Our Heavenly Father
A Homily for Trinity 8
August 2, 2020
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Romans 8:12-17
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I want to start with a question. Just hold on to your answer for now, and we’ll get back to it in a little bit. I want you to take a moment and think about when you pray – how do you address God?
Do you say “God”? “Lord?” “Heavenly Father?” Do you say something else? It’s pretty unlike you thought of something incorrect. So for now, just hold on to what you thought and I promise we’ll come back to it.
Now, this morning, instead of focusing on the gospel lesson, as we’ve been doing for most of this year, I’m going to take a brief break, and look at the lesson from St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans. I’m doing this mostly because we covered the section from the Sermon on the Mount which we read this morning a few months ago, and while we can constantly be reminded that there are those who lurk in the world like wolves, ready to destroy our faith, I generally don’t like to be redundant.
I also thought that it would be good to spend a little time in St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans Christians. Many people view this this epistle as central to understanding the Christian gospel. In fact, if you haven’t read it, I would invite you to prayerfully read through it this coming month.
It is in this epistle that we see spelled out clearly – our condemnation before God because of our sin, we learn that outside of Christ we are dead, and mostly importantly we learn of new life in Christ, and from our lesson this morning we learn of our adoption as children of God the Father.
In this morning’s epistle lesson St. Paul presents us with two ways: the way of death or the way of life.
We are born into death because of the curse, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God. Yet – it is in Christ that we have been freed from that death. This is of course the good news of the gospel, the good news that death has lost its sting. St. Paul recognizes that knowing we have received this incredible mercy from Christ that we can then be tempted into think that we can live as we please.
He tells us that as we are freed from the debt of the flesh. That is we are freed from the deadly disease of sin, the disease that is killing us all. Therefore, we are no longer debtors, no longer slaves to the impulses and pulls of the flesh. Rather called to live in the Holy Spirit. We are brought into the relationship with Christ as the spirit puts to death all these urges. With this in mind we must ask the question what is the ruling force in your life? What are you living for? Does the Holy Spirit drive you to be closer and closer to Christ? Or do you chase worldly desires? Do you become wrapped up in fleshly wants? Or are you drawn closer and closer to Christ, by the power of the Spirit?
Are you overwhelmed with the course of the world, forgetting the sovereignty of God?
I’ve been watching the world lately, and it is heart breaking. I think so often we lose sight of the eternal things. We lose sight of what we are to be living for.
In my personal time of devotion I’ve been reading through the gospel according to St. Matthew and taking it in little bit by little bit. Recently, I’ve been in the Sermon on the Mount. It is amazing to me how often Christ points his disciples, and by extension all who would read the sermon throughout the ages not towards healing, not towards any promises of the here and now, but Christ points all His disciples to the kingdom of heaven.
Christ points us to an eternal promise, the promise of recreation, restoration, the promise of a far better reality than what we know now. A reality that is not tainted with our sin, our brokenness. But to a reality that has no death, but perfect life, and perfect communion with God the creator of heaven and earth.
And so, with this in mind, I ask again – what are you living for? Are you living for brief and fleeting pleasures in the here and now, or are you living for eternity? Are you living for intimacy with Christ, or are you living for something else? What rules you? Your fleshly desires or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?
Make no mistake my friends we as Christians are called to put to death the desires of the flesh, to put to death the will of the flesh and live in the will of God, the love, the guidance, the hope of knowing the Holy Spirit. For life in the sprit leads to eternal life with God in the eternal kingdom, and the life of the flesh leads to death, spiritual and physical.
But then St. Paul evokes imagery from the parables of Christ, perhaps you know which story he draws from?
There were once two brothers from a very wealthy family. The younger brother was a wild child. When he came of age, he came up with a great idea. He thought, well, maybe if I ask my dad, he’ll give me my inheritance early. He does just this. This is an incredible scandal. But for some reason the father thinks “sure! Why not!”
