Week Three - Abba: Father
Imagine a perfect family. What would the family be like? How would you feel being in it? What would you do together?
This might be difficult to imagine. And it might look different than the one you grew up in, or the family you connect to, or even the one you are creating or living in.
I tend to regard coincidence as evidence of God’s providence. It makes me smile, that this summer series The Names of God, which started on Mother’s Day and includes the name “Abba, Father.”
Memories and feelings you affiliate in relation to your father, mother and families can be beautifully heart-warming and bitterly heart-breaking. Sometimes, at the same time. Whatever your experiences include, human relationships often affect and influence perspectives and emotions relating to knowing God.
What if, instead of knowing God based on your human relationships, the foundation of understanding family and relationships connected to knowing God as your “Abba, Father”?
God is crazy passionate about his love relationship with you. His ways regarding relationships are higher, better, and bigger than you can imagine.
Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale.
Receive this prayer.
May you be filled with childlike wonder and anticipation, as you discover what the name of God, “Abba, Father” means for you.
Used only three times in the Bible, this name “Abba, Father,” illuminates God’s glorious story of love. The three referrals to God as “Abba, Father” illustrate intimacy, intent and inspired living.
First spoken by Jesus. He reveals what an intimate love relationship with God looks like lived out. Jesus reunites humanity’s intimacy with the Creator.
In the gospel of Mark 14, verse 36 reads:
“Abba, Father,” Jesus said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
This chapter in Mark journals a series of events. Jesus savored dinner at Simon the Leper’s house. That same evening, a woman poured expensive perfume over his head. Her fragrant offering symbolized Jesus’s royal anointing and burial preparation. During Passover, Jesus and his closest friends broke bread together for the last time and shared the sacred communion for the first time. Jesus predicted his betrayal and denial by these same dear companions. His holy cry in the garden of Gethsemane, is uttered in anticipation of Judas’s arresting kiss, standing trial before the Sanhedrin, Peter’s rejection and the eventual to the cross.
Right in the middle, in the dark agony of a lonely night, Jesus knows the only thing to do is pray. Seeking guidance and connectedness, Jesus confidently cries out, “Abba, Father.” Jesus trusts completely in the love relationship he has as the Son of God.
“Abba” is an Aramaic expression reserved for children regarding their father. In Jewish culture this term for God would be too familial, too intimate, for use in prayer. A Jewish prayer they never heard before. Jesus calling God, “Abba, Father” probably shocked anyone in the garden awake who heard it. Eavesdroppers may have thought, “Whoa, wait!? What did he just say? Who does this guy think he is? The Messiah?”
Knowing exactly who He is, Jesus, the Messiah, in His passionate distress, maintains the integrity of His love relationship with God. This prayer forever shifts relationship to the Creator of the Universe. In a word, the Word (John 1:1-2) made fleshy the Father-Son relationship between God and himself. Jesus’s words declare love. His obedience on the cross, an act of love, reunites you intimately with God. Offering an invitation for abundant living in the security of your Abba, Father.
“Abba, Father” becomes your privileged prayer, too!
Captivated by Jesus’s love, the apostle Paul, uses this name “Abba, Father” for God twice in his writings. Once in his letter to the Romans and again in his letter to the Galatians. He clarifies the privilege and power inherited and inherent in knowing God as your “Abba, Father.
Written to Jews and Gentiles, Romans chapter 8 verses 15-16 encourages a new way of living. A new way for you, too.
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
Paul’s conversion from judgmental Jew to freedom Follower changed his way of living and loving others. The momentum of his 180 changed the story in communities, churches and children everywhere. Paul intended his letter to the church in Rome to motivate fearless inclusion and inclusiveness.
The word “inclusion” can trigger debates in certain arenas today. In the early days of the Christian church the idea did too.
Born into an elite heritage, Paul related to adoption through Jesus in a unique way. Recognizing his own prodigal path, reunited with God because of Jesus, Paul’s heart and life changed. His message of adoption flips the script for Jews, Gentiles, men, women, rich, poor, slaves, widows, orphans and you.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus makes adoption and its full inheritance a gift for anyone and everyone. Inheritance is given, not earned. Jesus’s “Abba, Father” welcomes and embraces you.
When Jesus shared the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the disciples, tax collectors, sinners, pharisees and teachers were in the curious crowd. It is a story of a father’s uncommon love, shamelessly running with lifted robe, sprinting to his wayward son as soon as the son shows up. Upon reaching him, the father embraces him and then throws a party. You may know this parable to be about the lost son and his older brother. And it is. But the main character is the dad. Once he comes into the tale, your eyes well up, overwhelmed by his reckless love. Jesus uses the power of story, intending to convince anyone who will listen about the rule breaking, extravagant love of his Father for all his children. Including you.
