Rev. Brandon Ouellette
A Father's Promise
With Father’s Day being today, I was reminded of a story this week as I was writing. It’s a little out of season for the summer so you’ll have to forgive me. Growing up in our house when I was younger, Christmas time was always a very special affair. We would decorate every room, make cookies, play music during the holidays. But every year, I had this really bad habit of asking for a new musical instrument. I was obsessed. One year I really wanted to learn piano, so my parents bought an inexpensive keyboard to play on. Another year it was guitar and another violin. Each year I would find a new interest and, fortunately for me and unfortunately for them, my parents usually gave in. Their one condition, however, was that if they were going to get me a new instrument, I couldn’t just let it sit on the shelf, I’d have to play them music and show that I was actually taking it seriously.
Well this happened for a few years until one Christmas, my father told us that he really wanted to learn how to play something. He wanted to pick up the alto saxophone. Great, I thought, I already play saxophone so I can help teach him, we can play music together, it will be fun. I jokingly said to him that year that we could get him that saxophone but only if he promised to take it seriously, he had to practice, he had to show that he was willing to put in the work. We got him this saxophone and my father practiced and practiced and practiced, he played his scales and hot cross buns and everything that one did as they were learning an instrument. The thing is, I didn’t inherit my musical abilities from my father and as hard as he tried, he soon came to the realization that maybe playing an instrument just might not be his thing. I think he was really hoping that next year that I would ask for an alto saxophone!
What I love about his story is that no one else is really a musician in my family, I was the only one with the weird obsession for learning instruments. But even still, my father saw the value of investing in me a skill that was difficult for him to understand. Even when he got frustrated himself with music, he never let it affect my love for the art and he continued supporting my playing throughout high school and college. He wanted the best for his kids. It was an example of a humble and selfless love of a Father and the pride that one takes in the accomplishments of their children.
I know this day looks different for everyone here. We’ve all had different relationships with our Father’s, some good and some bad, some nonexistent, some we remember only through memory, but today is a day in which we recognize those men who, through their example, show us how to be good people, how to serve, and how to lead. So for those who have taken up that mantle thank you, for those who have taken on the role of Father in any way we appreciate you and recognize you today.
We are also in our church calendar celebrating Trinity Sunday, a day in which we give recognition to the three parts of the Godhead: God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We were discussing at men’s breakfast yesterday morning at how complicated and sometimes difficult these theological descriptions can become, 3 in 1, different persons of the same substance, now and forever co-eternal and coexistent, but we persevered and I think we figured it out right guys? See what happens when you miss out on men’s breakfast, we figure all sorts of stuff our like the trinity.
It’s mostly in the spirit of Fatherhood today that I wanted to look at two passages—I think they give us an example not only of how God is invested into humanity but also the ways in which we respond to God’s promises to us. The passage in Genesis comes fairly early on in the Abraham saga when Abram was a young 99 years old. To this point in time, Abram and his wife had bore no children together and he was becoming…frustrated. Already God had promised Abram and his family land and that they would be fruitful, but Sarai had remained barren. It is in Genesis 17 that we finally see that long awaited promise that indeed Abram and Sarai will be ancestors of a multitude of nations. To show God’s faithfulness God says that no longer will his name be Abram (a name that means exalted Father) but it will be changed to Abraham (meaning the father of multitude or the father of many). This is no small promise from God but it is an everlasting covenant, a continued relationship that God is taking stock in Abraham and future generations to come.
This defining moment changes the course of history for Abraham and Sarai who soon receives her own name change to Sarah. Imagine the weight of responsibility on their shoulders, at 100 years old, to know that they would go on to establish God’s chosen people. It would be a bit frightening I would think but I bet it’s a fear that is often felt today by young parents who enter the life-changing world of parenthood. The responsibility that one takes for a child is like no other and what we see in our text is God’s parental love for God’s children, an everlasting covenant that God will never leave us.
Abraham would go on to live his life indeed being the father of a multitude of generations. But any that know Abraham’s story know that he wasn’t perfect, in fact he made some tremendously bad choices. Even still, God kept the promise, the covenant with Abraham and Sarah, showing that despite our flaws we are worthy of love. God loved Abraham with the love of a parent, the love that says despite the many wrong we may do, we can never stop being loved by God.
It’s interesting we often have such high expectations from our parents just as they have expectations from us. We perhaps have the greatest of expectations, however, from God, that God will do great things in our lives, that God will care for us and guide us and above all, love us. The responsibility we place on God seems to be much higher than the other way around. I mean, God is God after all, but what responsibility do we have, as siblings, children, brothers and sisters in Christ? How do we live honoring the promise of our parent?
Philippians chapter 2 gives us a hint, I think—"be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” What greater representation of living like Christ than that? We celebrate on this Trinity Sunday that Christ, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, humbled himself, found worth and value and strength in humankind, he lived out the expectation and promise of a Father.
Christ’s life and death show us that together, we are a multi-generational people that is seeking to live out God’s everlasting covenant with us. We are the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, continuing God’s everlasting covenant with us, we are people who seek to worship and to live in a way that would make God proud. So as Christians, we do this how? Through humility, regarding others as we would like to be treated. We seek unity and compassion and sympathy even when we mess up, even when we make mistakes. In all that we do, we seek to honor and live out God’s promise to us because we are all God’s children.
I think at the center of all of this lies that message of humility. Think about Christ, in the image of God a man that had all the power in the world but chose to humble himself. There’s a wonderful quote by Saint Augustine and he said, “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” So often we have to approach concepts of God and the trinity with humility, with openness, but also with our relationships as well. We must remember that we’re all human. We’re all on this journey together. We’re all trying to figure out this thing called life.
So let’s begin with humility. Let’s inspire with humility. Let’s remember that however you view God’s love, whether through the lens of a Father or a Mother, a parent or a friend, God loves you no matter what. God has established an everlasting covenant with us and God desires to see us flourish through the humble grace of our Savior.