Monday, June 21, 2010

Sermon on Luke 11:2, for Father's Day, "Our Father's Love"

Sermon Originally delivered by Pastor Mike Hintze of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Westminster, MA on Father's Day, June 20, 2004.

Grace, Mercy and Peace from God our Heavenly Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text is taken from the Gospel reading Luke 11:2, Jesus told them, “When you pray, say Our Father in Heaven.” This is the Word of the Lord.

He said, “Say, ‘Our Father in Heaven,’” so say it: (Congregation: “Our Father in Heaven”). All over the globe that prayer rises up to Him, morning and evening, and I know a lot of it’s rote, but a lot of it isn’t. Our Father in Heaven, our Father who art in Heaven, day after day, day after day. And fear not little flock it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, it is your Father’s good pleasure to answer the prayer from all over the planet for the last 2,000 years. Our Father who art in Heaven. What does this mean? Dear Luther says in our catechism, “God would by these words tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children so that we may with all boldness and confidence ask of Him as dear children ask their dear Father.” I know He’s not everybody’s Father. As a matter of fact He wasn’t always ours; you must be born again. But once by grace alone He has given us birth through His powerful and everlasting work, then Jesus says, “Now, now say ‘Our Father,’” call Him by that name.

Father is a powerful word. It’s not at all the same as parent. Although some silly people want us to pray, “Our parent who art in heaven.” But that’s not what we were told to do. And anyway it doesn’t mean the same thing. Why not? Father means ‘kind,’ so does mother. Father means ‘wise,’ so does mother. Father means ‘good,’ so does mother. So what’s the difference? Father means ‘strong.’ And although mother certainly can be, strong in intellect, strong in will, strong in virtue, strong in so many ways; you know perfectly well that if the van breaks down in a terrible part of town, both the child and the mother are very glad to have the father with them. Father means, ‘the strong one.’ Who loves you so you’re safe. So that a true father, he’d be strong in every way. Strong kindness, strong wisdom, strong goodness, strong love.

They say that millions of people suffer from the lack of the kind of father-love they were made for, but the truth is worse than that. As a matter of fact, every human child since Cain and Abel has suffered from the lack of the kind of Father-love they were made for. Even us whose dad’s were fantastic. Some were kind. But not strong. Some were strong. But not wise. None was perfect. You and me, we were invented to be raised by human fathers who were always wise and always strong and always good in every way. We were made for Eden. We were made for Adam the way he was before. But ever since, sin broke father Adam, we’ve all been shocked, we’ve all been disappointed, we were all born expecting a dad who was always wise and strong and good. But ever since Adam fell, every man’s been born a sinner and none of us has had the father we were born expecting. And that’s one reason why it hurts, so profoundly to see your dad, your wise dad, be foolish. You know what I mean? And to see your good dad, do something wrong. Or to see your strong dad be weak.

Nevertheless, nobody, and not even your dad has to do without the love of that perfect Father we were born expecting. Nobody has to live without the strong, wise, good one, who loves you. For God Almighty tenderly invites you to believe that He is your true Father. He sent His Son to invite us to believe this unbelievable thing. This unbelievable thing. I know, I know, I know. They’re plenty of barely Christian, or face it non-Christian theologians who love to chat about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. And for them to call God Almighty, ‘Father’ is no shock, is no jolt. And that is because the God that they have in mind is a very weak one, who’s not a whole lot kinder or wiser or better than all of His sincere and well-meaning children. As far as they’re concerned, why not call Him Father? When after all, He’s so much like us! Just bigger.

But to any real theologian, from Moses to Luther, to any real Christian, to any sane and realistic human being, what kind of jolt, what kind of shock is it, what kind of sweet surprise is it, to hear God’s own Son tell us, us unkind, foolish, weak sinners as we are…to hear God’s Son tell us, “Be quiet. Call Him, call Him Father.” That the maker of heaven and earth, that the judge of all things, the One in heaven, the Righteous, the Holy, the All-Powerful, the Infinitely Strong One—that He would tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father. And still invite us to believe in spite of all our unbelief. You know the sinful nature does not like to call God ‘Father.’ And it’s not only because suspicious hearts can’t believe that God would be that close to us. It’s that sinful hearts don’t want to be that close to Him.

You may have noticed how some people are badly disappointed in their parents, will sometimes get even in a little way by calling their parents by their first names. You’ve seen that? They don’t say ‘mom’ or ‘my mother,’ they say Shelly, or whatever. They don’t talk about ‘dad’ or ‘pop,’ they call him Jack, or whatever. It’s a put-down, of course. It means, “Well, he is who he is, but it doesn’t really involve me.” That terribly, terribly, is how the sinful nature feels about the God of all comfort. Only without the excuse of ever having been disappointed in Him. See if I call Him just ‘God,’ or even ‘Lord,’ well that’s who He is…but it doesn’t necessarily involve me. Whereas if I call Him ‘Father,’ He’s got me. I’m His. If He’s just ‘God,’ I can pretend He’s distant, and live as I like. But if He’s Father, kind, wise, and good—where’s my excuse for sinning against Him? If He’s only the Lord, then sure, yes He’s the strong one, but I’m not saying He’s done right by me. But every time I say, “Our Father,” I’m admitting that I know He loves me. Listen to the difference: “Why is this happening? God knows.” As opposed to “Why is this happening? My Father knows.” What a difference it makes. And how it exposes the pride and rebellion in our hearts towards Him. Distrust. And how incredible that His Son still tells us, “say ‘Our Father’” and still this morning, right now by these words would tenderly invite us to believe that He is still our true Father. And that we are still, as we are and praise God as we’re gonna be, we’re His true children still, that He is the Strong One and that we’re the Loved Ones. That we’re the Loved Ones. That He’s the Kind and the Wise and the Good One. And that we’re the small ones and the weak ones. Who ride safe on His shoulders, riding safe on His shoulders through every sorrow. Through death, riding on our Father’s shoulders.

