God has revealed Himself to us through His many, many titles in the Bible! He is known as the Ancient of Days… the Buckler… the Creator… the Dwelling Place… By one study, He has revealed Himself to us through over 900 titles in the Bible! But of all of them, not a single one is more meaningful that that which is so carefully embedded in our Epistle Lesson read together this morning! And what a gem it is! Two words.
But what does it mean? It is an emphatic term! It is less formal than “father” and perhaps could possibly be translated in the vernacular as “dad.” It is a term that is personal, affectionate, and indicates “closeness” and “warmth” of relationship. Some have gone so far as to indicate it has the flavor of the term “daddy.”
St. Paul did not “come up” with the term on his own! Jesus is recorded as using it during His earthly ministry! On the night of His betrayal and arrest – when events were rapidly spiraling toward their appointed end, we find our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane – kneeling – fervently praying! What did He pray? St. Mark 14:36 tells us -- ...he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
In the travail of His Soul, in the dark hour of need, He drew as near to His Father as He could – in order to garner and secure strength and endurance for what was to follow! Abba, Father.
And this was in reality His practice throughout His earthly Ministry! His critics were deeply offended because they felt His was an overly familiar approach to God! Too pedestrian an approach to the Creator of the world and Lord of mankind!
But Jesus is very clear in His teaching that His Own intimate relationship with His Father is to be the pattern of our relationship with Him as well. He taught us to pray, did He not: Our Father Who art in Heaven…
In the lesson this morning St. Paul adds an important element of explanation! As followers of Christ, we have not received the spirit of bondage which requires us to tremble and quake and worry with fear. On the contrary, we have received, he says, the spirit of adoption – and as a result we cry out to God: Abba, Father! The One Who brought us into the world… Abba, Father! The One Who brought us into His Family… Abba, Father! The One who loves us and cares for us and is concerned for us. Abba, Father! The One who died for us in Christ! Abba, Father.
We must not lose sight of the fact that God relates to His people -- and to us -- just as an earthly father relates to his children whom he loves except our Heavenly Father’s affection and concern are even truer… deeper… more secure… more lasting… more real!
These are thus two of the most special words in the Christian’s vocabulary. Abba, Father. When trouble swarms around us and ill tidings would throw us down into the dirt, we find the greatest of comforts in our approach to God with the words: Abba, Father. Help me!
When joy fills our hearts to overflowing at some wonderful development from the Hand of God, we give perfect expression of our gratitude through the words: Abba, Father.Thank you!
Especially is this to be valued when we remember the Greek and Roman pantheon of “gods” and their harsh – terrible... acerbic -- dealings with men and women! We must remember they were only “deified men” – and delighted to torment others through their capricious and unpredictable ways.
This led, as we know, to the “Greek Tragic” view of life – a terribly un-Christian worldview! For the Bible tells us: …all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. But the Greek tragic view of life taught just the opposite! No fixed, sure, immovable trustworthy point life. No great and totally good Father to be trusted... and called upon... and loved with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In the final analysis, this is a very liberating gift from God – bringing healing to troubled souls and calm to frenetic minds! It reveals to us that we may always draw near to our Heavenly Father and that He will take time in turn to draw near to us! After all, He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present!
We are not alone! He is ever near to us. He Who delights to be called by us -- Abba, Father – is all around us. There is no place where He is not! When we are in the dark, He is there. When we are in danger, He is there. When we face trouble, He is there. In the midst. Like St. Paul on the wind-driven ship of old! When we are sad, He is there. When we are alone, He is there. As Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote over 100-years ago: Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.
“Oh, where is the sea?” the fishes cried,
As they swam the crystal waters through;
“We have heard from old of the ocean’s tide,
And we long to look on the water’s blue.
The wise ones speak of an infinite sea;
Oh, who can tell if such there be?”
God is all around us – if we only pause to look and see Him… to stop and be quiet and feel His great strength and holiness. Be still and know that I am God. And of all things, He invites us to address Him with the title: Abba, Father.
We should pause and point out in our day of “entitlement religion” – where the Almighty is all too often framed as a “cosmic errand boy” in the service of self-sufficient Man -- that with such great privilege comes an equally great responsibility. It is not those who call themselves the sons and daughters of God who are His true and noble children, but those who actlike His true and noble children!
Verse 14: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. More careful examination of the text reveals this to mean God’s adopted children specifically put to death their old natures. To show themselves to be His children, they putoff the old nature of Adam.
And along with this responsibility comes a word of warning (verse 17) – as Jesus often said – count the cost! To be an adopted child of God is to be His heir, which makes us joint heirs with Christ... who suffered!
If we plan to be His glorified children, there will be suffering involved! Plan on it! Count on it! It is part of the process of Sonship! Jesus showed us this by His sterling example. If we cannot see this, it is because we are not yet grown up sufficiently in the Faith.
So we have before us this beautiful Trinity Season Sunday morning something dealing with each of the members of the BlessedTrinity. God the Father inviting us (beckoning us) to be His adopted children. To address Him as Abba Father! Jesus showing us by His example what it means to be His child. And the Holy Spirit encouraging us not to be reluctant... but to step forward into the implications of such a grand calling.
A privilege with a great responsibility!
Is this how we know Him -- Abba Father? Is this how we carefully address Him in prayer?
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
This is the word of the Lord… and may it stand forever... in our lives... world without end. Amen.