June 11, 2013 by Pastor Ben McIntire
I once went to the grocery store with my two daughters after church. I was still wearing my black clergy shirt with the white tab in the collar, and when the cashier saw it I think she assumed I was a Catholic priest because she said, “Hello, Father.”
But then seeing that I had my girls along, she corrected herself, “Oh I see you have kids, so I guess that means you are not a Father!”
In a way, I suppose, she was correct. I am a daddy, a Lutheran pastor, and a father; but not a Father.
In my sermon on Holy Trinity Sunday, I mentioned two Latin phrases that can be helpful as we struggle to understand our Heavenly Father. The first is Deus Absconditus, the “hidden God,” which refers to the mysteries of God that we cannot understand fully. These are things like the doctrine of the Trinity, the Two Natures of Christ, eternity, Christ’s presence in the sacrament of Holy Communion, and even Jesus’ miracles and the Resurrection. We can talk about all of these things, confess that we trust them to be true and work on understanding them through metaphor or story, but with mortal, finite minds we simply cannot fully comprehend the divine mysteries of the Deus Absconditus.
Martin Luther liked to remind his students and other scholars that we aren’t supposed to try to figure out those things anyway, because there is another part of God, the Deus Revelatus, which is the “revealed God,” and of course God is most fully revealed, most humanly accessible as one-of-us, in the Man Jesus Christ. In the person, Jesus of Nazareth, and in the visions, words, and prophecies of the Scriptures, God is describing Himself to us. Here is where God is explaining, teaching, revealing, and opening Himself up to be discovered and known to us. This is why we study the Bible and listen to preaching on Bible texts. This is why we pray as a two-way street, telling God our needs and praises and also listening for God to speak back to us in faith, Scripture, Sacrament and Christian community.
I think another way we grow in our relationship to God, is by learning from our relationships with other people; and vice-versa. For me, as we approach Fathers’ Day on June 16, it’s a blessing to reflect on how fatherhood has changed me (I feel it’s for the better!) and enlightened me, not just about parenting and helping my two daughters to grow up well, but also about the parental nature of God.
The Bible is full of parental images for God. Certainly, “God the Father” is the predominant form since our religion came out of a culture of patriarchy. But there are many images of God’s “mothering” of creation as well (see Numbers 11:12, Psalm 131, Proverbs 8:1-11, Isaiah 66:12-13, Hosea 11:1-4, and Matthew 23:37). My favorite passage, though, is when Jesus teaches his followers to pray in Matthew 6:5-13. Here Jesus says, “When you pray, say: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” The Hebrew word Jesus uses for “Father” is Abba, which we might actually translate as “Daddy” rather than “father.” It implies a sense of loving intimacy that one might have with their biological father. Certainly, not everyone has a loving earthly father. But as a loving father, I find that as I interact with my daughters, care for them, discipline them, and rejoice and enjoy life with them—I see a window into what God’s love for all of us created children might be like.
I hope that this Fathers’ Day will bring you joy, whether you are a father who is celebrating with your children, or you are honoring your own father or father-figure. If you never knew your biological father, or if your father was unkind to you, unloving, or worse—then I hope this Fathers’ Day becomes a new opportunity for you to remember God your Creator, who does love you, cares for you, and welcomes you into his Presence.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me, for my parents and those who raised me, and for loving fathers who show a reflection of Your love for us. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your Son to rescue me from my sin, even at the price of his own life. Thank you for the hope that I have because of the Son’s resurrection and the promise that I will share in that resurrection to eternal life with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.