Our Father

I was struggling with exactly what to write about on this site when a friend reminded me that I have a sermon written and preached that is all about living under Christ’s archy. I will not write the entire sermon in one blog because it will be long and tedious for all of us. I will take it a section at a time.
We have a detailed life plan for how to live under Christ’s archy provided for us in what we call The Lord’s Prayer. It is a doable way to live a full life. This prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13. While the KJV is not my favorite version of Scripture, I am aware that a great number of Christians use KJV language to pray this prayer so I am going to use KJV language here as well.
We begin with, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
I often wonder if many of us have ever truly grasped what we are saying here…..and have the right to say! We are addressing God and not being punished for it! We are talking to God with the understanding that God not only allows humanity to speak but also listens and encourages us to speak. More than that we get to call God a parent. We can approach God with the assumption that God cares enough to listen, protect, and guide us.
I believe it is important to remember that God is different to everyone. There are people who have been deeply hurt by fathers and men so God is female. There are others for whom GOd is definitely male. There are people for whom God is both male and female or neither male not female. For some God is Comforter, for others God is Protector, and for others God is best friend. I have learned not to destroy someone’s image of God whether good or bad, correct or incorrect. God will meet each of us however we need to be met and as we grow, mature, heal, and discover God, our image of God changes with us. God is more than any one of us can label and about the time we think we have it figured out and nailed down, we will be wrong!
However we view God doesn’t change or limit the fact that we have been given the right to call on God, to speak with God, to confide in God, and to claim the promises of God. So, we say, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
God’s location is important to our understanding of this life. When we state that God is in heaven we are claiming a belief and a promise that this life is not all there is. Whether you believe in a physical Heaven and Hell or not, the ultimate definition of Heaven is to be in the presence of God and the ultimate definition of Hell is to be separated from the presence of God – permanently. Experiencing the presence of God begins in this life. We get to see glimpses of heaven every time we deliberately place ourselves in the presence of God. This is the place where we can be transformed, offered hope, experience healing, and know that we are truly heard and loved by God.
“Hallowed is Thy name.” What is hallowed? That word doesn’t mean much to folks anymore. For that matter, we have slowly lost a sense for the holy and the sacred over time. In a world in which we are encouraged to live our lives with ourselves at the center of it (and the world) we have lost the realization that there is something bigger than us. God is holy, without the human trappings of mistakes, sin, troubles, etc. God and God alone is worthy of worship. Even if God does not sign autographs, make millions of dollars throwing a ball, or appears on the Red Carpet, God is what is hallowed and holy.
Many people believe in God, fewer people worship God, even fewer people love God, and even fewer deliberately place themselves into the presence of God in order to worship and be transformed.
Two aspects of living under Christ’s archy is to:
1. Enter into the presence of God by calling on God’s name.
2. Worship and be willing to be transformed by what is truly holy.

7 Responses

  • I have a bit of trouble with the notion that we can see God as male or female based on our needs.
    God the Father is always referred to as Father. Never as Mother. Jesus calls Him Father again and again. We who are adopted can likewise call Him Father (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6).
    Jesus was clearly male and He occupies a masculine position in relation to His Bride, the Church. Even in passages like Matthew 23:37, the point is not that Jesus is taking on feminine qualities but rather His desire to collect and protect His people who stubbornly refuse the shelter He offers. It is perfectly compatible with His “maleness”.
    Isn’t there a danger in trying to make God malleable to meet our needs rather than taking comfort in God for who He has revealed Himself to be? God is not a chameleon that changes to meet the needs of finite, imperfect and fallible beings. It seems that our goal is to know Him for who He is and take comfort in that.

  • You have missed my point completely. I am not saying that it is ok to make God in our image (though it is unfortunately what we do). I am saying that we need to respect the image that folks have. As people grow and change so does their image of God. If they need to view God as something different for a while so they are not threatened that is fine with me. I want each person to have a relationship with God. Like it or not, we all view God differently. It does not make God a chameleon; it makes God amazing! God can be all things to all people. Once the relationship is started God will take care of the revelation of God’s self to people so that a better understanding can be achieved.
    Yes, Jesus was male. There is noting that says that God is male and male alone. In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us make humanity in our image….” If God is plural there is more than one characteristic of God. Humanity is both male and female it stands to reason that God would have male and female attributes. Putting God in a box and calling it defined and done is far more dangerous than allowing God to be all things to all people and putting down someone’s view of God in such a way that they are yet again repelled by the “church” and the closeminded judgemental views that permeates all we do because we are uncomfortable with thinking outside the box.
    God will reveal God’s self and we can all take comfort in that. We just all get there at different times and in different ways.
    Besides think what the Bible would be like if it were written in a society like the Iroquois who were a matriarchal society. Like it or not, we have to factor in the reality that the Bible was penned in a societal context quite different than our own. The female aspect of God was celebrated for hundreds of years before men removed it as viable.

