As many of you know I just started my journey with the UCC Church & Ministry Board and hope to be on the pathway to ordination in what they call a Member in Discernment this fall. Part of the paperwork I had to turn in needed to include my personal “pilgrimage of faith.” I tried hard and mostly succeeded at scaling down my nearly 42 years into an 8 page mini autobiography. What does this have to do with Father’s Day you may ask? Well…let me tell you a little of my story.
I was a quirky kid. I don’t know how else to say it. I don’t mean to speak in a disrespectful way about myself but I always knew I was different. Yes I was a typical kid who played with my friends and neighbors…and possibly forced them into performing concerts every summer that we made other neighbors pay money to come and see, but as far back as I can remember to Elementary school days, maybe 2nd grade, I began reading my bible and praying. My family never went to church. I mean never! Well except for once to a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. We did have an old huge bible in our house. I had always been fascinated by that bible, That manual on life, that I knew was a special gift from God. So each night before bed, even though I really didn’t understand most of it, I would read a chapter or two or three depending on how long they were. I remember setting a 30 minute timer to give myself a certain minimum time frame. I would finish my reading and then pray. I thanked God for that day and for allowing me to live another day. I prayed for my family and friends and the world around me. I always ended it with “please allow me another day to live tomorrow.” I have no idea why-but for some reason to an eight year old that seemed like a good way to sum it up-possibly because I was a little hypochondriac who thought he would catch any illness from a bug bite and wasn’t sure if I’d make it another day.
My curiosity grew from there. You know that tiny little Baptist church down the road on 67? Well, they held a vacation Bible school every summer that you could register for. They would drive around a couple of old white school buses to pick you up! I thought how cool is this! I can go to church on a bus covered in animals! I would ride my bike around the neighborhood with friends and always wanted to play on the playground at St Bruno‘s. I loved the safety and security of being around that church building. As I got older I would actually venture inside because they used to leave the doors to the chapel unlocked 24 hours a day so anyone could go in and pray. I just loved going in, walking around, looking at all the statues and beautiful stained glass. I would sit in the pew silently say a prayer and then go about my business biking with my friends.
…For times sake we are going to skip around a bit because this isn’t a one hour long Oprah Super Soul Sunday episode and I know you all have things to do.
When I was 13, an eighth grader at KMMS, I finally gave my life to Jesus, as we say in the evangelical Assemblies of God church-I got saved….And big time. I was in church Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evenings. That’s when I would say God really took center stage in my life. I taught Sunday school, was asked to join the worship team as a keyboardist and began singing solos. Years later after taking some bible classes through my church I was asked to be a youth leader for middle schoolers and high schoolers.
From the ages of 13 until about 26 I served at four different churches of different denominations in various capacities. My full time job at that time was the manager and music buyer for an independently owned Christian bookstore. I absolutely loved our customers. Ministering to them during the joys and dark times in their lives was truly a blessing and humbling experience.
Friends – I share all of this with you not only to give you a glimpse into more of my life and so we can get to know one another better but also because I recently had an epiphany thanks to our children’s godmother and my dear friend. When I went through my pilgrimage of faith with her and told her I just can’t explain the pull God had on my life since I was a young kid she responded with “well God was definitely with you and He must have filled some void you needed filled.”
I sat back for a bit and thought…and then a moment in time flashed back to me. Of course it had to do with music as most things do in my life. We were singing a worship song on a Wednesday evening service. I believe I may have been 17 or 18 years old at the time. We got to the second verse of “who would not love You” by Vineyard music….
“A Father’s Love is what You give to me. A guiding hand, a light so I could see. In knowing You I’ve found my hearts desire. In loving You I’ve touched Your holy fire.”
I remember just sobbing as we sang. Not a sad sob, but a comforting, peaceful cry… That conversation I had a few weeks ago with our children’s godmother finally made it click! I now understand what so moved me about that song and why God was and is such a huge part of my life. I needed a father. A stable, all loving, calm, peaceful father – and God was all of those to me as a child. Now I’m not saying I was fatherless. I had a dad who gave me everything I wanted material wise and indulged in every little interest I had. We went to the zoo on days off and he made the best egg white only omelette anyone could desire. He bought me my first piano on a whim… but he was distant and he was an alcoholic. You never knew what kind of mood he would be in. He mostly stayed in his room after he came home from work. I did have a great childhood. Basically I was an only child because I was the baby of the family and my brothers were 8 and 9 years older than me but still there wasn’t a real father/son connection. When I was an adult I did become closer with my dad. He got sober when I turned 18 years old. He was always the one person I could call on the phone for advice and actually the first person to encourage me to pursue music or being a pastor as a career many years ago. So after all of these years, nearly 42 of them, I have realized God as my father, gave me the unconditional love that I…that WE all desire. We were created this way. We all have a God shaped hole in our heart…it just gets filled at different times when we are ready and open to fill it with God Himself.
God not only wants to be our Savior, our best friend, Prince of peace, Mighty God, Holy One, the list goes on and on but He longs for us to be His children and call Him Abba…Abba Father…just as Jesus did. It’s evident in the prayer we pray each week that Jesus himself taught to his disciples which was then passed down to us through the Bible. We say “Our Father who art in Heaven…”
Here’s a little history tidbit.
A few years ago, a German scholar was doing research in New Testament literature and discovered that in the entire history of Judaism—in all existing books of the Old Testament and all existing books of extra biblical Jewish writings dating from the beginning of Judaism until the tenth century A.D. in Italy—there is not a single reference of a Jewish person addressing God directly in the first person as Father.
There were appropriate forms of address that were used by Jewish people in the Old Testament, and the children were trained to address God in proper phrases of respect. All these titles were memorized, and the term Father was not among them.
The first Jewish rabbi to call God “Father” directly was Jesus of Nazareth. It was a radical departure from tradition, and in fact, in every recorded prayer we have from the lips of Jesus, He calls God “Father.” It was one of the reasons that many of Jesus’ enemies sought to destroy Him; He assumed to have this intimate, personal relationship with the sovereign God of heaven and the creator of all things, and He dared to speak in such intimate terms with God. What’s even more radical is that Jesus says to His people, “When you pray, you say, ‘Our Father.’” He has given us the right and privilege to come into the presence of the majesty of God and address Him as Father because indeed He is our Father. He has adopted us into His family and made us coheirs with His only begotten Son according to the Bible.
In Psalm 139 one of the most beautiful Psalms, God gives us a glimpse into us being his creation from the time even before our birth.“ for you created me in my inmost being, you knitted me together in my mother‘s womb.”
Brothers and sisters If you had a wonderful earthly father, be thankful today and remember those values that he portrayed to you in life. Know that God put each one of those in him just for you so you could get a glimmer into how wonderful your heavenly father is. And if you had a father who lacked in some ways…know that God, your Heavenly Father is only a prayer away, a song away, a book away or a meditation away…and He longs to be that perfect, loving Father you have always hoped for.
So on this Father’s Day my wish for all of us is to be able to come to God as his sons and daughters and just say…Father…Amen.