-1- "Our Father" Rob Hinman First Presbyterian Church of Lenoir NC January 27, 2008 (11AM) The Old Testament Lesson Isaiah 63:15-19; 64:8-9 (Pastoral Prayer) I want to thank my colleague in ministry, Allen Thompson, one of our seminarians, for leading worship last Sunday. The great comments I’ve heard about Allen’s sermon remind me of the note from an old church bulletin that read, “During the absence of our pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon when the Rev. J. F. Stubbs supplied our pulpit.” Let us stand for the reading of God’s Word: The New Testament Lesson Galatians 3:28-4:7 (This is the Word of the Lord…Thanks be to God.) I. Introduction: a radical term The greatest desire of Jesus’ disciples was to pray as Jesus prayed. Luke 11 tells us that Jesus’ disciples asked Him how to pray. This is the only such request in Scripture. The disciples never asked how to conduct an evangelistic mission. Or how to run a capital campaign or church committee. But they did ask how to grow deeper spiritually and Jesus' taught them the Lord's Prayer. We, also, desire to grow spiritually deeper. We want communion with God. And that happens in prayer as we communicate in the Holy Spirit so that oneness with God occurs at the deepest levels of our being. Jesus said to His disciples, “Pray then like this,” and taught them a model of deep communion with God. From now until Easter, I want us to spend time in this prayer and ask God to deepen our walk with Jesus. II. Our - not my Today we come to the beginning phrase of this great prayer: Our Father... [Mt. 6:9] We tend to miss this first word, "Our." But it's crucial. “Our” reminds us that we pray as more than one. The Christian faith is very personal but it’s not individual. It is about community. That’s why we worship and serve together; it expresses the "our-ness" of our relationship with God. Getting to “Our” is not always so simple, is it? I remember a church member who was always critical and opinionated. But he was in church every week, in the same spot on the same pew. It became difficult to pastor him. Then a colleague suggested I pray for this man while sitting in his seat. I did, and I remembered that God is our Father, not mine alone. "Our Father" is more complicated than "my Father." But it connects us. “Our” presupposes a community. The disciples said, "Teach us to pray." Not just Peter but James and John, also, and not just them, but all of us. Maya Angelou, the distinguished poet and professor at Wake Forest University, once wrote: "Lying last night thinking, How I could find myself a home, Where the water is not thirsty -2- and the bread loaf is not stone. I came up with one thing and I don't believe I am wrong, that nobody, I mean nobody Can make it all alone." Her words remind us that the promises Jesus made to His Body, the Church, are for all. It’s what God wrote to the Galatian church through His servant Paul, ...you are all one in Christ Jesus. “Our Father,” not yours or mine. He’s ours. III. Father: The image versus the vision Then there is this second word, "Father." Jesus called God, Father. When He prayed in His native language, Aramaic, He said "Abba," Father. This was revolutionary. 1st century Jews heard Abba and knew it was the most intimate term for father. To address the Almighty with such familiarity scandalized the Jews. But for Jesus, "Abba" is the name that describes God's heart. Jesus knew He was the Son. He died so we can be children. Why not call Him Father! Paul wrote to the Galatians, When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, ... so that we might receive adoption as sons. We are God’s sons and daughters in Christ, because Jesus bought our inheritance on the cross. We’re adopted into God’s family. We can call Him “Dad.” God is not distant. Like the prodigal’s father, He’s running to embrace us. What an incredible revolution Jesus started when He used "Father" to describe God's relationship to us. What a revolution we can start in someone else’s life when we reflect the joy of this relationship. But some stop when they hear that word, “Father.” Warning! Don’t limit your understanding of God as Father by the world’s image of fathers and fatherhood. The state of earthly fatherhood is not good; as one elementary schoolgirl showed. When asked to share why her dad was special, she wrote, "My Dad is so nice and kind, I think he must have been a girl when he was a little boy." That is what sin does to fatherhood. Jesus gives us a vision of Fatherhood far beyond the image of patriarchal society. He challenges the brokenness that patriarchal and matriarchal structures alike represent. There’s a huge difference between an image and a vision. Our image of fatherhood is never more than an extension of what we can see. Christ’s vision reveals that which we cannot yet see about fatherhood and God’s love for us. The ideal image of fatherhood only works in a perfect world. But our world