Summary: Not everyone has great memories of their Dads but Jesus knew his Father and knew what he meant to his father.
I officially declare today the first day of summer, at least for 2013. For no other reason than today I start my summer preaching series, which wouldn’t really work if it was still spring.
This summer our theme will be “A Red Letter Summer” and if you are wondering what that means it’s really pretty simple. In most bibles that are printed today, if you flip to the gospels, and the revelation you will discover that some, not all but a lot, of the words are printed in red. And those are the words of Christ. The term Red Letter meaning something important first came from the practice of printing the dates for Holy Days on Calendars in red. The first record of this is found in a book written by William Caxton is 1490 where it says, “We wryte yet in oure kalenders the hyghe festes wyth rede lettres of coloure of purpre.” Obviously Bill learned to spell with Hooked on Phonics.
The idea of printing the words of Christ in Red came from Louis Klopsch who was an editor of the Christian Herald Magazine. The first Red Letter New Testament was published in 1899 and the first Red Letter Bible was published 2 years later. And it caught on. Many of those who use the King James Version find it useful because the King James doesn’t use quotation marks.
A few years ago a group started that called themselves “Red-Letter Christians”. Proponents of the movement decided that both the far right and left of Christianity was exploiting the New Testament for their political agendas a response they have endeavored to create an evangelical movement that focuses on the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly in regard to social issues.
However if we truly believe that the whole Bible is the inspired word of God then we can’t simply lop off the parts we don’t like. So in highlighting some of the red letter portions of the Gospels we aren’t saying that these are more important than the words that you might read from other portions of the New Testament, but they are the words of Jesus.
So where to start? It has been interesting as we’ve been looking at the summer preaching schedule with the staff to see where each of them is planning on going with this series on the dates they are scheduled to speak. Most of us have a particular red letter passage that is our favorite. Whether it be “For God so Love the World”, “Suffer the little children to come to me” or “You must be born again.” So many scriptures, so little time. So where do we start?
Well that was easy, it is Father’s day and time and time again Jesus refers to God as Father. And he tells us that we should approach God as our heavenly Father, in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus even tells us that when we address God we should call him Father.
And that was a departure because for thousands of years the Jews had maintained that God’s name was too holy to use, and He was some distant deity way out there somewhere that we couldn’t relate to who certainly couldn’t relate to us and that we didn’t communicate with directly. To the Jews of Jesus’ day there had to be an intermediary, you went to the priest and they in turn offered sacrifices on your behalf to God.
You ever try to connect with someone through a middle man? And it just wasn’t happening? You know you really had to talk to someone but first you had to go through a receptionist, or secretary or maybe an operator.
And into this setting comes Jesus who says “Hey, when you pray you need to start by calling God by His name which is Father!”
The problem is that in order for this to work we need to have a decent view of our father. If your concept of a father is someone who is abusive or distant then this isn’t the best illustrative device. Dads don’t always get the greatest press, and for obvious reasons, you only have to watch the news or read the paper to realize that some fathers aren’t the nicest people around.
When we were in Australia we met a Christian singer by the name of Peter Shirley and he sang a song called “WOULD YOU REALLY MIND”:
“When I was just a child, I didn’t understand
Why my father left my mother with the waving of a hand.
He told me it was best this way, but I couldn’t figure why.
The solution to the problem made my mother cry.
Lord I find it hard to call you father,
My memories aren’t real fond of the father that I had,
LORD I find it hard to call you father, but would you really mind,