Pentecost 5, 2016, Bunker Hill, Galatians 3:23-4:7
4:4, When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman… 3:26ff, It is through faith that you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus, baptized…you have all put on Christ like a garment.
It’s Father’s Day. Let me begin with a Father’s Day story which you may not thinking fitting for this day. In this Father’s Day story, the children had gotten themselves into trouble, big trouble, and they couldn’t get themselves free of it. But the children refused to take responsibility for the mess they have gotten themselves into. They blamed their father for their troubles and wondered why he wasn’t doing anything about it. According to them, their father had closed his eyes to what was going on. Here we are caught in the middle of this family “row” and not particularly wanting to hear this today, of all days.
Because now the father has his say, “I was ready to help, but no one asked for my help. I was ready to be found, but no one looked for me. I said, ‘Here I am. Here I am” but my children ignored me. All day long I held out my hands pleading for them to come to me, but they just kept deliberately defying me. They said, “Stay away from us. We don’t want anything to do with you. You’re an embarrassment. We’re too good for you. What do you know about life, old man?”
Only minutes ago, we read the account of that family “row” told through the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament lesson. The father in the story is the heavenly Father who long ago had kneeled in the dirt of the earth and had, with the care and precision of a potter, sculpted his children out of the clay. The children are the people of Israel, whom the Father had saved from slavery in Egypt and given a land in which to live as His chosen sons and daughters.
But this is not just a story from the long dead past. It takes place even today within the human families of the earth and of the church. Not long ago a member of the Friday morning Bible Class told of his oldest daughter, years ago, who had gone off to marry a man who dumped her six months later. She was so messed up that it took her more than five years to come back to the family. The Father was so hurt and angry at their former son-in- law that in his mind conjured up numerous ways to get back at that man. It took him a long time to let go of his anger and his hurt, with God’s help he and his wife managed it. Though the memory is still at hand. But it’s a story that has been experienced and told many times throughout the history of the family of humanity. If something similar to that story has occurred in your family, you know the truth of it. Those are not the kind of Father’s Day stories that are covered in a card at Walgreens or Walmart.
Let me tell you another Father’s Day story which we may find more fitting for this day. It’s the story of how our heavenly Father overcame his anger and hurt, which we his children have caused him. Him to whom we once again pray this morning, “Our Father who art in Heaven.” Our Father set forth a plan for laying aside his hurt and anger over our sins, our disobedience, our neglect of him in our daily lives, our failure to see how he is available to help and uphold us at every moment of the day, our failure to give him thanks for our daily bread and the families through which he cares for us. We may even be able to find a fitting card at Walgreens or Walmart for this story.
It started with a promise to Abraham some 4,000 years ago. God called on Abraham and “preached the gospel to him, ‘In you all nations shall find blessing.’” St. Paul tells us, “He put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness.” He trusted in God’s good news and that put him in the right with God. However, the fact that Abraham was right with God through trust was God’s doing, not Abraham’s. We call that grace, unearned, undeserved and unlimited. Our Father’s anger is but for a moment but his mercy is forever.
Our Father’s promise and would not be fulfilled for another 2,000 years after Abraham, with the coming of Jesus. However, now we are 2,000 years beyond Jesus time on earth and we are still reaping benefits of our Father’s promise revealed to Abraham 4,000 years ago.
To get us by, while the promise worked its way through history, our Father gave us a guardian. He gave us the Law. The Law was never intended to be the way in which we cleared our records of the less than stellar moments in our life. The first intention of the Law was to give us some detailed instruction in how to love our Father with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But because of our sinful nature we couldn’t meet its requirements. Too many gods of all sorts and kinds beckoned us. Too many people proved to be unlovable, including you and me at times.
So now what were we to do? Well, nothing. Our Father took care of everything for us. I know it’s still about 188 days until Christmas, but this Father’s Day story includes the story of Christmas. St. Paul tells us his version: “But when the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to buy freedom for us who were under the Law, in order that we might receive adoption as sons.” If sin and the Law are like being confined in prison, then God sent us a get out of jail free card for Christmas, that card was Jesus. Now that’s a Christmas card to keep in our grasp. Jesus paid the fine with his life. He became the sin which put us into prison. He became the curse for our failure to keep every provision of the law. Through His Son, our Father extricated us from the mess which sin had made of our lives. And He adopted us as his sons and daughters guaranteeing an inheritance of eternal life, kept in the heavens for us. Sort of an eternal lay away plan for us.
You may even have your adoption papers at home. I have a sample here. (Read from a baptism certificate).
We don’t look for these gifts under an evergreen tree, but at the baptismal font. At our baptism our Father gave us the new garment which we are wearing right now. At baptism, Paul tells us, “you have all put on Christ.” And how stunning we all look to our heavenly Father.
That’s the kind of Father’s Day story fit for this day. A story of how Our Father loved the world so much he sent his only begotten Son. A story of how we have once again become our Father’s children, through adoption. A story of being clothed with Christ and properly dressed to enter into the heavenly banquet. And Christ is not intended to be worn only on Sunday, but every day, all day. He will never wear out and will always keep you and me looking our best in the eyes of our heavenly Father. Happy Father’s Day.