  • Shauna,
    “I am saying that we need to respect the image that folks have.”
    Lots of people, in fact I would say all people, have an image of God and most of those images are idolatrous. Should we respect the image of God that a Muslim has or a mormon or a Hindu?
    “Besides think what the Bible would be like if it were written in a society like the Iroquois who were a matriarchal society. Like it or not, we have to factor in the reality that the Bible was penned in a societal context quite different than our own. The female aspect of God was celebrated for hundreds of years before men removed it as viable.”
    That assumes that the society dictated the revelation of God rather than God dictating it. God chose when and where He would reveal Himself, what people He chose and when and where His Son was born.
    “There is noting that says that God is male and male alone. In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us make humanity in our image….” If God is plural there is more than one characteristic of God.”
    God is not plural. God is one God eternally existing in three persons. That is a huge difference. I also don’t think any reputable translations replace “Let us make man in our image” with “Let us make humanity in our image”. That is the consistent witness of Scripture throughout the text. God made man and then made woman from man. The order is crucial. Man is the image and glory of God but woman is the glory of man (1 Cor 11:7).
    We don’t get to pick and choose which of His commandments we will accept now and which will not because it clashes with our modern sensibilities.

  • My dear Arthur Sido, you have proven my point beautifully in that we do not mess with someone’s image of God. You have worked hard and been scholarly and eloquent in your defense of your image of God. I did intentionally make comments that I knew would rattle your cage. Like it or not, correct or not, you have an image of God and that is what you need others to understand and accept. This is why we must respect the image of God that folks have. God doesn’t need our defense. God is capable of and will meet each person where they are to reveal God’s self to them. Each of us encounter God, learn the truth, and are set free. WhT we have to be cautious of is forcing our image of God (biblically accurate or not) onto someone else and doing such harm as they turn away from God.
    If we were alone in face to face conversation, I would ask you questions like:
    Why did you need to protect your image of God and prove me wrong?
    How have you experienced God?
    Why cam you not accept an image of God other than what has been indoctrinated within you?
    Thank you for your words and sharing with us your image of God.

    • Shauna
      Our image of God is crucial to how we worship Him. Is He an absent God, the proverbial “watchmaker”? Is He a just and holy God who punishes sin? Is God the only God or one of many? Is He omniscient or is He limited? Is He the triune God of Scripture, the god of modalism, the “one among many” god of mormonism? These are not secondary questions or mere academic exercises. God’s people have struggled against error in this area for a very, very long time:
      So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:2-4)
      The issue of worshipping God goes far beyond the Sunday morning meeting. How we pray, how we function as a family, how we share our faith, how we view the world, etc all depend on our understanding of who God is. That is a topic that God has not left to our imagination. Much of the Bible is a progressive revelation of who God is revealed to His people. Our understanding of God is necessarily going to be incomplete and flawed because finite creatures cannot fully comprehend an infinite God but that doesn’t give us license to mold God into an idol to suit our needs on a whim.
      Perhaps I am especially sensitive to this question because I can see where having a malleable view of God leads. Five years as a mormon before being redeemed from that group will leave one especially concerned with how God is understood.
      I would in turn ask you. Why do you think that our understanding of God is unimportant? Why do you think that a malleable vision of God is healthy for a church beset from without and within by error that imperils the eternal soul of so many people? Why do you assume that my image of God is something I have been “indoctrinated” with rather than what I have discovered (and am discovering) through study?