And this is true also for those of us whose human fathers weren’t safe at all. Let me say it gently. Some of us had fathers who neglected us or even abused us. And if they were strong, that just made them dangerous. So what does that mean? I’ve been told that if that’s our experience, then we can never really know what ‘father’ means. That it will always be hard for us to relate to God that way. But that’s not true. Beloved, if that’s you or me, the reason that we were so angry, the reason that we were so hurt is because we knew what ‘father’ meant. Whether we could say it or not. We knew that father means kind, wise, good, strong, safe. The whole reason we felt betrayed is because we knew a father wasn’t supposed to be like that. We knew the strong one is supposed to love you. And you know something? Whatever our experience, whenever we’ve met anybody who was truly fatherly, we loved them. We didn’t have any trouble having relationships with them. Only with God. And that is because, let me say it as tenderly as I can…like every other sinner in the world, we’ve been angry with people and taken it out on Him. We’ve been sinned against by other sinners, and we’ve gotten even with Him. We’ve been hurt by men, and retaliated by backing off, with wide-frightened eyes from Him. And making Him pay for what they did. With our rebellion and our distrust. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right.

And our Father in heaven knows it, and He’s sent His Son to tell us, “Child, come home. All is forgiven. Come home.” That the God who is in heaven, Jesus, the Father, the Father of all comfort…He knows it all, and He would by these words tenderly invite us to believe that He, He is your true Father. And that whatever you’ve known and wherever you’ve been, you are His true child. You have a Father in heaven and you are all the world to Him. You must be, as the old hymn says, “Yea so dear, did He esteem me, that His Son, He loved so well, He hath given to redeem me, from the quenchless flames of hell. Nothing else will long endure, but my Father’s love is sure.” I know, because no living sinner has ever seen His face. But we’ve seen His heart on Calvary.

Did you know that Martin Luther was a father? Know that? He had a housefull. And he adored his kids. I often think that when he wrote this, “God would tenderly invited us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that we may with all boldness and confidence ask of Him as dear children ask of their dear father,” I think he had in mind all his babies climbing all over him. And saying, “Papa can we…papa can you…papa…” And when they’re real little, and they don’t think you’re listening to them, they grab your face, you know. “Daddy! Daddy!” May the Holy Ghost teach me to pray like that. Anyway, {I think I’ve told you this before, but it’s worth repeating} Luther’s firstborn was a daughter, Margaret, whom he loved with his soul. And when she was twelve years old she got desperately sick, and for a long, long time he prayed and he prayed that the Lord would heal her. But he didn’t. And in her last days, Luther sat at his little girl’s bedside. And he prayed with her and he talked with her about how wonderful heaven is, and when she died in his arms…he was glad, so glad, that she knew her Jesus. And she was home now. And then he threw himself on her body shouting, “No! No! No! No! No!” He couldn’t save her.

But she had a Father in heaven who could. And who did. Thank God you have a Father in heaven who saw us all dying, and dead in our transgressions. Lost to Him through our own fault, through our own faithlessness…dead to Him, headed for eternal pains. We have a Father in heaven who threw Himself down over us crying, “No! No! No!” With a love strong enough to save His children. With a love so strong He gave His only begotten Son to die to bring the children home. When we were lost, our Father found us. When we were dead, our Father made us alive together with Jesus Christ. And He who withheld not His only Son, but freely gave Him up for us all; how shall He not with Him freely give us all things? Here and in heaven and in the world without end, we have a strong Father in heaven. We have a Father in heaven who’s going to raise up Luther and his Margaret and His, all His babies, and all my babies, and your babies, and you and me, and everyone who repents and believes. That He is our True Father, and we are His true children, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points:
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1. Look in your Small Catechism (starts on pg. 321 in our hymnal if you don’t have one at home…or ask Pastor for a free pamphlet copy). Read the First Article of the Creed, and the explanation. What has God the Father done for you? Also in the Small Catechism, read the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer and the first question, “What does this mean?” How does the privilege of calling God our Father invite us to pray? See also Matt. 6:8; 6:26ff; 11:25-30; Luke 12:32; 15:11-32; John 10:29, etc.

2. Is the image of father a positive or negative one for you? If it was negative, were there other “father-figures” in your life? How does God our heavenly Father embody and supply all that was lacking in our earthly fathers, however good or bad they were?

3. What does the strength of God our heavenly Father mean for us? How is it true that every human being is missing out on the kind of “father-love” they were meant for, if they are apart from God?

4. Why might our sinful nature not want to call God ‘Father’? How does calling Him ‘Father’ involve us with Him?

5. Imagine yourself riding on your father’s shoulders. What does that mean you can face when your are riding on your heavenly Father’s shoulders? If God is the Strong One, we are the Loved Ones.

6. How do we sometimes take out the hurts we have received from others, on God? What has God done for us when He saw us dying in our sinful state?


Pastor Praetorius said...

Josh, love the sermons you post do you get them on here? Do you type them in and then post or do you copy and paste from a Word document? I am trying to get my own blog up and running and was wondering how to go about that. thanks!

Josh Schneider said...

Thanks! I'm glad you find them helpful. I Type them in Word, and then cut and paste into blogger. I've used blogger for a long time and its very simple. Other people have recommended wordpress, but I'm not going to switch now :) God's Blessings!