The Father speaks Exodus 12:1-14
Today is Father’s Day; a special day to remember fathers and their role in our lives. While many of us have fond memories of our father from childhood, of course, we need to be realistic that some of us may not have good memories of our father. We live in a fallen world, where sin and the devil causes broken relationship, hurt and anger. However, Father’s day gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the role of fatherhood and how God provides fathers for us to have a relationship with; to nurture us and bring us up in the world.
I have a birth certificate here and it says ‘Cameron Joel Fiedler, born 20th December 1997; father: Brenton Fiedler:
There you go…this certificate makes me a father, there is nothing more to it; it says here ‘father…Brenton Fiedler’. Cool! Now I have this certificate, there is nothing more to fatherhood. Nothing more for me to do. Is this right? Does a certificate make me a father? Does having a child make me a father? (act this part out with Cameron) If I were to show Cameron this certificate, will he know I love him? Will he know what I expect from him, will he know that I would like him to respond to my love with love and trust?
No, of course not! Being a father is more than having a piece of paper, its about having a relationship with your child. Its about talking with him, caring for him, training and guiding him as he grows up in the world. Providing boundaries and handing out consequences and discipline when he strays outside the boundaries. Fatherhood is not a noun, it’s a verb…a doing word; it’s a relationship based on communication, on words and on trust. And the words of a father do things, they convey intention and purpose; they covey what they say.
This is God our heavenly Father in a nutshell. He created and therefore defines true fatherhood; what it means to be a father and what it means to have a father who wants to have a relationship with us. When God created Adam and Eve, he became a Father to humanity; a father to us; he created a relationship with us.
It means that God took it upon himself to look after us and nurture us as we grow up in his world. He took it upon himself to communicate with us, to initiate conversation; to convey his will and to enact his love for us. He took it upon himself to set boundaries and give us work to do and opportunities to respond to his love through prayer and worship.
Genesis records God acting as a father by communicating with Adam and Eve. Speaking with them and by this word, giving them roles to play as his children and teaching them about responsibility and the consequences they will face if they go outside the boundaries he has set. Genesis records ‘The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.“
And God would speak his word of love to Adam and Eve, when, in the cool of the evening, he would seek them out and talk with them, to keep the relationship going.
However, as we are all aware, Adam and Eve, and so the whole of humanity, fell into sin by failing to trust in God’s Fatherhood. They failed to trust in his word and in his relationship with them and chose instead a new father; the father of lies…the devil.
Adam and Eve were tricked by this false father into believing they no longer needed God to be their father; they could do it alone. How often have we continued in this thinking? Can you remember a time when you rebelled against your father and chose not to listen to his word, and chose instead to listen to the father of lies and try and go your own way? Nothing has changed has it!
Yet, does our rebellion of fatherhood, mean that our father is no longer our father? Does it mean that he no longer wants to speak with us, to convey his will and love for us; no longer wants to have a relationship with us? No, fatherhood is not a piece of paper, something that can be negated because we reject our father. Fatherhood is a relationship built on speaking and trust, built on fathers initiating communication and so conveying love and trust. I am sure many of us can say with assurance that, even when we rejected them, our fathers always remained our fathers and initiated communication with us, tried to restart the relationship.
God, our father in heaven, even when humanity rejected his fatherhood, never stopped being our father, never stopped communicating with us, speaking his word to us which convey his love and will for us. This morning’s Old Testament lesson records God as the true Father, initiating conversation with his children who are in trouble. He chooses to initiate a new relationship by speaking his word of promise and hope to them, even when they have rejected him.
‘The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt…take some of the blood of the lamb and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs…The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.’ God speaks his fatherhood into the lives of the Israelites. His words are rebuilding the relationship he once had with humanity.
He is saying to the people ‘I am your Father in heaven who wants to care for you and rescue you from slavery.’ His words bring about action because he IS their Father, he HAS the responsibility to act by the power of his word, because being a father is a relationship, and relationships are built on conversation.
The Lord God of Moses and Aaron, who rescued the Israelites from slavery through the blood of the lamb on the doors posts, is the same God and Father of our saviour Jesus Christ. Who through his blood poured out on the cross, rescued us from slavery to sin and death. We have a Father in heaven who took it upon himself to speak his word into our lives; to speak his words of action to save us. His word is Jesus Christ, as St John reminds ‘the word of God became flesh, in the man Jesus Christ.’ And his word was crucified and rose again on the third day so that we may have a new relationship with God our Father in heaven.
And our Father in heaven continues to speak to us, continues to save us and express his love for us. And he does this through his word, both in the sacraments of Holy Communion and baptism, and in the bible.
The bible is not a ‘certificate’ to tell us we have a Father in heaven. It is not just a document or statement. Like just Cameron only having the birth certificate but no relationship, what good would it be to him? In the same way, what good would it be to us if the bible was nothing more than words on paper, with no relationship with our Father in heaven? No, the bible is more than a certificate, the words are God’s words and they are living and active; they convey what they say. God’s conversation with us, his relationship with us, the way he guides, calls and redeems us, as our Father, come to us through the words of the bible.
Even more than this, when we read the bible, his Spirit breaths the relationship of Fatherhood into our lives and we actually become part of a two way conversation; he speaks and we respond in the spirit through prayer and worship. What a privilege! What a joy we have. Believe what you hear and become a part of God’s redeeming conversation with us. He never stops speaking and he never stops wanting to have a Fatherly relationship with you. Amen