is imperfect, so we’ll never see or be the ideal father. But Jesus shows us the vision of His Father, our Father, THE only Father who loves with a perfect love. And Christ’s own Spirit leads our hearts to cry Him "Abba! Father!" IV. Father: What God means by Father Our Father reminds us of what He is when we call Him. A. First, God the Father is an assuring Father. My father was never afraid to discipline us. But there was never a moment when I wondered -3- whether He loved me. That is what Jesus teaches us as we pray "Our Father." God is our Father who loves us with an eternal love. God has promised and He has shown that He will never leave nor forsake us. Do you know Him? Will you receive this Father into your heart? B. Second, Jesus tells us that our Father delights in spending time with us. Doing homework? God is there. Climbing a tree? Your Father is there. Hard day at work? He’s with you. Marriage failing? Dad is there. God wants to be with His children. C. Finally, our Father is approachable. Some years ago, I read a story about two 74-year-old persons who were married in Wales. They were to have been married 42 years before. However, they had a lover's quarrel and called off the engagement. Even though they lived in the same apartment building, they could never get together. The gentleman, David Thomas, had even written a letter of apology every week and placed it under her door. Over 50 letters a year for 42 years, but no cigar. One day, he knocked on her door and when she opened it, they fell into each other's arms. He proposed-she accepted. Wedding bells! Never forget the power of opening the door. We have the privilege of calling God "Father." But what good are those words if we do not open the door of our heart. God is knocking at that part that you still have closed to Him. Open and let His love free you as never before. Let the joy of being held in His arms flood you with newness of life and meaning. As I have wrestled with this sermon, I have thought of my prayer for us this year, that we will be marked by JOY. I truly believe that if we ponder the meaning of what it means to say, "Our Father," we will experience the richness of JOY. Our. That which is yours and mine together. Father. He who stepped down from heaven to enfold us in His arms. To the glory of God who is everlasting love and steadfast commitment. Amen. -4- Sermon Notes The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father Rob Hinman January 27, 2008 Matthew 6:5-15; Galatians 3:28-4:7; Isaiah 63:15-19 I. A radical term II. “Our” - not my III. “Father:” The image versus the vision IV. Father: What God means A. God is an assuring Father. B. Our Father delights in spending time with us. C. Our Father is approachable. -5- "Our Father" Rob Hinman First Presbyterian Church of Lenoir NC January 27, 2008 (6PM) For Welcome (Please stand): The Old Testament Lesson Isaiah 63:15-19; 64:8-9 Songs, prayers and offering Jesus taught his disciples, saying: And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that others may see them. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6). PRAY The New Testament Lesson (STAND) Galatians 3:28-4:7 From now through Easter Sunday, we’re going to focus on prayer by looking at the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus did not simply pray, He also taught His disciples how to pray, and the Lord’s Prayer is the model prayer for all who call Him Lord. As we pray and study our way through it, I hope our prayer life will deepen and our ministry expand as the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts. Prayer -- just the word brings out a wide variety of feelings. Some will speak easily about their prayer life, others will at best remember a time when they said bedtime prayers with a grandparent. Most Christians will admit fairly easily that we believe prayer is important. Most of us would have to confess, perhaps not so easily, that we do not pray, as we should. Part of the problem, I suspect, about our failure to pray more frequently is our feeling uncomfortable in prayer. We don't seem to know "how to" pray. And because we get all hung up in the "how to" part, feeling inadequate for the task, embarrassed by the act, unable to address God as we feel we should, many of us simply don't. Consider this video… VIDEO – “God-Co” We don’t need fancy phrases. In this frightened and frightening world, we simply need to talk with the Father who loves us so completely that He came and died for us and lives for us? Just speak with Him. He’s listening. The problem is we think we need to sound like that stand-in preacher on the Geico spoof. I read what one well-known theologian said – listen carefully! "Prayer is basically man in the totality of being stretched out to possess the transcendent, awesome God in the intimate inwardness of his deepest consciousness." Makes it clear, doesn’t it?! Gets your heart pumping, right?! No, give me the wisdom of