. He artfully writes about what it means to be an imperfect father and about our ability to live well imperfectly in an imperfect world, with imperfect children in an imperfect world that is going to remain imperfect this side of the Kingdom of God.
Chip Dodd’s The Voice of the Heart. An insightful book helping men better understand the eight essential emotions so they are better equipped to live in relationship with others and, ultimately, with God.