You are the guest of honor at the prodigal party. The robe, the ring, you inherit them all.
Celebrate the privilege and power; enjoy access to everything your Abba, Father offers. He is a good and generous Father. He promises faithful and unchanging love. A love, you do not earn and cannot lose. Fear no longer enslaves. Your freedom, ransomed by Jesus restores to you all your Father intends. Life intended for you is adventurously expectant (Romans 8:6, The Message), ridiculously abundant and dangerously different. Your freedom life, freedom in love and freedom from fear, does not begin someday, but today.
The third time we read the name of God “Abba, Father” is in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. His own life intimately restored to a life of love; he writes to inspire the Church to revival. He proclaims in Galatians 4, verse 6 and 7,
“Because you are sons [and daughters], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So, you are no longer a slave, but [a child of God]; since you are [his child], God has made you also an heir.”
In the Galatians series, Pastor Cal pointed out that the Jewish badge of honor was to be called a child of Abraham. This love letter from Paul outrageously relabels the badge. Adoption into God’s family through Jesus awards a bigger, greater honor. The greatest gift. You are called a child of God. An heir in Jesus, “Abba, Father” is yours too.
Abba, Father’s adoption option is scandalous grace gifted as a choice for everyone, anyone.
When Pastor Cal does that thing. You know, when he is reading or sharing and then uses the podium to launch himself from his hovered position over his notes. He steps out, walks closer to where people are sitting or watching. Eager and urging he’ll say, “Let me be clear. Pay attention. Stick with me. Stay with me here!” In sincerity his words come with his hands reaching out at heart level. He claps. It makes me smile. His seriousness feels like love; serious and excited, making sure I am awake and paying attention. It is like he wants my heart to get it.
The absolute immensity of this gift, the intimate inheritance to know God as your Abba, Father, is so incomprehensible.
The genius, Albert Einstein once said, “I want to know God’s thoughts. The rest is details.”
I wish a friend of Einstein’s would have had the heart to clap his hands and say, “Stay with me here.”
Since the beginning God’s thoughts are of His children. In His divinity, Abba, Father sent the Spirit of His Son into your heart. Not your mind.
The Spirit of His Son, sent into your heart is the same Spirit that hovered over chaos and darkness in the beginning.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2)
Under the safety and security of the Spirit, good order and very good beauty was created, breathed into being. The genesis Spirit that hovered across chaos and darkness, over creation, peacefully breathes order and beauty into the dark chaos of your life today.
Helicopter parents. You know what it looks like and feels like; maybe you had one or you are one. This is not how the Spirit hovers. In fact, the word is “relaxed.” The Spirit is relaxed, not anxious or fearful, but like a good parent, present. Your Abba, Father is present and loves parenting you.
Trust in Him. He is encouraging you to live fearless and creative. His Spirit in you revives your timid heart. Restores your life, inspiring childlike faith, wonder and freedom living!
When you find yourself in the dark middle of pain, loneliness, worry, rejection and suffering remember Jesus has been there too. And when He was, His eyes were on His “Abba, Father” so that you might trust and know your Father’s eyes.
Brennan Manning tells a story in his book Ragamuffin Gospel that illustrates the kind of trust you are gifted through Jesus’s trust in God.
A two-story house had caught on fire. The family-father, mother, several children-were on their way out when the smallest boy became terrified, tore away from his mother, and ran back upstairs. Suddenly he appeared at a smoke-filled window crying like crazy. His father, outside, shouted: ‘Jump, son, jump! I’ll catch you.” The boy cried: ‘But, daddy, I can’t see you.’ ‘I know,’ his father called, “I know. But I can see you.’”
Whatever you are going through or in the middle of today, whatever pain, heartache or worry, may you have the humble courage to lift your eyes to Jesus’s Abba, Father. He hears you, sees you, and His arms are open for you.
May you live in the glorious bounty of inherited holiness inspired to a life of love, freedom and redeemed royalty. Trusting His goodness, may you embrace and engage in relationship with your “Abba, Father.”
What would change in your life if you accepted the invitation of adoption?
How does the reckless inclusion God offers anyone, everyone, including you, change your view of Him and others?
Inhale: Abba, Father
Exhale: I belong to You
Abba, Father thank you for intimately loving me. Thank you for including me in the inheritance of healing. With restored childlike faith, I embrace the whole-hearted living you provide. May I breathe deep, inhaling courage and exhaling inspiration. Amen.