June 8, 2013

The Rev. Patricia M. Grace: Knowing Jesus’ father as our own

“See what kind of love the father has given us, that we should be called children of God.” — 1 John 3:1

It’s June, the month we celebrate fathers. My own father will have been gone from this life 34 years this fall, yet no Father’s Day ever passes that I don’t remember him and give thanks for the years we had together.

My father was not perfect, but took seriously what he believed was his greatest blessing, that he was given the opportunity to love and form three little girls. He was a “homebody,” preferring to spend time with us and our mother over any other pastime. And although we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, Dad always saw to it that we had some kind of wonderful summer vacation. Many Father’s Days were spent at the beach or taking trips to area historical and cultural attractions.

The best part of all those days was that we had our father to ourselves and carefree time to spend together. My dad taught me that I could do or be anything I dreamed of, as long as I was willing to work for it. He modeled how to love other people, especially people who were very different from us. My dad taught me to drive, to find and sing the harmony line of any song, to tell a good story or joke, to read a map and write a good letter. He trained me to look for joy and laughter and hidden blessings at all times, but especially when things were the darkest and most troubling. My dad led me to love and trust God like a father, no matter what, just like he did.  

It was in knowing my father that I came to know the fatherly love of God and to appreciate the amazing gift of being God’s adopted child. I know that in this I am most fortunate. Many people struggle to know God as a loving father, having missed this experience in their lives.

But nevertheless, Jesus invites all of us to know his father as our own. He gave us a prayer to say to remind us of that — the one that starts with “our father ...” Jesus tells us we can even call his father Abba, or Daddy, and reminds us often in his stories and sayings that despite all the ways we fail to measure up to God’s love, or the many things we lack in this life, we can always count on being welcomed by God as beloved children. We can always count on being called children of God, that relationship purchased for us at great price by God’s own son, and one that can never be undone by human failure or sinfulness.

Happy Father’s Day to all you earthly dads. Happy Father’s Day to all of us who are claimed as God’s own children no matter what.

Patricia M. Grace is rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Dalton.

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