a Grandpa Rucker, one of the lively characters in Olive Ann Burns' book, Cold Sassy Tree. Here is some wisdom on prayer that was born of experience. Here’s Grandpa Rucker speaking: "Another thang to think on: some folks ain't said pea-turkey to God in years. They don't ast Him for nothin', don't specially try to be good, and don't love nobody the way Jesus said to -- 'cept their own self. But they go'n git jest bout as much or as little in the way a-earthly goods as the rest of us. They go'n have sorrows and joys, failure and good times. And when they come down sick they go'n git well or die, one, jest same as the prayin' folks. So don't thet tell you something bout prayin'? Ain't the best prayin' jest bein' with God and talkin' a while, like He's a good friend, stead a-like he runs a store and -6- you've come in a-hopin' to get a bargain?" [Olive Ann Burns, Cold Sassy Tree, (New York, Dell Publishing, 1984), p. 362.] That’s the heart of prayer - our heart connected to God’s. Prayer is being in communion with God, not something to be used when needs arise. It’s fine to put our needs before the Lord, but prayer is the conversation of relationship, like talking with your best friend until the wee hours of the morning. A daily back and forth that is not so much about words as it is about being with one another 24/7. The problem is not that we don't know how to pray; it is that we have lost what it means to be found in relationship with our loving and gracious Father. Prayer is the only skill the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them. They didn't ask him how to heal, teach, ask for money, run meetings, or start a church. They asked him to teach them how to pray. And Jesus said, “When you pray…” Let’s stand as we hear the whole scripture reading: The New Testament Lesson Matthew 6:5-15 I. Our is a community Jesus tells us to say "Our Father." Do you hear that? Our Father. Not our God, Lord, commander, master. Our Father. That’s how He prayed: Father.... We tend to miss that first word, "Our." But it's crucial. “Our” reminds us that we pray for more than ourselves. The Christian faith is always very personal but never individual. It is a community faith. Of course, “Our Father" is more complicated than "my Father." It’s easier to pray for me, to think that God is my Father alone, here to take care of my needs. But He is our Father. You and I, we’re in this together. This morning I quoted Maya Angelou, the distinguished poet and professor at Wake Forest University, and her verses bear repeating tonight: "Lying last night thinking, How I could find myself a home, Where the water is not thirsty and the bread loaf is not stone. I came up with one thing and I don't believe I am wrong, that nobody, I mean nobody Can make it all alone." Her words remind us that the promises Jesus made to His Body, the Church, are for all. It’s as God wrote to the Galatian church through His servant Paul, ...you are all one in Christ Jesus. “Our Father,” not yours or mine. He’s ours. II. Father: the heart of the matter Then there is this second word, "Father." When Jesus prayed in His native language, Aramaic, He said "Abba," Father. This was revolutionary to first-century Jews. They knew that Jesus was addressing the Almighty with the most intimate name for a parent. Remember, the Jews will not even use the name God gave to Moses. But for Jesus, "Abba" was the one name that best described God's attitude toward Jesus and God’s people. Jesus is His Son and as Paul wrote to the Galatians, When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, ... so that we might receive adoption as sons. We are God’s sons and daughters in Christ. He bought our inheritance on the cross. Why not -7- call Him Father! And the Holy Spirit gives us voice in our hearts to cry out "Abba! Father! Daddy!" And our Father hears us and draws near to us. My earthly father, my Dad, loved being with his four sons. He worked with us through our homework. He climbed trees with us, dammed up streams, and fixed old boats we found on the shores of Lake Norman. He was a busy doctor running a 24/7 hospital for the mentally retarded, but his boys came first. We knew his presence. But he always reminded us that anything he was to us paled in comparison to God’s love for us. God is our perfect Father. For those who have awesome earthly fathers and for those who spend a lifetime trying to recover from their earthly fathers, can we understand what it means to be able to call God Father? To know that He runs to embrace us?! If you have never known such a father, accept Him now. He’s reaching out to you. I have thought as I worked through this sermon, that if we could only speak two words as Christians, these two would be a good choice: "Our Father." Our. That which is yours and mine together. Father. He who enfolds us in His arms. To the glory of God who is everlasting. Amen.
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