A Father for Everyday
What a pitiful creature a fatherless child is. God is specifically said to have a heart for the "fatherless." Our Lord Jesus promised us He would not leave us as orphans. What a sad thing not to have father. What a sadder thing to have a father but act like you don't.
We need a heavenly Father every day, yet we're not pointed to one. Human reason points us toward a Businessman. It points to a god who we can go to, depend on, and seek shelter in IF. If we do what is right, if we try your best, if we don't give up, then God will help us. God helps those who rightly apply themselves to grace; God helps those who pray sincerely enough, desperately enough, selflessly enough. We can go to God for help as long as we hold up our end of the deal. So how are you doing with a businessman rather than a Father?
We need a Father who is in heaven, yet we're not pointed to one. Our conscience points us to a punisher. Our conscience rightly tells us we're guilty. We have done the wrong and failed to do the right. Our conscience tells us God will get us for this; His wrath and anger against our sins will be poured out on us. So every ache, every pain, every bad thing that comes into our lives, we see God the punisher behind it. Who can expect any good thing from a punisher let alone go to Him in time of need? The best thing you can do is try not to think about God the punisher at all.
O how we need a Father in heaven, but we're not pointed to one. We're pointed to a Businessman, a Punisher, and at this time of year, a Santa Claus. So what's so bad about being pointed towards him? Even though he knows who's been bad and good, in the end everyone get something for Christmas. And there's the problem. We don't need a father who indulges us. We don't need a father who "ho, ho, ho," aways our sins as if they don't matter. They do matter, and we know it. Just as there's no real comfort in not thinking about a God who punishes, so there's no real comfort in not thinking about our sins. They are real; they are serious; they are ugly, and they must be paid for or all hell will break lose against us right now in time and forever in eternity. And deep down we know this to be true.
What we need is a heavenly Father. Only a heavenly Father is big enough to pray to about all the complicated, heavy problems of everyday life. Only a heavenly Father is loving enough to deal with this ever present sinfulness we have. By teaching us to pray, "Our Father who art in heaven," Jesus "tenderly invites" us to believe that none other than God, the Lord, the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth is our true Father and that we are His true children.
If Jesus hadn't told us we could and should call God "Father", would you do it? I wouldn't. The Bible says perfect angels aren't holy enough in His sight. The Bible says God is a consuming fire, a light that can't be approached before whom all people should be silent. How can we ever bring ourselves to be so familiar, so personal, and so intimate with such a God? But Jesus bids us, invites us, urges us not to be silent but to call Him "Father." The only way we will ever be able to call God "Father" is if we see Him, approach Him through Jesus the perfect Son.
This is the stuff of Christmas, isn't it? You've been hearing that Isaiah 9 passage since you were babies. You've been hearing that one of Jesus' names is "Everlasting Father." Now understand this. God the Father is not the same person as God the Son. Yet, the only way for us to know God as an Everlasting Father is in the person of God the Son. Outside God the Son God could only be your Father as long as you were the perfect son or daughter. Once you sinned, you would again fall short of His glory and could only know God as Punisher and not "Father."
In Jesus God never ceases to be our Father, in Jesus God is the Everlasting Father, because in Jesus we're perfect sons and daughters of God. No one can find sin in Jesus. In all the ways we fall short of God's glory, Jesus exceeded His glory. You can't imagine just how good, holy and perfect Jesus lived. Well, He did that for you, in your flesh and blood. He didn't do it for Himself. As God, Jesus was perfect and holy already. In this perfect Jesus there's no wrath against sins. All of God's wrath was poured out against Jesus on the cross. Every reason God the Father might have for denying you're His child, Jesus paid for. In Jesus, God can no more cease to be your Father, than He could cease to be Jesus' eternal Father.