Well, we know how the story goes, the younger brother goes off with inheritance to a far country, spends everything his dad had given him, and soon falls into destitution. The young son turns to caring for pigs, for unclean animals. One day he realizes these unclean animals are better off than he is and he gets to thinking, “my dad, my father, is more generous to his servants than my boss is to me. I can’t imagine my dad would just take me back but maybe he will have a little compassion and let me be a servant.” And so he travels back from the far country.
Now, it would seem that every day the father missed his son’s presence, that he longed for his child to come back, and every day he would scan the horizon thinking “maybe, just maybe, today is the day!” Then one day – far off on the horizon a distant and bedraggled figure comes. “Could it possibly be him?” The father wonders, “could my long lost son finally be coming home?” Soon, he realizes his deepest hope come true! It is him! It is his son! What joy he felt as he ran out to his son, losing all decorum. He doesn’t hear exactly what his son has said – something about being a servant, but he doesn’t care in his embrace he starts to shout with joy, “prepare the fatted calf! Prepare a party for my lost son has return!” Oh what joy, what delight! God had finally answered his prayers.
This is as it is when we come home to God. Not only does he beckon us home, not only does he prepare our heart for the indwelling of the spirit, not only has he sent his only son, the incarnate second person of the trinity to rescue us from sin and death, but when we come to Christ, when we know our salvation is found in him and rests in him - the Father delights – the father puts on us his best robe – we receive the glory of Christ and there is much rejoicing in heaven.
And this brings us back to that question from the beginning of the sermon: when you pray – how do you address God? Do you say: “Lord,” “God,” or “father?”
All are good, and beautiful, and acceptable – but did you know you can address God as Father? That in our longing and our need we can cry out to God – Abba! Father! Do you understand how scandalous this is? How beautiful this is?
What good news! What a beautiful thing!
My friends, it is very easy to think of God as master – think for a moment about his grandeur: He created you and the people sitting near you, his hands crafted them – for all their beauty, their loveliness, their uniqueness – he knitted together their flesh and spirit. He created every plant in our yard. He created the beautiful mountains that surround our community. He created the land on which our country is found. He created the entire earth, every inch of land, every drop of water and all of space. He created every single burning star and every single plant and moon that orbits. There is nothing that is created that was not created by God. There is nothing on this earth or in the heavens that are not of his hands!
There is a theological proof that goes something like this: imagine the biggest created thing you can think of… God is bigger than that.
Are you in awe of God’s grandeur? Can you grasp his magnitude?
And, yet, He invites us in to a relationship with him. He invites us to come before him – not with fear but with childlike confidence. He invites us out of a life of fear and into a life of love of grace of confidence. He invites us into His perfect love – and that perfect love drives out all fear. Drives our worry and brings us into His peace, His comfort.
My friends – for me and perhaps for you – it is enough that I would be a simple door keeper in his kingdom, a simple servant, minding my own business, simply doing what he has called us to do. Knowing that he loves me, even if it is from faraway. But God invites us in as children, in Christ he has adopted us. We have not been given a spirit of slavery, a spirit of servitude, and if we were given that, it would be a enough. We are given a spirit of adoption.
If you are in Christ, you have been adopted by the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the creator of the heavens and the earth. Can you think of any better news? Can you think of a better promise than that?
I certainly cannot.
And to top that off he has said – children, you can call me father, you can cry out to me, and I, I will affectionately hear you, I will affectionately tend you, you through Jesus will be my sons and daughters. We can cry to Him in our joy and our pains, in our wants and needs, in our plenty – at any time day or night – we can cry “Abba, Father.”
And what does this mean? What is this word “Abba”? No, it is not a 1970s pop band that has strangely reemerged in our present day. Rather – it is the Aramaic word for father. We see it used three times in scripture: Two times by St. Paul, when he wants us to remember that we have been given this privilege to cry out – to call on God as our father – because have been adopted. The third time – is when Christ is in the Garden of Gethsemane – here, according to St. Mark – a part of what he says is “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will but what you will.”
In the garden, we see the incredible intimacy that the son holds with the father – and we are invited into that intimacy. Not to abuse it – but so that we start to see that the Father’s will is good, and so that we see that we are invite into His will, so that we see that we are invited in to participating the kingdom of heaven, in the coming of Christ, in the building up of His kingdom for His glory.
