February has traditionally been celebrated as the Month of Love. Love in this month is represented by decorative hearts, flowers, greeting cards, romantic events, cupids, candy, hugs and kisses. Enjoyable ways to celebrate Love. But when we look at the signs of the times these things seem like a shadowy version of reality.
A number of years ago, a song was written saying, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going”. What kind of fires are being started by a spark today? If you look at the nightly news, media and movie programing, video games and online activity and commentary of all kinds, many of these sparks are producing hate, violence, destruction, fear, and disaster. Sure, there is good too but is the bad rapidly overtaking the good? Or can good things come out of bad things? The song continues “And soon all those around Can warm up in its glowing”. This song was meant to show a different type of spark and fire. It warms you with a different Love, Peace and Hope.
“That’s how it is with God’s love,”
The Love that goes with: “For God So Loved”.
“Once you’ve experienced it You spread His love to everyone”
When you accept God’s love and the gift of His son Jesus, you experience great, true Love. You cannot hide this spark in your everyday living.
“You want to pass it on” 1 John 4: 7-21
Who Is God the Father? (Part One)
When John Wesley set out to reform the nation and to spread scriptural holiness across England, he was fortunate to have a strong set of theological tailwinds driving him forward. He lived in a world that was saturated with the basic beliefs of Christianity. He studied and taught at the University of Oxford, where every teacher was required to assent to the core beliefs of the Church of England. He was a priest in a church in which all church members confessed every Sunday the faith of the ancient Church. He was the subject of a political state where only Christians who assented to one very important Christian belief, the doctrine of the Trinity, could serve in government. Even the calendar used by everyone was built around the Christian year, so that the great festivals of the Church were a constant reminder of the faith hammered out in the ancient Church. Hence Wesley did not need to worry very much about passing on the faith of the ages. He could take for granted that people were familiar with it. It was already deeply embedded in the minds of the people he sought to reach with the gospel. This does not mean, however, that they took it to heart, or that it was somehow life changing for them. Wesley’s task was that of bringing folk into a living relationship with God the Father, through the revelation and work of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. This was his passion.
Those theological tailwinds are no longer blowing across our culture today. Hence one of the first tasks is to be crystal clear about the identity of the God who Christians gladly serve and worship. The God of Christian faith, whether for Wesleyans or otherwise, is the Holy Trinity. The notion of the Trinity is hard to grasp, but it is at the core of what it means to love and serve the God who has saved us through Jesus Christ, and who lives with us every day by the power and work of the Holy Spirit. One of the most helpful discussions of the Trinity comes from a remarkable layperson, C. S. Lewis. In his book Mere Christianity, Lewis writes about the God of Christian faith as “three-personal.” He invites us to think about the difference between a straight line drawn on a piece of paper, a square drawn on a piece of paper, and a cube. The straight line is one-dimensional and quite simple. The square, which consists of four straight lines, is two-dimensional. A cube, however, which consists of six squares, is three-dimensional. Of course, the cube does consist of straight lines, but combines them in such a way as to create a complex object. As Lewis puts it, “As you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways—in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.”
What does this have to do with the Trinity? Lewis says that we human beings exist on a rather simple level. One person equals one being. Two people are two separate beings. With God, however, things work differently. Personalities are combined in new ways, ways that we who do not live on God’s level cannot truly understand. In God’s dimension, “you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube.” Lewis notes that we cannot fully understand a being like that, “just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort of faint notion of it.” So, the God of Christian faith is a personal God, just as we humans are personal beings. God, however, is personal in a much more complex way than we are. God is “three-personal.”
Christians have long called the three persons of the Trinity “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” God the Father, specifically, is the First Person of the Trinity. Why is the Father first? Imagine a river that divides into two separate streams in the form of a Y. The two branches of the river originate from the same source, just as the Son and the Holy Spirit originate from the Father. The Father sent the Son—Jesus Christ—into the world for our salvation, and the Father sent the Holy Spirit into the world to lead us into that salvation. Now here is where the analogy with the river breaks down: for the river to be like the Trinity, all three parts—the source and the two branches—would have to be eternal. No part existed before any other. Rivers do not work like that, but God does.
