Read Psalm 68.4-10
“I Believe in God the Father Almighty”
There is a conversation going on between two boys on a playground.
“My Dad is bigger than your Dad.”
“Oh yeah, well my Dad is stronger than your Dad.”
“No way, my Dad can lift a hundred pounds without even breaking a sweat.”
“Big deal, my Dad can lift a million pounds with one arm tied behind his back.”
“My Dad can lift a gazillion pounds.”
“Well (pause) my Dad is smarter than your Dad.”
And on and on it goes, each boy trying to outdo the other with whose Dad is the best or strongest or the smartest. The argument has no end as they delve into categories like whose Dad has the most facial hair or whose grunts the loudest. Over time, the Dads take on superhuman qualities. If the Dads could over-hear this conversation, they would be surprised at what they can do. They might wonder how they can possibly measure up to these mythical images of youth where Dads become god-like in the eyes of their children.
We know that fathers are not God and yet we speak of God as Father. In Psalm 68, God is described as a Father of orphans. In Galatians, the Spirit of Christ is said to move in our hearts, prompting us to call out to God, “Abba” or “Daddy.” Over 50 times in the Bible God is referred to as “the Father, Heavenly Father, Father in Heaven, or God our Father.” Our prayers are shaped by this image of God, as we follow the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, beginning, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
Yet, we need be careful. We need to dig deeper than a casual reference to God as Father and ask what kind of Father God is. We need to recognize for many the word “father” does not evoke pleasant, peaceful images of a protector or loving guide. I once knew a woman who found it difficult to image God as a father. Her own father abused her, many of the fathers she had known in her world had abandoned their children. To call on God as a father was for her to evoke images of random violence, neglect, abandonment. When we call on God as Father we need to understand what kind of Father God has been, and continues to be. We need to be careful not to create God in our own image, but allow our image as fathers, as mothers, as children to be shaped by who God has been for us.
Jesus teaches us what kind of father God is. Jesus did not invent the image of God as our Heavenly Father, but saw in God’s dealing with the people the truth of who God was and is. God is the protector, the provider, the one who leads us through the wilderness of life to the Promised Land we can call home. Looking to God in this way changes how we look at ourselves and go about our lives. We are no longer slaves who must do as the master commands, but children who share in the inheritance of God’s promise. We become part of the family of God and we obey the will of God not just for fear of punishment, but out of love for God who has first loved us.
The power God exercises is not like the power of a master over a slave, but that of a loving parent. God’s power is like that of a parent who prepares a child by teaching, by example, to face challenges even the parents have not had to face.
No matter what trouble we experience, God is able to and wants to turn it into good. The power of God, God’s almightiness is shaped by the mercy of God, God’s parental nature. God does not exercise power randomly or without purpose, but out of love for God’s creation. We can be assured that God is powerful enough to bring good out of evil and suffering and that God is also loving enough to do it.
In Christ, we become adopted into this special family of God. Our relationship to God is no longer a fear or disregard for some distant power. We are no longer slaves to distant, unruly powers, but children of the almighty God. We are able to talk to God as children talk to their parents, sharing our deepest joys and concerns confident that God listens and cares.
Back to the playground, to the two boys arguing over whose Dad is the greatest. The boys in their eagerness want to fashion a god out of their Dads. God love them. We know this misguided venture. We know that our God is God alone and there is no other. The One who created the universe and continues to create all that is and will be has no equal.
Still, the boys aren’t too far off. We know our God to be a loving Parent able to do great things, to turn trouble around, to forgive sinners, to love the unlovable. In Jesus Christ we come to know God as more than a distant stranger, but a loving Parent we can turn to, we can talk to, we can rely on when times get tough. In Christ, we are no longer strangers to God, but children. Jesus teaches us to pray to God, Abba, Daddy. Our God is the greatest Dad of all.