It’s Fathers’ Day and I am full of the flu and have lost my voice. No sermon from me tonight, and possibly no flight to a conference in Sydney tomorrow. My balance suffers from flights at the best of times, and this is the worst of times!
I am sick enough not to risk visiting my own ailing father with my brother William, who has only recently been reconnected with Dad. With the advanced stage of dementia Dad is suffering, and his inability to walk, talk, feed himself or pretty much move, there’s a good chance it is his last Fathers’ Day.
And it’s William’s first Fathers’ Day. He and his lovely lady have had a little girl this year, although with both girls in South Africa, William had an advanced Fathers’ Day screening last week. He’s turning out to be a great Dad already from what I can see.
So it’s a time for reflection in our extended family – with lives beginning, ending, and our best laid plans scuppered by illnesses.
Over breakfast this morning – a great one thanks to the lovely Jill – I read – sotto voce of course -, these words of Jesus from Matthew 7:
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
The key words are “how much more”. Jesus’ point, of course, is not that all earthly fathers are evil personified, but that in our fallenness and sin we are shadows of the Heavenly Father.
Too often in dismissing the biblical concept of God as Father many people state that humans have simply projected our ideas of fatherhood onto God. And that, of course, has led to all sorts of problems, because every father, me included, lets his children down at various levels.
Note how Jesus doesn’t try to hide our fatherly frailties. That’s because he doesn’t have to. Here’s the reason why he doesn’t have to:
The heavenly Father is not an idealised projection of fatherhood upwards, but a perfect revelation of fatherhood downwards.
Our heavenly Father is a “how much more” Father, whose generosity, love, concern and sacrifice for his children is haltingly, fleetingly and shakily shadowed by us.
This “how much more-ness” liberates us from the fear of failed fathers, frail fathers, foolish fathers, faithless fathers and so many more. And it also liberates us to love such fathers (and to seek forgiveness if we are such fathers ourselves), because we have a security and love in this “how much more” heavenly Father.
It’s worth shouting “how much more” from the rooftops today – but someone will have to do that for me today.