Jesus taught us that his father is our father. He taught us that his father, and our father, is a father who loves us, not one who is angry with us and who wants to punish us for our failings. His father, and our father, is a father who is present and hears us, not a father who is distant and uncaring. Because we have such a father, we need not worry about things like having food to eat and clothes to wear. We need not worry about tomorrow, because our father knows what we need before we do and will give us the things we need.
These are things Jesus taught about his father, and our father, who is in heaven. And this is what he taught us to say, “Abba” - a term of endearment, a term signifying close relationship, a term of intimacy. We say Abba because that is what his father and our father feels about us. Abba wants us to know that we are his beloved just as he called Jesus his “beloved.” We are not nobodies or anybodies, but God's very children, made co-heirs by Jesus Christ, and so also the beloved in his father's eyes.
Does this make any difference for our faith and for our trust in our father in heaven? I understand that some who did not have loving fathers can find father imagery difficult. But, perhaps all can differentiate their earthly fathers, both those inclined toward the saintly and those who fell far short of sainthood, from our one true father in heaven. I also understand that some are concerned by what may appear to be a masculine exclusivity. All this father-talk appears to exclude or even diminish the feminine. When I think of God’s strength, I think of both the strong men and the strong women I know. When I think of God’s tenderness, I again think of both the tender men and the tender women I know. I married a strong and tender woman and she daily shows me that she is made in God’s image.
Again, I appreciate that these are difficult matters and I do not suppose that my few words here are sufficient. Yet, regardless of how we feel about this gendered language, I wonder about trust. Do we trust as Jesus trusted? Do we trust enough not to worry? Do we trust enough in Jesus’ teaching and life that we can practice love even when facing hate, practice generosity even when we feel we have little, and practice trusting in God’s care for our needs even when the world tells us to be fearful for our future? Our Father in Heaven, help us to trust in you and help us in our unbelief.
If this is the father you know, please share that knowledge with others. Please tell others, even if just your spouse or children or best friend, about your experiences of God’s surprising and ordinary care for you. I believe these stories are meant to be shared for the building up of the people of God. So, please share. Jesus did.
Grace and peace remain with you always,