Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day without the DIY

Father's day is often celebrated insensitively. I know I've done that. I remember my overwhelming joy the first time it was celebrated 'for' me four years ago...

Christianity centres of the love of God the Father for his Son, this relationship is the fountain from which everything flows, the Father's song concerning his Son the music that shapes the universe.

Considering the image of that in our lives is to consider something badly marred. It's easy for young dads to be so immersed in their children that we forget to observe the lives of those around us, those who long to be parents but can't, those bereaved of children, those for whom family is badly broken and deeply painful.

Sometimes Father's Day is celebrated with a chiding and belittling call for father's to do better... try-harder dads against a backdrop of the ridiculous Daddy Pig and the buffoon Homer Simpson. Fatherhood should be honoured... but an Gospel of DIY for Dads isn't going to help anyone. Many Dad's pour themselves out for their kids, spending sleepless hours concerned about how we're going to provide for them. And even the best of us fail terribly, and we know it.

I'm struck this morning reading through the Bible book of Deuteronomy about the different direction of the heart of God. A voice from 3000 years ago...
The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God...
Jesus fights for his people with fatherly love (his love is also likened to motherly affection elsewhere) that carries them through the hardest seasons. And it was his Father who adopted the church as his son and demanded her liberation. He didn't do this because they loved him but because he loved them.
And, it's the heart of God revealed in the Torah to be for the fatherless and the widow, the foreigner and the oppressed... God is, thankfully, inevitably, beautifully gospelicious...
He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. (10:18)
And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. (16:11)
The fatherless and the widow sounds like the single mum and the million children growing up without a father in Britain, for whatever reason. The Old Testament church was to rejoice with such people, to welcome them with joy. The church is a society and a community who know the God who is Father and his Son who is Husband, the God who turns up and gives himself to us. Every other father and husband merely refracts a tiny glimmer of that outshining love. I'm thankful for the way my Dad still does that, and wrecked and returned helplessly to Jesus by the thought as I consider my own life...

Who should feel most welcome in the church? Among others, the fatherless and the single mum. Yet how much of church - rightly valuing family - is programmatically against those the Triune God welcomes and calls us to rejoice with. In pursuit of the good thing of family do we legislate against those whose families have been broken? Surely we need not and should not.

Jesus likens human fathers to his Father in heaven, noting that, though sinful, at the their best, human fathers reflect something of the heart of his ever generous father. Father's who are present don't need bullying into being better but need encouraging to receive their heavenly father's welcome, and so reflect that in their family and in society.

The earliest books of the Bible reflect the heart of the God who is for those who can't do it for themselves, for fathers and children, the fatherless and everyone else in this world. He hold his arms out all day long for us to welcome us into his care in his family.

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