"Our Father, who art in heaven..." Doubtless, you're familiar with that beginning to probably the most famous of Christian prayers.
Sometimes it's even known as the "Our Father." Have you ever thought about that? Sunday, we celebrate Father's Day, so I thought I'd write about that picture of fatherhood. To do that, I want us to focus on Psalm 103.
Please take some time today to sit down with that Psalm and let what King David was inspired to write about our heavenly Father sink in - from the gifts of forgiveness, protection and provision to grace, mercy and salvation.
This is the Psalm where we hear: "as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."
It's pretty clear we're talking a higher level of fatherhood than any of us have known in our families. Let's be honest - the shirts that read "World's Greatest Dad" are not true. But in our physical world, in the things we can see, taste and touch, in the gift of human fatherhood - God does give us a glimpse of the truly "greatest" father. He gives us our dads, so that we can begin to understand what our God is for us. That's what the next verse of the Psalm says (v. 13) "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him."
In the movies, we can understand when a dad hijacks a hospital so that his son gets the surgery the insurance was denying. Why? Because we know that there is a special bond, a special feeling and responsibility, a special love that exists in a dad for his child. We call it love. But it's more than the flippant way we so often use that word. It is love that will drive us to do anything and everything for the one we love.
And if we can understand that, God tells us, we are starting to get his love for us, his love that drove him to the sacrifice of the cross, his love that still drives him to work everything out for our good, his love that is preparing our place for us in heaven, and preparing our path here to get there.
That's the love "Our Father" has for us. And knowing that, we can pray the rest of the prayer: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Happy Father's Day. And thanks dads, for helping us understand our heavenly Father's love that much more clearly.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.