Anybody else grow up watching Sesame Street? Yea well, I know I’m dating myself, but when Jesus teaches us to pray “Our Father in Heaven” I think of Sesame Street. In particaular Grover, a weird blue puppet with red lips and nose. There is a certain skit in which Grover teaches children the difference between “near” and “far” which ironically enough is what I want to talk to you about this morning. (Watch Grover’s teaching session HERE…)
GOD IS NEAR! Is there anymore intimate word to speak to Him than father? I’m not diluded enough to think that everyone had a great relationship with their earthly fathers. Even still, we all have this understanding of what a good father should be whether we experienced it or not. A father is loving and accepting no matter what. He disciplines with his right hand as he simultaneously curls us in for a hug with his left. He teaches us life lesssons as throws he throws us in the deep end always ready to jump in with us if necessary. So when we describe God as Father he not only comes close but we get a sense of intimacy as well. He is the one we cry on, ask for wisdom about life decisions and even rant to at times.
This theme of describing God as Father runs throughout scripture. In Isaiah(6:9) there is a list of names by which God is called and one is… EVERLASTING FATHER. The word for “father” (Abba) that Jesus chooses to use is one of incredible intimacy meaning closeness, intimacy and endearment. This would be a new concept for the disciples. In the Old Testament God was not seen as an approachable God much less a father figure. Through the life of Jesus a new era was ushered in of closeness between God and His creation.
Think about it. If we are calling Him Father, what does that make us? Bingo… His children.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God… 1 John 3:1
We have been adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High. So calling Him father isn’t some religious effort to get on His good side. It is merely calling what He is… Our Father.
As Grover so eloquently put it, things can also be FAR from us as well. God as my intimate Father is not only near to me, but he is also far.
Our finite minds can never understand God fully. No matter how hard we try there are some things that our minds will never be able to understand and reconcile about God our Father. It is in this vein that we recognize Him not only as an intimate Father but also the creator of this universe, the sustainer of all life and whose name is above all names.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
– Isaiah 55:8-9
I believe it to be an incredible revelation to understand God in these terms. That He is so close that He can embrace me as a loving Father and yet at the same time so grand & holy that He can never be fully understood. That our Father resides in heaven only confirms His authority in this world and our lives. It also reminds us that we are not citicens of this world. It keeps in focus that our sole responsibility is to the Kingdom of God and not to the finite world in which we live.
As Jesus begins His teaching regarding prayer we are being reminded to whom we are praying. He is not this unknowable God who cannot be reached, but is rather a loving father that is eager to have intimacy with his Children. And at the same time is a God who is to be revered at a distance because of his grand majesty. In essence, God is neither near or far, but rather near and far at the same time. Thanks Grover for the Gospel lesson!