My second grade photo is a true gem. It comes complete with a mullet, a Mr. Rogers sweater, and black stone-washed jeans. What you can’t see in the photo – the elastic waistline and the elastic cuffs around the ankles. Classic.
I could blame this outfit on my mom and dad – but I won’t do it. Aaaaand that’s the cue to the actual point of this post.
The Scriptures gives us a number of images for God: Shepherd, Deliverer, Strong Tower, Rock. But there is also the image that seemed to be Jesus’ favorite: Father.
The Scriptures gives us a number of images for the church: Sinners, Saints, the body. But we also see another image time and time again: family.
As we look at a familiar passage from the Sermon on the Mount, we do so through the lens of Father and family.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
I showed a picture from childhood. You can thank me later for the laugh. I want you to think back to your childhood. For some of you that’s a quick trip. For others it may take some time. But think back to your childhood. I want you to think of your father.
Some of you have good memories. My dad was great. Well, the greatness of your earthly father can’t compare with the greatness of your Heavenly Father. If your dad was kind – your Heavenly Father is incomparably more kind. If your dad was loving – your Heavenly Father is incomparably more loving. If your dad was generous – your Heavenly Father is incomparably more generous.
Some of you have bad memories. My dad was awful. OR My dad deserted me. Well, the inadequacy of your earthly father should open your heart to the greatness of your Heavenly Father. If you wanted your dad to be kind – you have a kind and gracious Heavenly Father. If you wanted your dad to be loving – you have a loving Heavenly Father. If you wanted your dad to be generous – you have a generous Heavenly Father.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus often looked up to heaven and addressed God as Father. It is an image that is helpful to us. Good or bad – we all have experienced an earthly father. It is our decision whether or not we want to embrace our Heavenly Father.
In the passage above “father” is used two times in verse 6 and it is also used in verses eight, nine, fourteen, and fifteen. Let’s read it again with an understanding and emphasis on God as father.
Verse 5: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – you don’t do it for show. You do it for the life-giving relationship.
Verse 6: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – he hears you, he blesses you.
Verse 7: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – you don’t need to impress him with words or great length of words.
Verse 8: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – he knows you on a personal and intimate level.
Verse 9: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – praise his name.
Verse 10: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – seek his kingdom and his will, not your own.
Verse 11: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – understand your dependence on him.
Verse 12: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – understand that forgiveness is available to you and others.
Verse 13: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – understand that he can protect you and will guide you to good places.
Verse 14: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – understand that he desire for you to forgive others.
Verse 15: When you talk with your Heavenly Father – understand that if you don’t forgive others then you don’t really understand forgiveness.
Seeing God as father changes how we view prayer.
When I read the Lord’s Prayer I always take note of the communal language. It is filled with “our” and “us” not “me” and “I.” If we all share a Heavenly Father that makes us brothers and sisters. The church is to be a family. We should care for one another. We should know one another. We definitely should pray for one another.