Sermon for June 17, 2018 (Father’s Day)

Scripture Readings: 1 Sam.15:34-6:13; Ps. 92:1-4, 12-15; 
2 Cor. 5:6-17; Mark 4:26-34

Sermon by Sheila Graham 
from Mark 4:26-34; 1 Sam. 16:6-13; 2 Cor. 5:14-17; Ps. 92:12-15

That’s How Our Father Thinks

Introduction

Today is Father’s Day—a day to honor our fathers and those who have acted as fathers in our lives. Fathers are important, not only to the stability of the family and as an example to their sons and daughters, but to our view of God as our heavenly Father.

When we think of God, many of us tend to think of him as we do our human father. If we had an easy-going, rather laid-back father, we may think of God as sort of our anything-goes good buddy. If our father virtually or actually abandoned us, we may have a difficult time trusting God. If our father was harsh or abusive, we may find it hard to have a close relationship with God. But God is not like any of our fathers. God is love! Not just loving, he is love. He is so amazing! —glorious, perfect, all-powerful, has everything, needs nothing, yet is focused on a tiny rocky planet and those sinners (that’s us) who inhabit it.

When you stop to think about how much God loves us, it’s overwhelming.

Understanding how God thinks

We are human beings, weak, sinful and vulnerable. But, when it comes to us and our world, the Scriptures show how passionate our heavenly Father is in his concern for his children. Let’s look today at several examples of how this most powerful being who is God thinks when it comes to us humans.

First, he includes us in his work establishing his kingdom on this earth. When Jesus described how the kingdom of God would come, he said it would be from a tiny start, like the smallest of seeds, to eventually cover the entire earth. God’s plan is that we would have a part in the establishing of his kingdom—working with him to share the gospel with the whole world. Notice how Jesus describes the kingdom of God:

This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come. (Mark 4:26-29

Jesus also said this:

What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade. (Mark 4:30-32)

That’s how God thinks.

Here’s another example: Though God has all power, he chooses to work through those we might consider the least important. Remember the story of the prophet Samuel’s anointing of David as the new king of Israel? Samuel thought for sure that Jesse’s oldest son was the chosen one:

 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:6-7)

As Jesse paraded his seven handsome sons one at a time before Samuel, God said no to each of them. Samuel was confused. He knew he was there to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king. Have you no more sons? he asked Jesse.

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. (1 Sam. 16:11-13)

The Anointing of David (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

God looks on the heart, not on the outward appearance. To Jesse’s, Samuel’s, Eliab’s and the other brothers’ surprise, David, the youngest, was chosen as the next king of Israel. (No doubt to David’s surprise too.) He’s the youngest son, sent out to care for the family’s sheep, one of the least esteemed of occupations. David’s greatest concern up to this point was facing down bears and lions threatening his father’s flocks. Suddenly, his life changes forever. He is going to be king! That surely gave him something to ponder on those lonely days and nights watching the sheep.

God so loved this shepherd boy that many generations later the Messiah would be born of his family lineage. And like David, his choice was a surprise to the people then. The Scriptures point out that Jesus wasn’t a movie star lookalike. God didn’t give Jesus any especially outstanding physical features. He looked like any other Jewish man. He had to be pointed out in a crowd.

Even his birth had a rough start. Jesus was born of an unwed teenage girl in an animal shelter, perhaps a cave used to house livestock. Then, his family had to leave the country to save him from Herod’s killers. God could have created totally different conditions for the birth of his Son, but God humbled himself even more in allowing Jesus to be born in such circumstances. That’s how God thinks.

Though God might choose an insignificant and humble shepherd boy to rule over Israel, and a carpenter’s child to be his Son on earth, he didn’t leave David or Jesus to their own devices. As David looked to God, he reigned successfully over Israel. And, Jesus? He was fully human but also fully God. He was human, born of the virgin Mary, yet he possessed all the attributes and powers of God as the second person of the Trinity.

Jesus: the true Superhero

Speaking of such power, have any of you seen the movie, Justice League? It’s one of those superhero movies inspired by comic books. You know, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America and others. It was high on the most-watched movie list last year. Unlike God, we humans look down on the poor, weak and powerless and look up to those with special abilities and strengths. We seem to enjoy the idea of having some super powerful hero dropping out of the sky to rescue us.

(source)

Though all these Justice League superheroes are powerful with their special strengths, if you’ve seen the movie, you know they all have weaknesses. Even Captain America with his high ethical standards seems a bit self-righteous to me. They learn that if they are going to overcome the powers of evil, they must work together.

We may enjoy watching them on screen, but we don’t need made-up superheroes. Jesus is all powerful and absolutely perfect. Excuse the analogy, but he’s already come down to earth to rescue us. He is our Superhero for real!

What about us?

Now, I’m going to get personal. What about us—you and me? What does God think of us? (Hmmm, well, I know God loves me and he forgives me a lot. I’m thankful for that, but I’m sure no superhero.)

Is that how we think of yourself?  Do you think you’re too young to serve God? If so, remember the child Samuel and the teenager David. Or maybe you feel you’re too old? Think Noah, Abraham and Sarah and a host of prophets. Female? Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla and Anna, among others.

God can work through anyone or anything, even a donkey. Balaam can attest to that! Recall Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday when his followers were praising and worshiping him. The Pharisees were offended and told Jesus to stop them. But Jesus said if they were to stop, the stones themselves would cry out (Luke 19:39-40). You’ve heard the phrases “stubborn as a donkey” and “dumb as a rock”—if God can use donkeys and rocks to do his will, he certainly can use us!

Our Father has given all of us gifts. Some have the gift of hospitality, some have compassionate hearts. There are those who are good at teaching and those powerful in prayer. Others just love to serve, wherever they’re needed.

In our reading today in 2 Corinthians, Paul says to think of ourselves not as we once were, in our sinful nature, but as new creations who no longer live for ourselves but for Christ. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten by God, past, present and future. Why? So we can focus on others and not on ourselves all the time.

Yes, we have our faults and bad habits. Try as we might to avoid it, we do sin. But don’t let that hinder you from serving wherever God has placed you. Christ’s sacrifice is greater than anything we can do to offend our Father. Note what Paul says:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor. 5:14-17)

Christ held nothing back, even his own life, in bringing about this new creation. Paul says that this kind of self-sacrificing love should motivate us to share his love with others. Like the superheroes in the comic books, we all have our weaknesses. Yet, God has given each of us certain strengths, certain gifts that we can use in a team effort for good.

Conclusion

Let’s end today with what God told Samuel when he was checking out the sons-of-Jesse fashion parade. Samuel thought for sure Jesse’s tall, handsome, oldest son, Eliab, was the chosen one. But God said, “The LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” With that in mind, note how God sees us, those, who by grace, have been made righteous in Christ:

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Ps. 92:12-15)

In Christ, we are the righteous! Just as with David, God looks on the heart, not on any physical appearance or attribute. Our hearts have been transformed by Jesus through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Through our adoption in Christ our brother, we have been made our Father’s beloved children. And, just as with David, as we step out in faith with Christ, despite our limitations, to serve our heavenly Father, he will never leave us to face our battles alone. He is always there to support, comfort and encourage us.
That’s how our Father thinks. He is the perfect Father. Happy Father’s Day.

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