In the children’s sermon I demonstrated how we understand our world through perception, speculation and revelation.
Perception involves the things we might see, hear, touch, taste and smell to gather information. Our perception has some limitations and is not always accurate. Some of us need glasses or are colorblind, some are hard of hearing. We are limited by space and time as to what we can personally perceive. Yet, we can see God’s fingerprints in his creation. We can observe God’s majesty in this world in the eyes of a child, the beauty of a simple wildflower, a Florida sunset or the stars at night.
Speculation involves interpretation and interpolation drawn from our observations. The data we get from our perceptions doesn’t make sense until we think about it. We naturally fill in blanks, the parts we don’t know, as best we can. We might be right. We might be wrong. We adjust as we get more information. We can speculate further about God’s presence, his being and power. We might see God in bright minds, and those touched by ideas or art. Our speculations may have merit, and they may not. How are we to judge and how are we to know? Our speculations about God, some more thoughtful than others, are ultimately just speculation.
Revelation involves the things another decides to share. If I really want to know about you, I will have to listen. In order to get farther than our limitations, we have to listen. We will know only what you decide to share. The same is true in our approach to God.
Which is more reliable?
- I see God in the trees and the sun and the sea.
- I think God is alive and powerful.
- God has revealed himself to be concerned with me and how I treat other people.
The Church’s witness to God has a basis not primarily in perception or speculation, but in revelation.
Of course we observe and perceive the world like anyone else, and that informs our understanding of God. Of course we spend an awful lot of time and energy thinking and speculating about God. But the core of our faith is rooted in God’s revelation of himself to humanity. We proclaim that from the very beginning, God has spoken directly to people.
The witness of Christians is that there is One God. The Apostles experienced God in the person of Jesus Christ, who taught them about God as Father. They aren’t exactly the same, but they are One. Then they experienced God as the Holy Spirit, who again is not exactly the same as the Father or Jesus, but they are one.
The word “Trinity” does not appear in scripture. That is simply a label we use to reference these three distinct ways the one true God has revealed himself to humanity.
We touch on it every week; we proclaim it in our Nicene Creed and in our prayers, including our Eucharistic prayer. Not out of perception. Not out of speculation. Out of God’s revelation to us.
That revelation is at its heart, at its core, about relationship. This is where the Trinity, a concept of our minds, comes to our hearts and souls. It is where the Lord’s revelation to us becomes real.
We know God as our Father, not to bolster an ancient patriarchal system but as a loving creator of all things including, specifically, every one of us. We exist because of his love.
We know God as Jesus Christ, his son who came to walk among us, who clarified our call to be his children and who, while we were yet sinners, died to redeem all our sins for the sake of reconciling us to The Father.
We know God as the Holy Spirit God sent, who moves among us as powerfully as wind and animates us as subtly as breath.
This is our God – who knows you and loves you absolutely, who has demonstrated it in revealing himself to us.
I’ve been thinking and praying about God’s love as it relates to Father’s Day.
The first and most important thing is for everyone to understand is that regardless of the presence or absence, the goodness or failings of our earthly fathers, we know what fatherhood is meant to be in Christ’s witness to Our Father’s love. It is strong, it cares, it protects, it corrects, it redeems and encourages. And we all have Our Father in heaven. Let me be as clear as I can be: Single moms bear a special set of burdens and this church is here to support and encourage you and your children on behalf of Our Father.
I acknowledge every man here and every man connected to this church who is or has been a father, and those of us who have also become grandfathers, and some great grandfathers. God’s revelation is ongoing and carried forward in part by our personal witness and example.
We all have our struggles. We all have our shortcomings. But by God’s grace, may he help us to be the fathers and grandfathers he intends us to be, as well as mentors and examples to others. When that goes reasonably well, children and grandchildren of imperfect fathers have ready analogies locked into their very being that help them understand what Jesus means when he refers to his perfect Father in heaven.
But when men fail as fathers by being abusive or absent, it creates a significant stumbling block for their children and grandchildren and others to see, understand and receive God’s revelation to us as Father. That’s a millstone no one should want around their neck.
That’s true for mothers and women as well, of course, but today we honor the life and witness to God that our earthly fathers provide, and pray that their lives will help their families and communities draw closer to Our Father, who art in heaven.
Wait. I’m not done.
A year ago I preached here on Father’s Day and I went through a whole list of statistics that demonstrate how important fathers are. I decided not to rehash that this morning but you know what they are. Every situation is distinct, so what we might say generally doesn’t apply in specific circumstances. But the broad stroke statistics are clear. Children who don’t have an active and caring father are way more likely to get involved with gangs, get involved with drugs and violent crime, go to prison, fail out of school, and on and on.
And, honestly, we’re in pretty good shape here. We’ve got a lot of healthy families and involved dads and grandfathers. We are actively connecting our children to their Father in Heaven.
But we also know that right now there are a lot of children outside these walls, in our wider community, who don’t have fathers, who don’t have healthy male role models at all. We are doing a lot of good out there, we are well-connected and actively involved in a lot of ways. But we’ve got to remain continuously alert to ways we can connect children and youth to their Father in Heaven and provide the examples that will help them do just that.
Now I’m done.