Can we long for anything better? Can we hope for anything sweeter than thy kingdom come?
And now – we need to understand a second thing – our adoption: It is complete. Our sanctification is not – which is why we still struggle with sin, which is why we will one day pass through a physical death – but we have already been made sons and daughters. This last year some friends, who have been diligent about sending out Christmas letters, and some how always manage to find me, wrote “we’re working on adopting a child from overseas!”
On Friday they sent out a little update – I think it was both excitement and nervousness, especially amidst this the current climate. They said that had finally completed a lot of their important paper work, and now they are just waiting, waiting to hear back from all the necessary agencies. It’s been well over six months at this point. I cant imagine how anxious they are to be through the process and to meet their new child.
But when you are adopted by God – when you meet Jesus – whether you be young or old – the paper work is already completed. Your name is already written in the book of life, your names had been written in the book of life since the beginning of time – you are already made God’s sons and daughters.
You are his, completely. We have received the spirit of adoption – there is no more paper work to be done. We belong to the Father’s and he is our Father. Rest in that for a moment.
And what does it mean that the spirit bears witness to us? It means that we can have assurance that God loves us. It means that when you sin, when you will feel conviction, feel a need for repentance. It means that God, in the Holy Spirit is sanctifying you, and drawing you to Himself. It also means that you are now heirs of His promises – it means that you share in all things with Christ – it means that Christ’s death for sin, is a death for your sin – it means that Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection and on the great last day you will share in that resurrection.
St. Paul ends this section – as a preface to the next statement with “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” He carries on to say that he considers the suffering of this present time not worthy of comparing with the glory that will be revealed on the last day. That creation somehow knows of the brokenness of the world and LONGS for recreation.
But here’s the thing my friends – scripture again and again and again tells us that we will suffer – tells us that we will share in the suffering of Christ. We know from this day and age that there will be suffering, that there will be pain. There will be viruses, political turmoil, there will be personal offence, unkind words said, there will be sickness and death. We know that in this present day – we will feel pain. In fact so long as Christ tarries, as long as he is delayed – we KNOW that we will die.
Despite this – we have already experienced the glory of Christ – though through a glass dimly. But on the last day we will experience the fullness glory of Christ.
If we focus on the pain and suffering of the world. If we constantly get lost in this question the questions of “why is this happen?” If we keep thinking “woe is me! How much I suffer!” We miss the glory – the glory of knowing the resurrected Christ who ascended, who is the great high priest, who is seated next to God the Father, who offers our petitions, our prayers as sweet smelling offerings to our Father, who is working through his church, his bride – to establish the kingdom, to bring us into the new Creation.
If we don’t entrust our heavenly father with all our suffering, if we don’t see it as a chance to live as adopted children, to share in the suffering of Christ – but rather to throw pity parties – we miss the opportunity to run, with all our might to the Father who longs to embrace us – to tell us “my beloved child – I know you hurt, but I love you.” To tell us, “I know you’ve made a waste of thing, but do you know how deeply I love you? Do you know the paper work is complete? Do you know that you are mine?”
If we don’t trust our Father to embrace us, to call us His own, to hold us near in suffering and pain – then how can we know the glory of the Holy Spirit poured out to affirm, to confirm, correct, and comfort us.
In Christ, in worship, in love, in following Jesus, in reading His word, in offering our prayers, in participating in the sacrament and in our suffering – we have seen, we have experienced the glory of Christ.
And in the last day – when the world is made right once again – we will experience the fullness of His glory. We will experience the fullness of His love in the marriage feast of the Lamb – and then in recreation when there will be no temple, no spaces set aside to worship God – because we will dwell with God – ever day – every hour – every moment of our eternal life we will experience the glory of God. And things will be remade as they were meant to be.
And so for now, beloved brothers and sisters, adopted through Christ and made God’s own children. Let us have confidence to come to the Father, let us have confidence to cry out “Abba, Father.” Let us have confidence – not to fear – and diligently pray to our Father who is in Heaven.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.