Summary: This sermon describes what God as Father is really like and our interaction as fathers with our children profoundly and deeply and emotionally shapes the way they will interact with God.
Getting to Know Our Father
Matt 6, June 19, 2011
The way we imagine has an incredibly powerful impact on how we experience life. If we hear that a certain movie is the absolute best movie a friend has ever seen, they tell us we must see it as soon as possible, we start to imagine it in moving, lofty heights, we imagine it will be amazing and will impact us and make us feel deeply and inspire us. Have you had this happen? Then you go see it, and it is pretty good but you leave disappointed because you imagined it as so much more. Or maybe the first time you went camping and it was rainy and cold and you sat in a leaky tent eating dry buns and cold hotdogs because you couldn’t even light a fire to cook them – that will form the way you imagine what camping is like.
Those two examples may not be all that important but they demonstrate the point: the way we imagine has an incredibly powerful impact on how we experience life. My third example is extremely important. How do you imagine father?
It is an important question, because throughout Scripture we are encouraged and instructed to relate to God as Father. Our experiences in this area have a huge impact on how we are able to relate to God.
Some of those experiences are incredibly good. Some of us had fathers in our lives who, while certainly not perfect, did their best to love us. They were part of our lives, coming to soccer games and taking us on vacation and setting wise limits and enforcing those with loving discipline. They were there, they listened, they offered advice, they gave us the car keys, they wrestled and hugged, and they loved our moms as great role models. Some of you here today are those kinds of dads, and we thank God for you.
Those are good and helpful because then when Scripture talks about relating to God as Father, we imagine that relationship in a very positive light, we feel good about it, we warm to it.
But not all of us had or have those good relationships. Others of us had fathers who were cold, or were distant, perhaps abusive, or in my case just completely absent. In our cases, when Scripture talks about God as Father, the negative way we experienced this idea of father creates an image that is not helpful or positive. It creates a barrier we need to overcome.
So where are we going with this today? First I’m going to create some space for us to recognize what images of father our experiences have left us with, and then we are going to go to Scripture and see what Jesus meant when He described God as Our Father.
Accepting Our Experiences:
Here’s what I want you to do now. Take a few moments in quiet to remember and confront your experiences of an earthly father. If they are/were good, remember those things fondly and with thanksgiving. If they were hard, allow yourself to feel those and maybe begin to release any places where they still have a hold on you. For many there will be some of both, thank God for the good and release the bad. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will lead us in this time of reflection and contemplation. (silence)
Now I’m not going to focus on the negative, that is not my way. However, I do want to say a few things to those of us for whom that time of silence was hard because of our hurtful experiences with the earthly idea of father: I am sorry. That is not how it was supposed to be. You didn’t deserve that. That was not what God wanted for you. So now what? Maybe you’ve accepted, released, forgiven, and moved on – praise God. But if you haven’t, can I gently yet strongly encourage you to take those pains in your hands, pull them into the light where you can see them, and then open those tightly clenched fists and let them go. They aren’t helping you. They don’t make your life any better, the sins of others that hurt you aren’t worth holding on to any longer. Sometimes we bury them away out of sight but that doesn’t set us free – we are set free when we pull them out into the light, see them for what they are, accept that they happened and were painful, recognize that justice would be inflicting the same hurt back, but then choosing instead to open our fists and let go. When we don’t, we just keep hurting ourselves; when we do we find healing and freedom.