You know what our problem is? We insist on looking at God apart from Jesus. But what does Jesus so plainly tell Philip? "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father." Jesus doesn't say whoever has seen hurricane Katrina devastate the Gulf coast has seen the Father. He doesn't say whoever has seen their loved one suffering or dying has seen the Father. He doesn't say whoever has seen chronic pain, difficult times, sadness, or loneliness has seen the Father. No, Jesus says, "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father." So go look at Mary's belly; look in the manger; look on the cross; look in these Words about Jesus; look in the Water Jesus gives; and look on this altar at the Bread and Wine where Jesus is and there see God your Father.
Ah, but sometimes we're embarrassed by our father. He wears certain clothes or says certain things that are either too simple or silly for us. A truism of life is that just when you reach the age where you realize what's in style and what's not, your father reaches the age when he doesn't care anymore. God the Father never did care what popular opinion thought. He knew men thought they could seek Him in His majesty, in His mystery, or in their own misery. O yes, men stare and stare at the misery they're going through till they think they've found the true God in it even as they think they find Him in what is majestic or mystifying. But as God was neither in the earthquake, the fire, nor the howling wind but in the still small voice, so God can only be found as Father where He wants to be found, in Jesus.
When we call God "Father" in Jesus, He can't fail to hear us. God can and does turn a deaf ear to those praying outside of Jesus. God does not hear those who think He should hear them because they are in great pain, or because they are praying so eloquently, fervently or single-mindedly. Nothing about us, not our pain, not our sincerity, not our piety can make God our Father who hears our prayers. Only Jesus can do that.
Do you see what this means? If God doesn't hear me because I am in great pain, then the fact that my pain isn't that great doesn't mean I am not heard. If God doesn't hear me because I pray eloquently, then the fact that I stammer and stutter in my prayers doesn't mean He doesn't hear me. If God doesn't hear me because I pray so fervently, then when my heart is cold and my prayers taste like ashes in my mouth that doesn't mean my prayers fall back to earth without being heard. And if God doesn't hear my prayers because they're single-minded enough, then when I find my mind wandering, worrying, or flickering it doesn't mean my prayers are wasted.
God hears your prayers not because you're in such great pain but because Jesus went through the pains of hell for you. God hears your prayers not because your mouth is eloquent but because your prayers come through the holy, precious mouth of His only beloved Son. God hears your prayers not because they reach a certain fervency but because God the Son poured out His heart, soul, and mind in life and death for you. God hears your prayers not because you are able to focus so well but because Jesus never strayed from His purpose of living your life and dying your death.
Jesus succeeded in redeeming you. He went to heaven and there poured out His Spirit on you Whom you now have in Baptism, in Absolution, in Communion, and the Holy Spirit prays the way Jesus did. In Gethsemane, in that trying, difficult, dark, fearful time, Jesus prayed, "Abba Father." Galatians 4 promises you that God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying "Abba Father." The Spirit prays as a son or daughter of God. The Spirit prays to a Father.
This Spirit as long as He dwells in you through the Water, the Words, or the Bread and Wine of the Son moves you, urges you, enables you to call God the intimate, personal, friendly name of Father. The devil, the world, and your own flesh tell, preach, and scream lies at you. They say you've been left without a father in this world; you don't have a heavenly Father that cares for you and wants to hear from you. They say you may as well shut-up for no one is listening. In despair, in loneliness, in heartbreak, we give into the lie and our lips fall silent.
But the Father is still there. Every day He waits to hear from you. Every day His ears are open for your cries, your pleas, your tears, your fears. All things have been prepared for you to pray to Him. Every day the communication lines are open to your Father in heaven because they are strung on the cross of Christ. There is power for you to pray because you've been given the Spirit of Christ. Deep forever calls to deep; God the Son calls to God the Father through God the Spirit inviting you, enticing you urging you to call God "Father."
Don't know what to pray? Begin by calling God "Father" because no matter what your day is like, no matter how bad, muddled, fearful, or downright sinful you feel on a given day, every day in Jesus you have a Father in heaven who wants to do His will for you on earth. And His will is this: to save you both in time and in eternity. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Advent Midweek II (20051207); Lord's Prayer Introduction