The Re:fresh service yesterday was extra special with the addition of these gorgeous cakes courtesy of the Young Family.
They tasted even better than they looked. It was a great way to kick off our teaching series on the Lord’s Prayer. The theme this week was “Our Father”.
We learnt how we are in community with each other, “our” and how we can have an intimate relationship with God “Father”, we only have to ask. The Aramaic word “Abba” describes a closer relationship than the English word “Father”, it is more a “Daddy”. God wants us to be close to him as a parent to a child and a good way to start is by praying.
2 small words, so much meaning. Firstly let us look at the “our”, The Lord’s Prayer is very much a family prayer. We may pray in solitude, but we are never really alone, we are part of God’s amazing family and we are joining in prayer with millions of other Christians all over the world. It can be very comforting in times of trouble to know that there are many, many others also lifting their prayers to God, we can feel part of a praying community.
Each of us is a unique individual, so who are the others to make it “our”. God gave us our individuality, we are each different, with different gifts, but God doesn’t want us to live in isolation. Our whole lives are built on relationships; we are God’s children Romans 8:16 “The spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children”. We are in relationship with God and we must also be in a good relationship with each other. In John 4:20 “If we say we love God, yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars. For if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen.”
We are very privileged to be part of God’s big family, but with that comes a responsibility for calling other believers “our brothers and sisters in Christ.” That is why we say “Our Father”. In 1 Timothy 2:8 it says “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing” We must make sure there is no unresolved issues with anyone before we attempt to pray. In Matt 5:23-26 it tells how Jesus turns away a man who had brought a gift to the temple, telling him “go and be reconciled to that person and then come and offer your gift”. It isn’t “I’ll make up with them later”, it is make up with them now and then you will be free to pray.
So, on to the Father. In Jesus’ time, God was known as Father, but it was more of a theoretical concept than as a title to address God in prayer. Jesus however regularly talked about God as Father, there are over 100 references in John’s gospel alone. In fact as the trinity God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We could have a lively debate on whether God should be Mother, but there’s not time now. I feel that normal gender as we know it doesn’t apply to God. God’s love could be maternal, certainly the caring pastoral God could be viewed as feminine, but the wrathful, powerful God is masculine, very stereotypical I know. I think the whole point is that very close relationship as a parent has with a child, forgiving, loving even when things go wrong. Now that is a very idealistic relationship and not all of us have been fortunate to experience that. So for some people seeing God as a Father figure can be a real problem, especially if their own experience of their father is not a pleasant one. I think it is for each one of us to come up with a relationship that we feel most comfortable with, friend, mentor, father, mother etc etc.
Jesus when he is in the garden of Gethsemane calls out to God using “Abba” . This is an Aramaic word for father, used by Jesus and Paul to address God in a relationship of personal intimacy, it’s more of a Dad than Father name. In Psalm 68 David refers to God as “a father to the fatherless”. In the gospels we can see God through Jesus. As Jesus welcomed the children, we can see God with a child in his arms, as Jesus is at the tomb of his best friend Lazarus we can see God with tears running down his face. As Jesus clears the temple of the money changers, we can see the anger of God and when Jesus washes his disciples feet, we can see God humbling himself as a servant with a towel in his hands.
The phrase Our Father speaks very much of God’s nearness to us and through prayer we can become nearer to God.