Summary: This sermon is a compilation of scripture in the form of a 'letter' from God to his children describing His love for us.
Last Sunday, I told a story and showed a video to conclude my sermon. For those of you who may not have been here, it was a story about a father and his handicapped son. When most of the medical system had written this child off as “a vegetable”, this dad refused to give up. He found a way for his son to communicate, and then he found a way to bring a deep richness to his life. See, when they went running – dad pushing the son in a wheelchair – the son said “I feel like I’m not disabled anymore”. So they run – in marathons, and in triathlons, and even in the Iron Man. This dad is now 73, and he and his son ran in this year’s Boston Marathon. The dad explains, “I do it purely for the awesome feeling of the smile on his son’s face.” After telling the story, I shared a video I’d found that accompanied it, and most of us had tears rolling down our faces and then left challenged and inspired and uplifted by the love of father and son, and of a life that had once been written off being reclaimed, finding great joy, and having a huge purpose in now inspiring others (the father-son team do a lot of motivational speaking engagements).
In preparing to share the story, I had of course read it and watched the video a bunch of times before Sunday, but when I watched it in the service with all of the rest of us it impacted me again, and this time a little differently. As I watched, I felt the Holy Spirit whispering something new to me along with the video, and it was this: “Steve, see that father pushing his son in a wheelchair, pulling him through the water, cycling with him on the front, all so that disabled child can delight in life? All just so he can see that great smile, know the exuberance of his son, feel the arm-in-air joy of his son?? See that father? - that is me… and the disabled guy with the big smile, that is you…” It is pretty easy to see where that goes… I like to think I’m not the disabled guy, I’m the big strong father, but in reality I know God is right. There is a lot in my life, and in yours as well, that prevents me from living life to the full. There is a lot of handicap. And so I could be written off, left in an institution, or be left to try and muddle through life on my own like a mentally handicapped street person pushing a grocery cart with no support. But I’m not written off… I have a big strong Father, His name is God, and His greatest delight is in my redeemed life living in joy. So my Father will run, He will push me in a wheelchair and pull me in a dingy and put me on the front of His bike, He will even sacrifice that most precious thing to Him – the life of His son, Jesus – so that I can be restored and enjoy life to the full.
I don’t know what your experience of “father” is. Mine was non-existent, I grew up without a father in the home. Yours might have been negative, it might have been positive, most likely it was a bit of both. And while that certainly has a huge impact on how we relate to and experience God as Father, let’s not just get stuck there, instead let’s maybe allow God to define Himself as our Father.
The most common perception of God as Father is in a disciplinarian role – harking back to the day of “just you wait till your father gets home young man!”. We tend to see God the Father in the roll of judge – sitting high on the judge’s bench with a black gown and a stern look, gavel at the ready, about to convict us of sin and slam the gavel down and send us to our punishment. There may be a place for those images, but absolutely not the place of prominence that they have for us. The truth of God as Father is much much broader, much more beautiful, and much more intimate than that distant guy on the bench who read your file and heard the accusations of your accuser. Let’s re-imagine God as Father as involved in our life, as the father who cried tears of joy at our birth, who rocked us to sleep in his arms while singing lullabies, who laughed and fed us in the high chair, who wiped the dirt off our skinned knees when we fell, who taught us to ride a bike and ran beside us as fast as he could so he could catch us when we almost tipped over, who encouraged us when we didn’t think we could do it, who coached our soccer teams, who smiled at our junior high band concerts, who cried at our high school graduation, who showed us how much he loved us by setting limits and enforcing them, who paid the tuition for our college/university, who listened and coached us on our emerging adult relationships, who was always eager for a phone call for advice and came running over to help start the lawnmower or hold the ladder while we clean out the gutters, and so on throughout our adult life. How about we re-imagine God as Father, not as judge high on a stand, but as close beside us as the father in the story I shared last week. Intimately involved in our lives.