Glory of the Father
Romans 6:1b – 11
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Jane Shelton, CRE
First Presbyterian Church
June 21, 2020
It is certainly appropriate on this Father’s Day Sunday that we recognize and look to the love of our earthly fathers and father figures in our lives.
Fathers come in all areas of lives. Some are called Daddy, others are called grandpa, uncle, brother, cousin and friend.
Fathers who have sacrificed so we might have comforts such as food and clothing. Fathers who have provided love and understanding. Those who shared knowledge and direction in our lives that helped get us where we are today, and helped us be who we are today.
Yet greater than these is our Heavenly Father who sent Jesus, so he could walk with us and teach us how to live. Our Heavenly Father, who raised Christ from death so we too might walk in newness of life. Like Christ and because of Christ, we are alive to God, the Father.
In our newness of life, we are servants who trust in God, receive forgiveness and receive steadfast love.
When we experience uncertainty, fear, heartbreak, death and loneliness, our Heavenly Father is with us, and when we cry out, our Father in Heaven listens and responds. In our anguish, God consoles us, and in our fear, our Lord gives us strength.
I remember looking through old family photographs with my parents and siblings many years ago, and among these black and white photographs were pictures of a family reunion at my mother’s parent’s home. My siblings and I would point to all our cousins and name them, and the aunts and uncles and grandparents. Mama filling in the ones we couldn’t name.
In this series of photos, I was being held by my Father in all of them.
It didn’t matter how many times in my life we sat down to look at these photographs, my mother would tell the story about how I would not have anything to do with anyone but my Daddy.
You see, we lived in South Carolina at the time, and had come to Georgia to visit my mother’s family, which was very large. And I’m sure that those some 40 strangers to a two year old probably felt like a mob of 80 people or more! I was overwhelmed, and I sought the comfort of the strong arms of my Daddy who I knew would protect me….much to my mother’s disappointment!
I’m sure, she simply wanted to share me with her family. But I wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Safe within my Daddy’s strong arms I found my refuge.
Is it not this same security we find with our Heavenly Father? Always there to embrace us, care for us and protect us from the dangers we face today. Dangers such as hate from people we’ve never met; dangers of diseases that create havoc in our communities and around the world; dangers of loneliness and isolation.
And joyously, we can be reminded that we have a new life given to us by the glory of the Father in Heaven!
In our scripture, Paul tells us that just as Christ was raised from death, we too might walk in newness of life.
Through our baptism, we have been given newness of life to walk, not in our same day-to-day activities of life of our past, but with a new focus and identity in Christ Jesus.
We cannot experience change, unless we are willing to embrace this new identity.
Paul believed that right identity preceded right actions.
Right identity before right actions. What does it mean to have a new identity?
Shawnthea Monroe, a writer of a Pastoral Perspective in one of my commentaries tells a story about her cousin who entered a medical school,
“students were instructed to call each other “doctor” from day one. They were not really doctors, but people who were living, learning, and growing into this new identity as doctors. Using the title was a way to remind them of the goal toward which they were striving.
In the same way, I once knew a minister,” she continues, “who always addressed his congregation as the “saints of God.” While I am relatively certain few of these people considered themselves saints in the popular sense of that word, just hearing themselves called saints made them feel ennobled and reminded them of who they were. Like those medical students, they were living, learning, and growing into a new identity.”
It is by the glory of the Father that we have been baptized into a new identity, and one that when embraced brings the power to shape our behavior and move us into action. Action that reflects the life of Jesus. A life of forgiveness, understanding, love and teaching.
The question for us today is what new identity do we need to claim for ourselves?
Our day to day lives only change if we embrace our new identity that we have been claimed by God through Jesus Christ. God loves us and accepts us where we are right now. Once we accept this new identity we are made new and are Christ like, then we can move forward in right actions as servants of God.
By the glory of the Father, like Christ, we are empowered to walk in this new life we have been given through our baptism.
This identity does not demand a change, but creates a glorious possibility to be alive to God. What good news!
I’m sure if you talk to most anyone today, they would like a do over on 2020. This year has been filled with confusion, disappointments, bewilderment, and many struggles that we must come to grips with in our lives.
As we live through these struggles we are faced with, how do we respond? Out of anger and hatred? Out of resentment toward an evil action or force beyond our control? Where do we turn for help and answers?
As we heard the pleas from the Psalmist’s writing that Dick read from Psalm 86, “I am poor and needy….preserve my life….save your servant who trusts you”….and the pleas go on until the last sentence, “because you, Lord, have helped and comforted me.”
The Psalmist is embracing the role as servant, recognizing God’s ability to fill the soul with the power to sustain us with good.
Through Christ and by the glory of the Father we have been given a new life to be alive in God. A God who sustains us with good, not anger and violence. Like Jesus, we can teach others how to walk away from sin of hatred and violence through our actions of love.
We have a new identity to which we can live in that is not violent, rather a life filled with love and peace. All we have to do is claim it and live a life alive in God. Glory be to the Father.
*Cover Art Illustration by Elizabeth Wang, T-00903-OL, ‘The angels rejoice at Jesus’s Ascension as He returns to the Father in Glory’, copyright © Radiant Light 2006, www.radiantlight.org.uk