Father’s Day Sermon

  • 6 September 2022
  • Stuart Robinson

As it is Father’s Day, I thought I’d start with the ‘statutory’ dad jokes to get us in the right frame of mind.

  • Karl Marx the celebrated thinker – and father to 7 children; had a lesser well-known sister, Onya, the inventor of the starting pistol 😊!!
  • Q: What is your toddler guilty of if she refuses to have an afternoon sleep? 

A: Resisting a/rest.

  • I never wanted to believe my dad was stealing from the Department of Main Roads, but when I came home, all the signs were there!
  • Dad to his son – ‘I had a dream about a muffler last night, it left me exhausted!’.

Now then, so that we might not be exhausted (!) – but refreshed – a word we find in our text today, let us pray.

Lord – please refresh and renew us by your Holy Word. Amen.

This first century letter from one Christian man to another; Paul to Philemon, starts and finishes on the same note – with a word that sets the tone for everything in between – and that word is ‘grace’(and you see it there in verse 3 and verse 25).

‘Grace’ is a reference to God’s superabundant generosity, his undeserved kindness – expressed to us fully, finally, and flawlessly, in Jesus’ sin-bearing death, for us.

Jesus’ death secures the ‘peace’ about which Paul speaks in verse 3. 

When Jesus is our Lord (verse 3), when we willingly become ‘captive’ to his plans and purposes (verse 1), we also are adopted into God’s family (or ‘born again’ as Jesus has it in John 3).

Yes, the great creator God, becomes our Father. 

We are reminded of that in verse 3.

And it is all of grace. 

It is a ‘gift’, a free gift (to us) that is ‘purchased’ in and through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

And as God’s children – along with that great privilege, comes great responsibility.

Now, did you notice that in just 25 verses, 11 people are mentioned, by name? 

They are:












What a collection: the young and the old, married, single, men, women, skilled, unskilled, some from a religious background – others not, felons, homemakers, academics, and tradespeople.

And by God’s grace – people who may not ordinarily have anything in common, are now being used by God to help other people grasp and embrace the gospel. 

Such grace.

John Stott once referred to this diverse and unlikely group (of which we are part), as ‘God’s new society’.

Further, God’s expectation – and this is the responsibility bit, is that as God’s ‘new society’, we are to grow into the family likeness…indeed it is a command: ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, and Saviour Jesus Christ’. (II Peter 3:18).

Let me show you, in part at least, from this text – how believers might discharge that responsibility practically and, in a God honouring manner.

First. As Jesus used every situation (including adversity and death even), to glorify and honour his heavenly father, so too does St. Paul, make the most of every opportunity.

We learn in verse 1 that because of his submitting to Jesus as Lord, Paul is now under house arrest for proclaiming that Jesus is Lord.

But rather than despair, Paul regards his situation – depleting as it may have been, as a very great opportunity.

Paul himself once said in Colossians 4 that we must make the most of every opportunity – and that we are to be ready to speak of God’s grace clearly and boldly (Colossians 4:2-6) whatever the context or climate.

And Paul models this for us in Philemon 10. 

A runaway-slave (possibly a man who had stolen from his master – see verse 18), Onesimus, comes to Paul in prison…perhaps under arrest himself, or maybe for counsel and direction from the apostle, and Paul leads him to faith in Christ.

Jesus is now Onesimus’ Lord.

And Paul speaks of him with great affection. 

He refers to Onesimus as his ‘son’. 

No longer an ‘article’ to be bought and sold, Onesimus is part of new family, God’s new society, the church.

Paul is his ‘spiritual father’, as it were.

Through Christ, they are together members of the same community, brothers in Christ.

Such grace.

And Paul was the conduit of that grace; he seized the opportunity to share his faith with Onesimus and to welcome him as a new believer, into the family of God.

Second, as Jesus offers unconditional forgiveness to all who will receive it, so Paul urges his friend Philemon to be an example of forgiveness and grace.

And Paul is not afraid of being direct: he writes to Philemon and reminds him of his conversion – which like Onesimus, was through Paul’s ministry and witness; ‘you owe me your very self’, says Paul in the context of urging Philemon to welcome Onesimus back – not as a slave, but as ‘a brother in the Lord’ (verse 16).

That’s right: As God has forgiven Paul and Philemon their sin, Paul’s expectation is that as a child of God, Philemon will not only forgive Onesimus his sin, but that he will be reconciled to him, as evidenced by Philemon warmly welcoming Onesimus back into his household – as a fellow member of the family of God!

Now, at that time, in that era, such radical love and extravagant grace was countercultural, to say the least. 

But Paul was crystal clear in the application of God’s mercy and love when he directed the church in that community with these words, ‘bear with one another, and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ Colossians 3:13.

Third. Refreshment. As Jesus promised to grant rest and refreshment to all who come to him (Matt 11:28), and as God pours out his refreshment and spiritual renewal upon all who turn to him (Acts 3:19), so too are God’s children to be agents of life-giving hospitality, and renewal, and refreshment. 

Paul commends Philemon for his love and faithfulness to his Lord and towards the people of God. 

Says Paul, ‘your love, [Philemon], his given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people’. 

And then, persuaded that Philemon will indeed forgive Onesimus and welcome him home as a brother in Christ, Paul declares that such grace-in-action will, ‘refresh my heart in Christ’ (verse 20). 

Indeed, so convinced is Paul of Philemon’s desire to reflect the family likeness, that he (Paul) adds, ‘confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask(verse 21)’

Having himself been refreshed and renewed as a child of God, Philemon uses his resources, and his station, and his gifts, and his skills to bless, invigorate, and enliven those with whom he connects.

In short, Paul and Philemon reflect the family likeness:

Together they:

  • make the most of every opportunity 
  • model forgiveness and grace
  • use their resources and their situation to refresh, bless, enliven, and empower those whom God the Father brings into their purview.

Right, last dad joke for today:

As the storm raged, Captain Browne realised her ship was sinking fast. She called out, “Anyone here know how to pray?”

Reverend Greene stepped forward. “Yes captain” he called to her, “I know how to pray.”

“Good,” she said, “you pray while the rest of us put on our life jackets – we are one short!!!”

May we pray?

Lord – on this Father’s Day would you, in your mercy – continue to grow us into the family likeness. Give us grace to make the most of every opportunity, especially that we might speak of our trust in and love for you; that we might model forgiveness and grace; and that our resources, gifts, and talents might be used by you to bless, serve, and refresh those with whom we engage.

In the name of Christ.


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