There are many places in the Bible where God is called “Father.” This designation for God is more frequent in the New Testament, but it does occur in the Old Testament too. The people of Israel at times talked about God as the father of their people. In Psalm 103:13 God is likened to a compassionate father: “As a father has compassion for his children, / so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.” In Proverbs 3:12, God is likened to a loving but disciplining father: “For the LORD reproves the one he loves, / as a father the son in whom he delights.” Isaiah 64:8 speaks of God as a father in the sense of God’s having given life to Israel: “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; / we are the clay, and you are our potter; / we are all the work of your hand.” Malachi 2:10 speaks of God as the one father and creator of all Israel. Some passages, such as 2 Samuel 7:13 and Psalm 2:7, speak of God as the father of Israel’s king. They do not mean that these kings were God’s sons the way Jesus was God’s Son. Rather, the idea is that upon the ascension of the king, he was adopted as God’s son.
There are other Old Testament references as well, but the language of Father for God occurs much more frequently in the New Testament. Jesus uses this language quite often in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). There are several reasons for this. One is that, as we have seen, all of Israel could call God “Father,” as God was the father of this people. Another is that Jesus was the Messiah, a term used for Israel’s kings, and, as we noted, Israel thought of its kings as sons of God. The main reason, however, is found on the lips of the angel Gabriel, as he speaks to Mary, Jesus’ mother: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Jesus was God’s Son in a unique way, quite differently from the ways in which Israel or her kings could be called God’s sons.
Nevertheless, Jesus taught his disciples to pray saying, “Our Father” (Matt 6:9). God is the Father of Jesus, and God is the Father of all who wish to love and serve God, though in a different way. In the Old Testament, Israel looked at God as its father. Now we who are Gentiles can be adopted into God’s household and become children of God as well. In Ephesians, we read that those who follow Christ are adopted into God’s household (Eph 1:5), and within this household there is “one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (4:4-6). In Romans 8:15-17 we read perhaps the most moving statement of our adoption into God’s household: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (see also Gal 4:4-7). When we are baptized as followers of Christ, then, it is like being adopted into the home in which God is the Father.
As we have seen, though, calling God “Father” involves more than just the way in which we name God. It involves a certain set of ideas about the ways in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to one another. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that the Father sent the Son into the world (8:16, 18, 43; 10:36). The Son knows and loves the Father, and the Father loves the Son (19:15, 17). Jesus said, “The Father and I are one” (10:30); “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (14:11); and “If you know me, you will know my Father also” (14:7). Do you see the close—actually inseparable—relationship between the Father and the Son? Moreover, the Son draws us to the Father. As Jesus says, “You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (14:20). Christ is alive within us, and through Christ we are drawn into the life of God. In other parts of John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he has asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit, who will remain with Jesus’ followers forever (14:15, see also 15:26). Jesus is explicit that the Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name to continue to teach about the will of the Father even after Jesus has departed (John 14:26). The Father is, in a sense, the wellspring of the Trinity, a wellspring who has poured forth the Son and the Holy Spirit eternally. It is important to note here that the notion of God as Father is not beholden to human fatherhood, but rather the notion of human fatherhood is shown to us in the relationship between the Father and the Son.
At the heart of what it means to talk of God as Father is God’s creating, generative nature. God the Father is the source of both love and life. From the Father come the Son and the Holy Spirit. Likewise, through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit come all of creation, all of humankind, the people of Israel, the person of Jesus Christ, and the salvation that is ours in Christ. Nothing exists without God, and the fountain of all life is God the Father. Therefore, we might think of God the Father as most purely expressing God’s self-giving nature. It is within the very nature of God to give both life and love.
More to come next month!
Peace be with you,
02 Kolt Kraft
07 Nicole Hackett
08 John Hackett
11 Billy Wright (III)
12 Christina Stenger
13 Christopher Kelsey Lynn Digby
14 John Vanbuskirk
15 Sausley Kraft
16 Daralyn Woolworth
17 Alton Taylor
19 Kay Trietsch
20 Alice Michalewicz
22 Fred Hodge
14 Jacob and Tiffany Cooper
Remember and Celebrate the Life of Joneen Haisler
December 2, 1940 – January 15, 2022
Good-Bye, Joneen, We Love You!
06 Holy Communion
13 Second Sunday Lunch, Noon
14 Valentine’s Day
26 Family Fellowship Night, 6:00 pm Fun, Games, and Food.
Ground Hog Day on February 2nd Is Spring on Its Way?
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BLUE MOUND UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
8421 N. Interstate 35, Denton, TX 76207-1537 (940) 382-0825
Midway between Denton and Sanger at Exit 473
Sunday School: 9:30 am, Sunday Worship: 10:45 am
Linda Boyer, Newsletter Editor
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