Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Father With a Majestic Name

O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens.  Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?  Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.  You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!      Psalms 8:1 - 9 (NRSV)
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV)
Father’s Day holiday stories are legion.  A little girl once said to her mother, “Mommy, if Santa Claus brings our presents, and God gives us our daily bread, and Uncle Sam gives us Social Security, why do we keep daddy around?”[1] 
A father came home from work just before supper and was met by his five-year-old son on the sidewalk outside his house. The little guy was not smiling. "Is something wrong?" he asked. "Yes," he said, "all day long I’ve been having trouble with your wife."[2]
Someone had noticed that the word "father" appears in the dictionary just before the word "fatigued" and just after the word "fathead." So to all us fatigued, fathead fathers, Happy Father's Day![3] 
The Gospel text worries me
From the first time I heard a preacher say I was responsible to go and make disciples this text has bothered me.  It’s a big job!  I know the disciples that Jesus was talking to – the remaining 11 (Judas was already gone), had the same kind of misgivings.  At least some of them did; the text said some doubted! 
You know that’s right.  They’re no different than we are.  We worship – and we have doubts, misgivings, challenged priorities, self-loathing, weak faith (but faith nonetheless!).  Deep inside we believe, in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  But we have lingering doubts:
·        Can God really do anything with us that will effect lasting change?
·        Can we really reach neighbors?
·        Or even just our own kids?
·        Won’t we mess it up somehow?
And, knowing ourselves, we certainly wonder about Jesus’ disciples.  Was it really a good idea to have your leadership team so lacking in a settled faith?  They had all sorts of unanswered questions…well, perhaps with one exception…they knew Jesus had been dead – and now he was alive!
Against it all Jesus said to them, “Go…make disciples”.  And he says it to us too.  That worries me.  But that’s what the Psalmist was there for – to answer my questions so it makes a little more sense why God chose to work through us.
God who is sovereign over all answers for me the basic existential questions of life in this Psalm – who I am, what I’m worth, and how I find my purpose.
He Created me (the question of My Origin)
The Psalmist (most assume it’s King David) says (verse 5) that the Sovereign made them (us).  This is creation’s story. 
You may have heard of the little girl who asked her Mom how all the people in the world got here.  Mom told her God created Adam and Eve, who had children…and that’s how it all happened.  Later she asked Dad, and Dad gave her evolution….primordial slime, one-celled slugs dividing…down to the apes begetting mankind.  The little girl was confused, so she asked Mom again…. “Daddy said our grandmas and grandpas were monkeys.”  Mom replied, “that’s right, honey, he was telling you about HIS side of the family.”
The Psalmist insists, “YOU (God) made us”.  What’s comforting about that is if I know where I came from, I know a lot more about who I am.  Today we celebrate Father’s Day.  Not everyone knows their earthly father, or even much about their earthly family.  But the one question that is answerable is what my eternal father is like.  My origin is from heaven’s choice! 
And then the Father with the majestic name tells me
He Cares for me (the question of My Worth)
David says that the Sovereign LORD created me a little lower than God.  This ultimately means I am a person of great worth to God and therefore to everyone.
One theologian put it this way about origin and worth:  The most startling leap of faith is not that God exists, but that He cares.  If God cares for me – if He loves me, then even the hate of every other creature in the universe cannot lower my worth – I am loved with an everlasting love!  And that chases the darkness from my soul!
My origin is God, who loves me, and the crowning glory is that:
He Commissions me (the question of My Purpose)
Again David says that we are given dominion over the work of God’s hands.  We have a purpose in life – to love and serve God.  Matthew records that Jesus told the disciples to Go and make disciples. 
This is the highest and most perplexing of all questions about our existence.  What is it that I am supposed to DO with this existence?  God said….LIVE!  The word “go” really means “as you go”.  In your everyday life, wherever you live, remember Who gave you the life you live and live it with purpose.  Give glory to God.  What an incredible gift.  Carl Shultz called it an incomprehensible grace that the king of glory would ask us to work along with Him to make this universe a place of His grace and glory.
What to DO
Father’s Day is more than just a Hallmark occasion.  It’s all about carrying on the family name.  My grandfather was Frederick, which in German means “peaceful ruler”.  My other grandfather was Emil, again a German name meaning “industrious”.  My Dad is Elwood, an English name which has its origin meaning “from the old forest”.  Three strong names – I should carry on with peace, industry and the strength of well-seasoned materials.  They gave me an English name, Russell; red-haired…a name like Adam…from the red earth.
Our Father also has a majestic name – it is Jesus; Jehovah Saves.  Accept the authority of this name – let it help you to join your Father in the family business; go, make other disciples.  This is too good news to let doubt hold you back!
Father, you know our doubts; send us anyway!   We pray in the Name of the Father, Because of the Son, Cooperating with the Spirit…Amen!

[1] Bruce Howell on SermonCentral.com
[2] Don Hawks on SermonCentral.com
[3] CHILD-SPEAK (SermonCentral.com staff)

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