While this was the message for this morning, we began our service by remembering and naming those killed in the shooting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.
Cynthia Hurd, 54, branch manager for the Charleston County Library System
Susie Jackson, 87, longtime church member
Ethel Lance, 70, employee of Emanuel AME Church for 30 years
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, admissions counselor of Southern Wesleyan University
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, state senator, Reverend of Emanuel AME Church
Tywanza Sanders, 26, earned business administration degree from Allen University
Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, retired pastor (died at MUSC)
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45, track coach at Goose Creek High School
Myra Thompson, 59, church member
And we remember to Dylann Storm Roof, 21 who walked into that church to kill others.
And, this reminder from William Stringfellow of who we are called to be and what we are called to do.
In the face of death, live humanly. In the middle of chaos, celebrate the Word. Amidst Babel, speak the truth. Confront the noise and verbiage and falsehood of death with the truth and potency and efficacy of the Word of God. Know the Word, teach the Word, nurture the Word, preach the Word, define the Word, incarnate the Word, do the Word, live the Word. And more than that, in the Word of God, expose death and all death’s works and wiles, rebuke lies, cast out demons, exorcise, cleanse the possessed, raise those who are dead in mind and conscience.
One of my favorite family photos sits on a table at the top of the stairs to the second floor of our home. It is a picture of me and our youngest son taken many years ago when we were on vacation at the Jersey shore. Brandon and I had been playing together in the waves. Whether just jumping over them as the broke onto the beach or riding them on one of our boogie boards, I can’t remember. But in the picture we are just sitting on the beach together. Him on my lap. Me with my arms wrapped around him. Both of us watching the waves and looking together at the horizon. I like the picture for all it represents. Father. Son. Love. Contentment. Wonder. Beauty. Irreplaceable time together.
I found myself thinking about that picture as I thought about this morning.
Knowing it is Father’s Day.
Knowing we would be here together.
Knowing that we are here to be reminded of that something more, that something other which we know and name as God. And, also knowing that how we think about God and talk about God matters because it shapes something of who we are and how we see and respond to and live in the world around us.
Our language about God matters in all kinds of ways, but this morning I want to think with you about God as Daddy which may come as something of a surprise when I am so intentional about using inclusive language both when I read scripture and when I refer to God. But the point I want to make this morning is not about gender. Not about God as male or female. The point I want to make is about intimacy.
When I was growing up all the language I ever heard about God was masculine and about power. Primarily power over. God as King. Lord. Heavenly Father. God above me. God over me. God demanding, controlling, caring, but distant. God all powerful. God all knowing. God as both Rule Maker and Judge. In some ways the God of my growing up may not have been all that different from the way God was portrayed and used (or misused?) in the time of Jesus. God, for Jesus and for the Jewish community of that time, was mostly confined to Jerusalem and to the Temple and to the Holy of Holies in the Temple which could only be entered by a special priest at a specified time. God then, as God was in my growing up, was separate and apart and above and distant, and could only be approached with fear and trembling.
Then along comes Jesus.
Who refers to God not as King or Lord, but as Abba.
Not as Ruler or Judge, but as Daddy or Papa.
With the language he uses to speak about God, Jesus pulls God out of the Temple and out of the church and away from the priests and pastors and bishops and popes and into and alongside your life and mine.
If I am right about Jesus
And, if Jesus is right about God…
Then, what God desires is an intimacy with us which, at least for me, resembles the picture at the top of our stairs of my arms wrapped around my son. As a father, maybe better…as a Daddy…I know what that moment felt like and feels like. And, as a father I know what that moment meant and still means.
So, what about you?
What picture or memory captures a similar intimacy for you as my picture does for me?
It can be a memory of you and your child?
Or you and and your grandchild?
Or, you and your partner?
Or, you and a friend?
What I would like you to remember is what that moment felt like and feels like to you.
You, for a moment, at your best.
The world, for a moment, just right.
And then I invite you to take a step back;
And to look at your own life;
And to consider that what you remember and know of that special moment.
For that moment is similar to what God longs for with you and for you.