Knowing The Father
Well happy Father’s day to all you fathers out there. I hope you have a special day. Thank you for all you have done, all you do. I don’t think you get as much appreciation as you should. It may be just me but it seems to me that there is perhaps more excitement around mother’s day than there is around father’s day. I mean it is hard not to be thankful to our mothers, though some of us may have had bad experiences with our mothers, we must admit they at the very least they gave birth to us and that is a pretty big deal. Why is it on mother’s day that we shower our mothers with cards, gifts, thank you and honor. While on Father’s day we feel awkward embracing our fathers. We feel awkward celebrating our fathers.
Yes some of us may have issues with our mothers. But our society suffers from a plague of fatherlessness not motherlessness. We have all heard the story of the single mom left by the dead beat dad but it is more rare to hear the story of the single dad left by the dead beat mom. What I am trying to say is there are some issues with fatherhood in our society, perhaps in every society that brings more angst to us than motherhood. I have met many well educated and well meaning people who have problems calling God Father. They might argue “doesn’t that suggest that men are better than women”, the fancy term for that is patriarchy. “Doesn’t that suggest that God is a guy with a beard?” The fancy term for that is anthropomorphism or ascribing human traits to God. And yet the same people will have little trouble talking about mother nature, mother Earth, or calling God mother.
But today Jesus is telling us that knowing God as Father is essential. It is essential for avoiding the fate of the unrepentant cities. In the words of Jesus, “ I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Jesus tells us that in a way the things of God are hidden from us. And it is the Father who reveals to us the Son and the Son reveals to us the Father. Most of us are comfortable talking about Jesus. He is the most relatable member of the Trinity. Some of us are cool with the Holy Spirit as long as He doesn’t get up in our grill like he does in those crazy Pentecostal churches. But calling God Father! Do we have to? Wasn’t Jesus just playing to his audience? There is nothing really Holy or special in that name is there? Can’t we call God something else if that language makes us more comfortable?
But I think we modern people are the ones projecting our views of God on ancient people not the other way around. We are very much tied up in debates over gender and gender roles and we are very sensitive to language that seems to allow men to dominate women, as we should be. And it is true that the society Jesus chose to incarnate in was a society ruled by men where women had few rights. But his society was also Jewish. And in Jewish society people took the second commandment, that being not to make any images of God, very literally. They were not even allowed to pronounce the Divine name Yahweh so they replaced it with the word Lord. Calling God Father in the Old Testament was not unheard of but it was rare. In the Old Testament God is called Father directly only four times. In the New Testament, which is a significantly smaller piece of literature, God is called Father 250 times. The Aramaic, that is the language Jesus spoke, term for Father Abba, is found in Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6. These are some of our earliest scriptures. And the fact that it was recorded in the language of Jesus suggests to us that Jesus spoke it and that it had such a profound effect on his followers that they had to write it down in the original language. Some scholars debate the trust worthiness of the New Testament. There is an entire debate in academic circles about what the “historical” Jesus said versus the Jesus of “faith” said. Now I believe the scriptures to be reliable and see no difference between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith. But if we are to question what Jesus said. If we were to find evidence and discount certain passage, I think what would remain is the fact that Jesus called God Father and this was relatively rare if unheard of at the time. Knowing God as his Father and inviting us through his death and resurrection to know God as our Father was of essential importance to Jesus. What is it in the name Father that expresses the essential character of God? What was Jesus trying to get at?
Several years ago I was in a prayer meeting in Richmond, VA where this question was brought to the forefront for me. At this meeting was a woman who I consider to be a prophet. She has spoken very accurate words from the Lord to me on several different occasions. And at that meeting she said to me, “Will you know Jesus, and the Spirit, but you need to know the Father’s Love.” At first I ignored the comment. Because I didn’t think it made any sense. I thought it was theologically suspect. I had gone to seminary, worked in a church, worked in the inner city, I had devoted my life to serving God. How could there be something about God that I was missing? But as I was driving home I thought about the plight of fatherlessness in my community. I thought about how many of the kids in the inner city did not know their fathers. And this lack of fathers began to cause me to think about the essential nature of fatherhood. And then it hit me. I realized the difference between a mother and a father.
A father must choose to stay with his child.
A mother, by her very nature, must carry a child for a time, must stay with a child for a time, even if it be in the womb. But the father is free to stay or go. To fulfill his vows or forsake his vows. There is no umbilical cord tying him to the child. The mother and child are one in the womb but the Father is separate, he is apart from the child till the child enters his world. And I thought that perhaps the essential nature of God that Jesus was trying to point to when he called God Father is this.
God chooses us.
Beyond all merit.
Beyond all hope in our own goodness.
When we become Christians we do not just receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior we receive the Father as our Father, our Abba, our Dear Dad. We are no longer slaves to fear we are children of God. He claims us as his own, though we rejected his image in the Fall of Adam and Eve, though we reject Him in our everyday lives, though we are without merit. Romans 8:15 speaks of the Spirit of Adoption that cries out “Abba, Father” The Spirit of adoption is the spirit that says I choose you even though there is no natural connection between us. I choose you even though you are helpless to choose me.
And when I realized this. When I realized how deep the Father’s love is for us, I pulled over my car and I wept. I was overwhelmed by the vastness of our Father, the wonders of his riches, the power of his wisdom, the certainty of his provision. None of us are perfect parents. But our imperfections push us to the one who is perfect. As we rest in Christ the Spirit fills us and strengthens us, and the Father comes and touches us, and we get a taste of the profound love and holiness that is like a tidal wave washing away all our sin. Maybe you had the best Father in the world. Maybe you had the worst. But I pray today as the Apostle Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:17, “ that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of his great might, that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far and above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Know the Father today. He holds you in His hand. He knows every hair on your head. You are far more valuable than a sparrow to Him. He has all the time in the world for you because he created the world and time and all things good and beautiful. Know the Father today. Ask Jesus to reveal the Father to you. He is waiting for you. He chooses you. He loves you.
In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.