  • Arthur,
    No where have I stated that our understanding of God is unimportant. It is so important and foundational for each of us that it must be respected. A sure way to lose someone is to attack, challenge, or put down their image of God. A trusting relationship must first be established. Notice that I have not once said that we have to agree with someone’s understanding of God – we do have to respect it if we want to facilitate an opportunity for growth and maturity.
    The reality of the way in which humanity views God is that we are finite and limited with a finite and limited language. We also work hard at creating absolutes and labels to facilitate understanding. This causes us to end up with either/or mentality and language when discussing and and/both/more than God. About the time we think we have it, we will be wrong because God is more than. The Trinity is a classic example. 2000 years ago the concept was not present, was not understood, and was not accepted. It is not a blatant Biblical principle or understanding. It is a concept that has been arrived at through time and study by folks who were able to be flexible and expand their view and language of God. If the world exists in another 2000 years than folks will have expanded even more in their understanding of scripture and God.
    No where have I stated that it is all right for us to make God in our image. I have stated that it is the reality of what we do and we have to respect where somewhere is in their maturity and understanding of God. We cannot change them. We cannot force upon them a different understanding. Bishop William Boyd Grove changed my life when he stated once that we are to be friend first and then Christian. Half the room was in an uproar and I was confused because it went against the grain of what I had taken as absolute truth. Then I began to understand because without a friendship in which there is mutual trust and respect differing religious views become reasons for fights, wars, and hatred. That is a great flaw in humanity. We are all convinced that we are the ones who are right and the others must be swayed and agree with us. God is more. God will reveal God’s self to each of us. We all arrive at an understanding of God differently because we all are going through different stages in life, maturity, and experiences. God doesn’t change – we do. We grow and mature and are better able to understand God. No human will ever have a full comprehension of God simply because we are limited and God is not.
    John Wesley encouraged four tools to form such understanding. Scripture (first and with greatest weight), reason, tradiion, and experience. All four of these aid our ability to understand God. What is often lacking in our society is a faith based on a realtionship with God. I have experienced more folks with Bible-based faiths who are in flexible and defensive when someone uses scripture to show something different than what they adhere to. A God-based faith is able to grow and expand because we place ourselves in the transforming presence of God and become healed and whole. We use the tools given us by God to form the relationship so that when others disagree we are able to respond in love and with grace not in heated defensive fighting.
    As for using the word indoctrinated – I was merely trying to find out more about you. There was no offense intended. Others are also diligent in their studies and have arrived at other views which are as biblically sound as those you have professed. This is the wonder and miracle of God and the scriptures. We are all in different stages of faith and spiritual maturity so we all get something different from the scriptures. This does not diminish the scriptures nor any person studying them. This shows the miracle of a God who is flexible in reaching us. A God who is willing to be with us wherever we are in the faith process. God does not impose but gently guides, directs, and encourages. God reveals God’s self to each of us as we are ready to accept it. Eventually, over time, we begin to grasp the nature of God. We grow in our understanding of God. We view God in certain ways at different times in our life and in our faith process. It doesn’t mean God changes and it doesn’t mean that folks are deliberately projecting images of God that are harmful to others such as to harm or emperil their souls.
    When I work with a battered woman she often sees God as a monster because a preacher told her she had to stay in the marriage and in the home and pray about it. To her tortured psyche and soul God wants her to be abused because the preacher tols her she had to stay.
    When I work with a widow who has just lost her husband in a car wreck and someone says, “It was just God’s will,” her view of God changes drastically. She will inevitably ask me why it would be God’s will for her to live alone, to suffer, and to lose the one person she ever truly loved.
    I will do them no good to argue with them and correct their image of God. All I will do is add to their suffering. My job is to be the quiet gentle presence who is not disturbed or put on the defense by their views at that time. I form a relationship based on trust to facilitate the relationship between them and God so that as they heal and grow and experience God they change their view of who God is and why these events took place in their lives. I have to respect where they are in life, in their spiritual maturity, in their emotional maturity, and in their suffering. That does not mean that I agree with them nor emcourage their current view. I also do not argue with them or try to fix them. Only God can change people. Only God can save people. Only God is absolute.
    One day I would love to hear your story. It sounds as though you have a tremendous faith journey. To come from the background you came from and to be where you are now has taken amazing strength and courage.

  • Shauna
    I would never recommend getting into a doctrinal debate with someone who is lost or in the sort of situations you describe. I volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center and see people who are vulnerable and frightened every week. When we speak of God my intent with them is not to win an argument or score theological points. The setting matters.
    Now this venue is a somewhat different setting. Everyone invited to post here is presumably a fairly mature Christian. Words matter. When I make a statement I recognize that those statements are open to examination and challenge.
    As I said, I certainly recognize that God is infinite and we are inherently limited in our understanding (something that in and of itself is a dogmatic assertion on the nature of God). Having said that, while there are some things we don’t fully understand about God, where God has definitively revealed Himself we are well cautioned to not take liberties. Suggesting that we should just accept God as female because of someone’s experience is dangerous ground. God is not defined by our experiences or our preferences. We must instead view our experiences through the lens of God as He has revealed Himself, seeking Him in Scripture and joining with fellow followers of Christ in that endeavor in the New Covenant community of faith. Within that community, this adoptive family, there is room for disagreement. Calvinism or Arminianism. Infant baptism or baptism of believers alone. Presbyterian church government or congregational. On and on. When it comes to who God is? That is where we must speak carefully and avoid experiential definitions or emotionalism.
    As far as my story it is far less about my own strength and more about His mercy and grace.

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