As the story goes, a Scottish Presbyterian Church had a new pastor who had spent most of his life in the ivory towers of academia, teaching theology to young seminary students. He loved to pray lofty public prayers, using obscure theological terms. One day, his head was bowed as he held forth. Suddenly, there was a tug at the coat of his vestments. He looked down to see a little Scottish woman in a choir robe standing there. She said, “Just call ‘im Father and ask ‘im for somethin’.”
We all nod our heads in approval at that story. But where did we get this idea that we could come to God just as we are, without one plea? Most other religious traditions have very strict rules about who can get close to their god; even if you’re one of the favored few, there’s usually an elaborate set of rituals that one must go through before you speak to God. Yet most of us in this room think nothing of praying to God in the shower, in the car, lying in bed in the middle of the night, or anywhere else, anytime we have a need, a question, or a fear. Is it just presumption that makes us think that we deserve that kind of access to an infinitely holy, awesomely powerful God? For that matter, what makes us think we can call Him Father?
The answer to all those questions is Jesus. Next week, we will finish our series about the amazing impact Jesus has had on this world, and the influence He still has today. But for now, I want to talk about how Jesus changed the way we relate to God. Jesus taught us to call God “Father.” We see it here at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. Now, there are some references in the Old Testament to God as the Father of Israel. But no Israelite before Jesus would have referred to Yahweh as “Abba.” That is a word in Aramaic, Jesus’ native language, that means “Father.” Except linguists will tell you it’s not a formal word like our English word “Father.” It is a word of intimacy. It’s probably the first word most Jewish babies would have learned. It’s something like “Papa.” It’s interesting to look at every time Jesus uses that term, and notice the pronouns He uses. For instance, when He talks about forgiveness, He says, “Your Father,” which excludes Himself, for He never sinned. When He talks about His sonship and mission in life, He says “My Father,” which excludes the rest of us. But here, He teaches us to pray, “Our Father.” You and I may not have much in common, but we are all adopted sons and daughters of a King who loves us.This Sunday, we'll talk more about how this idea of a God of love--who wants to be our Father--changed the world forever...and what that idea requires of us, His children.