Date: Saturday, Mar 11
Contributor: Jennifer Wright
2 Samuel 7:4,8-16
Today is Fathers’ Day according to the daily lections, which is to be expected, since today we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph. The most pervasive metaphor for God in the Bible is that of God as our Father. So it is very important to think about what fatherhood means to us and whether and how that understanding of fatherhood applies to our relationship with God.
Of course, we all tend to understand the concept of fatherhood according to our experience of our earthly fathers. For some, the relationship with their father is so difficult that the metaphor of God as our Father can be a barrier rather than a bridge. But for many, the love we experienced from our fathers gives us a way to begin to understand God’s love for all God’s children.
My relationship with my own father was complex. On the one hand, I felt the strength of his love and his faith in me. He told me that I could do anything, and I believed him, which enabled me to dare and try many things. He also had a great talent for joy in living, which he most generously shared with those around him. On the other hand, I sometimes felt that my father didn’t really see me, but only his idea of who I should be. I sometimes felt invisible or misunderstood. My father expected high achievement, and I sometimes felt that I was striving for success more to please him than to meet my own goals.
In the reading from 2nd Samuel, Nathan is told that God’s love for him and for his descendants will be everlasting. But God also tells Nathan that, when his descendants sin, God will punish them with human punishments.
The psalmist tells us that God is loving and faithful, and that we are blessed when we rejoice before God. On the other hand, God is so incredibly powerful that it is only appropriate to fear God’s power.
In Romans, Paul tells us that Abraham is the father of us all, not because of his adherence to the law, but because of his faith in God. God’s expectations of us set forth in the law are too high for anyone to meet, but we can still count on God’s mercy through our faith in God’s love.
The Gospel lesson from Luke tells the story of Jesus as a boy in the temple. His parents are terrified when they cannot find Jesus in the caravan of pilgrims returning home from Jerusalem. They scold him for disobedience and for making them worry, but he seems oblivious to their parental anger. Instead, he reminds them that he has a calling greater than simply fulfilling their expectations of him as their son. He has a higher duty to fulfill the expectations that God has set for him, as God’s only Son.
It's okay to have complicated, even contradictory feelings about our earthly fathers and even about our heavenly Father. The most important thing is to hold fast to faith in God’s love, underlying all our fears, questions, and rebellions. Ultimately, all will be well, because God’s love can sustain and envelop all of our struggles, anger, fear, and ambivalence.