Reflection on ‘Our Father, in heaven’ – at Morland 5th June 2017

1st time      Abba Father, let me be
2nd time    Abba Father, let us be
3rd time     Abba Father, let them be

What does the word Father mean to you?  Do you think of your Father who created you, whose genes you have inherited?  Was he strict and punishing, or loving and caring?  Did you call him Father or Dad or Daddy?  Does the image you have of your earthly Father capture the image of your heavenly Father for you?  Maybe your Mother fits the bill better?  My Daddy died last September, and he could be an angry punishing figure at times, but my abiding memory of him is of the times he mothered and comforted me when my mother was not able to do that.

We say Our Father – so what your picture is, is only a tiny piece of a jigsaw.  A jigsaw which is made up of all our tiny pieces, including traditions from way, way back, beginning with God as creator, travelling through the God who led his people out of slavery in Egypt to freedom and the Promised Land, through to Abba, the name Jesus used for his Father, best translated as “Daddy”.  Feminist theology would prefer Mother, but that tradition goes back to Old Testament times too, for example in Isaiah 66:13, the Lord tells Jerusalem, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.”  Julian of Norwich, a medieval English mystic, describes God as both Father and Mother: “God rejoices that he is our Father, and God rejoices that he is our Mother”, which leaves it up to you to choose for yourself what works best for you.

When we say Our Father, who do we include in the Our?  Just people who think and pray and act like us?  Or is your picture wider than that?  Part of the point of this time of Thy Kingdom Come is that we should be praying for other people to become part of God’s kingdom, so that the circle of our family is widened, because God’s love for his family is far wider than we can imagine when we pray Our Father.  If you pick up one of the red prayer cards, you will see the suggestion that each of us prays for 5 people among our family, friends, neighbours or work acquaintances.

Our Father in heaven.  Where is heaven for you?  Is it remote and inaccessible, somewhere we go to meet God when we die or is it available here and now?  Is it outside yourself or within?  Is it in a place?  One of our B&B guests described our home as a little bit of heaven, and I think she was partly referring to our hospitality, the way we shared our home with our guests.  Certainly that is how I think of my garden, because that is where I go to spend time with God, much as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.  That is where I experience God’s hospitality in the natural world that he has created.  But your idea of heaven will be quite different to mine.  But whatever it is like, Our Father will still be there, longing for you to join him in reaching out with love into a world that does not yet know him.  And if you already experience God’s hospitality within yourself or you experience it somewhere outside yourself, then you will absorb that within your own being, and will be able to go out into the world, carrying your own little bit of heaven within you to share with those 5 people you are praying for.

Our Father in heaven, may your kingdom come.

Let us pray:

Our Father in heaven
We come to you as your children, longing to experience your love, longing to be mothered, longing to be kept safe by you.  We come to you in penitence, knowing that we have often deserved your disapproval, and yet longing for your forgiveness.  As we each call you Our Father, we pray that you will knit is together as your children, your family.  As we experience your love and your hospitality, we pray that you will widen our hearts to offer the same spirit of hospitality to those we are praying for, so that we draw them into your family too.

Our Father in heaven, may your kingdom come.