"FATHER TO US ALL, FATHER IN US ALL"
A few months ago I preached a sermon focusing on Isaiah’s title for the coming Messiah: Everlasting Father. Father. God is always talked about as “Father.” Lord Man God. God just as “Father” is about as silly as “Redhead God” or “American God.” To lift up one title so prominently means we idealize or even divinize something that isn’t God. In addition, many people have negative images and memories associated with the idea/person/title of “father” for their father was not one. So what harm do we do when we only talk about God in the masculine? Father as God cannot be our only recourse.
However, I do believe tacking on the title “father” to God is useful in the same way tacking on “mother” for the community of faith. These titles describe roles in our community, in our nation and in our world that are unlike any other because they aren't just roles, they are relationships. Relationships, that ideally, are rooted in care, nurture and love. If we want to use “father” than we must use “mother.”
And what does that do, then, to the community of faith, to talk about God as Father and Mother both? Well, Christians are called to follow Jesus, to imitate Jesus. And what does that look like besides being mother (and father) to the world, to be Christ to the world?
We are called to protect the orphans, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and speak up for the voiceless. That is who a mother is, what a father is – one who protects, loves and endures all for the sake of her/his own.
We are called to put our bodies on the line – that is what Christ did in coming for us in the form of a helpless babe. That is who Christ is and that is who we are called to be. The call of all persons of faith is to care for each other, to care for the world – to be father and mother to the global community.
Human imperfections and our personal histories should not push us to reject “Father” as a title for God but rather seek to redeem it for others. In sensing the hurt and the pain that “Father” brings to so many, do not abandon the title, but rather redeem it.
I recognize that I do not fully comprehend the lived experience of struggling with the title “father” as many do. This is why it takes all of us, as the people of God and the community of faith, to come together as healers and reconciler. Each member of the church community brings their unique value and experience to others in the community allowing us to bring healing and reconciliation to each other and to the world.
Reconciliation challenges us. It comes slowly. It contains complexity. And it can even get ugly. But we can say this about Christ’s birth too. A story of hardship, turmoil, grit, pain, and rejection surrounds Christ’s coming as the everlasting father, mighty God, prince of peace and wonderful counselor. But it is a story that must be told just as our journey of reconciliation is one that must be taken.
We are called to be Father and Mother, not as reflections of our own earthly parents, but as reflections of the Divine parent – the perfect Father and the perfect Mother to us all. WE are called to love like Christ, live like Christ, sacrifice like Christ. In that we become the new understanding of Father. We redeem something that for many, is covered by the pain, hurt, loss and suffering of this world and show it in a new, glorious light of redemption.