Jun 17, 2018

“The Father of All” 6-17-18

Ephesians 3:14-21
June 17, 2018

Because of the process of Human Procreation, all of us have fathers, but not all of us know who our fathers are.  As the DNA testing services for heredity discoveries increase and as the comfort levels with those services increase, I think that there will be some surprises revealed.
But as I think about my relationship with my own father, I think that there are many things about our fathers that we do not know.  I remember that when as a child visiting my grandparents near the Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore, there was this old lady who dressed primarily in Gray to compliment her hair color. She probably looked and dressed like most of the older women in the 1950s.  I knew her as Aunt Sophie and I knew she was related to me somehow, and I knew that she always visited when my dad was there. 
But it was not until years later, long after she was gone, shortly before my dad died, that I learned that in 1942, after my dad graduated from High School at age 16, and before he was old enough to enlist in the navy, Dad left the farm in West Virginia and moved to Baltimore and lived with aunt Sophie while he drove a milk truck for Koontz dairy. 
It was at that point, that I realized that Aunt Sophie had had an important part in my father’s transition into being an adult male.  And I began to wonder what else about my father’s life I did not know.
It is pretty well accepted that the male gender is the less communicative of the two genders of the human race.  This should make us wonder just who these Fathers whom we honor in this day really were or really are.  There are parts of their lives that are unknown to us.
And so it is with our heavenly Father.  And when I say “our heavenly father”, I am including the entire human race as Children of the Heavenly Father, as did the Apostle Paul at the beginning of this passage.
All of us have in our age of celebrating diversity come to realize that not all people identify themselves as coming from the God who reveals himself through the bible.  But Paul understood that according to the bible, all people are descended from beings that were created by God. 
We find that view also put forth in the first lesson, which was comprised of snippets from the genealogy of Jesus that is in Luke chapter 3.  It is a backward genealogy, starting with Jesus and tracing his ancestors back through king David, and through Abraham and back through the pre-Jewish ancestors through Noah, through the pre-deluvian (that means before the Flood) age all the way back to Adam, who is said to be the son of God.
So we Christians have an understanding that all people are in the broad sense children of God, descendants of the first humans who were created by God.  Through God we are related to all human beings and he is the father of us all.
But, as there are gaps in what we know about our earthly fathers, so there is also much that we do not know about our heavenly Father, the Father of all people.
Paul tried to fill in the gaps in the experience of the Father that the Ephesian Christians had.  He stated that he prayed for these things for them in their relationship to the Father.   As he mentions bowing at the knee, it seems that these petitions for them have become a part of his formal, repeated prayers for them.
Our Father in heaven is not separated from us as many of our earthly fathers now are.  He has a spirit that brings his presence to us even though he is far from us in heaven.  Paul prayed that the Spirit of the Father would strengthen the inner being of the Ephesian Christians with his power. 
The inner being is not their intestines or gall bladder or heart or lungs, it is that non-physical part of us that lives in our bodies while we are alive.  Some call it a soul or a spirit.  It is what leaves our bodies when we die.
What Paul was teaching the Ephesians was that becoming a Christian was not the end of their pilgrimage, it was just the beginning.  Christians are to be in a strengthening relationship with the Father that will make the bond with God even stronger and will renew parts of their lives as they continue to live.
Paul understood that our Father also has a son, the Christ, who through the Holy Spirt also dwells in us, in our heart, which was spoken of as being the center of ones being in those days.  It was believed to be the seat of ones emotions.
Paul prayed that as the Spirit and the Son worked in their lives, they would cause the Christian to be rooted and grounded in love.  I think he was using a tree metaphor here.  We all know that trees can be described as having two types of components, those above the ground, and those below the ground.  Most of us have experienced what happens when the part above ground is stronger than the part below ground.  When the wind comes, the tree falls over because the root system is not strong enough or large enough to hold the tree up in the wind.
But the root system of a tree not only holds it firm, it provides nutrition and fluids for the tree to be healthy and to grow.  Rooted and grounded refers to the work of the spirit and the son in providing strength and nutrition for the soul, or the growth of the Christian.
Our knowledge of Jesus and the spiritual strength in us need to grow after we believe in Jesus.
And the dirt in which we are rooted and grounded is God’s Love.
Then there is that verse about the breadth, length, height, and depth.  Some think that Paul is changing metaphors to that of a building.  I think he is continuing the metaphor of the tree.  It has a breadth and length and height, as well as depth.  No matter where we stand, we cannot see all of the size of a tree unless we study it, walking around it, seeing how far the branches go in each direction above ground, and we would have to dig up the tree to see how deep and far out the roots go.  The love of God has visible aspects, and invisible aspects.  Some of the aspects of God’s love are revealed through the scriptures, but others are to be experienced.  Some aspects of God’s love are obvious such as the love that Christians have for each other.
We need to seek to experience and understand God’s love for us, and pray that others will.
As we learn about and experience the Love of our Father, we will experience a fullness of God living in us through the Holy Spirit
So, as we think of our Heavenly Father on this Father’s day, we should be grateful to him for our earthly fathers, if they were helpful to us.
And as we contemplate our Heavenly Father, we need to remember that he is our father in two different ways.  He is the creator or father of all our earthly families and ethnic groups.  All people of all nations need to know God as their father and to experience all others as their brothers and sisters.  We need to continue to pray for the souls of the unsaved of all nations, that they will come to the father through the Faith in His Son.
And we need to continue to send, support, and encourage Christians to take the knowledge of Jesus to those who have not believed.  We also need to speak about Jesus and demonstrate the love of Jesus to those who do not yet believe.
And for those of us who have come to the Father through our faith in Christ, we need to resolve to learn from Him and His Spirit what he wants to teach us.  We need to look for the ways in which our Father is lovingly reaching out to us and helping is to grow closer to Him.  We need to understand or at least experience the fullness of the love of God for us.

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906