At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
(Mark 1: 9-11)
On Father’s Day we may consider our own fathers and what they mean to our lives. We may consider fatherhood itself if we happen to be a father. Or we may consider God the Father in heaven and how Jesus interacted with God during his life and ministry. The point is, Father’s Day gives us a lot to think about.
Counselors and psychologists state that we have phrases from our fathers in our heads that guide us throughout our lifves. These phrases may build us up or they may bring us down. They may be affirming and uplifting or they may be demeaning and shameful. We may be very aware that these phrases are a part of who we are, or we may not even realize that something our father has said to us is greatly influencing the way we live our lives.
Even though the mystery of Jesus relating to God the Father cannot be completely understood, we can learn a great deal from the moment that Jesus was baptized and God the Father spoke to him. Chapter one in the Gospel of Mark states, “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
It could be that Jesus heard these phrases as he continued his ministry. It was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, not the end, so God expresses love and pride for his son not as a reward for any accomplishment but in love because of their relationship. This is the kind of love children need. A love that freely offers statements of love with no reason for being said other than being said in the name of love. Could it be that positive affirmations a child may receive after a life victory are as important as affirmations of love before the race even begins….in the down times of life, the in-between times? Absolutely!
Children need to hear that they are loved with such regularity that those words become a part of who they are. Those words could become the premise of their self-confidence and identity. Nurturing a child’s spiritual side should be considered as important as building up the physical – what kind of food are we feeding our children….what kind of words are we using to build up their spiritual selves? What phrases are we listening to… are they productive or destructive?
The answers to these questions may be more complex than we realize. We can address these questions and grow in our faith just as children are nurtured in their faith. In the same way that faith is developed when a child is led to see larger ethical, creative, or spiritual issues, God leads us to grow in faith. There are so many opportunities within our grasp but often we miss them. To draw an analogy to children again, when a pet dies, children often ask if there are pets in heaven. You don’t have to know how to answer that situation in order to begin a conversation that creates a memory in the heart and mind of the child. The words at that moment could become a phrase that creates a sense of love from parent to child, a phrase that points to something else beyond this life, a phrase that is full of hope and encouragement. That conversation may be a turning point or at least a stabilization point sometime later in life.
In the same way, when we lose a loved one, we are faced with the question of heaven. How much time do we take contemplating the afterlife? What words or phrases come to our rescue? Sometimes grief provides us an opportunity to grow as we consider our loved one’s passing. There are words of hope in Scripture that can help us keep the faith in life when we are faced with questions that seem to have no answer, such as explaining why cancer has invaded life. Ideally, children should look to their fathers as role models. When a father makes a statement it might have great impact upon the child’s spiritual life. Children watch their fathers for statements that teach how life should be lived.
A father was about to pay for his children to play putt putt golf. The man at the counter said, “Any child under 6 years old plays for free.” The father answered, “Then I’ll pay for two of my three children, one is nine, one just turned seven, and the other is four.” The ticket man said, “Just turned seven? You could have told me he was still six and he would have been free and I wouldn’t have known!” The father answered, “But my children would know.”
The children witnessed their father’s integrity and may want to emulate it. When we realize how much God loves us, we are released to ministry. We may not miss an opportunity to share God’s love with our children or with others.
An example might be found in the rummage drop off process. “Look at these smiling volunteers, they are doing all of this for people who have less than we do,” you might say to your child. “Why are they doing it?” The opportunity in the answer to that question could be a spiritual home run. In the answer, there might be mention of something about the spirit of God moving through the fellowship of our church community and uniting people in helping others. What used to be a visit to the church to donate items has now become a lesson in God’s love.
When Jesus heard those words of love at the time of his baptism, he knew that he was accepted by God and valued as God’s son. He went into ministry with those phrases in his mind. The primary lesson of the Bible is to learn how to live as Jesus lived, and if we could grasp the reality of God’s love for us, we could live more like Jesus and have those same phrases in our minds. Knowing that we are loved by God, valued by God, and accepted by God, as Jesus knew, can redeem our lives. Those phrases can be called upon during the tough times of life and will enable us to keep the faith.
“You are my child, who I love, with you I am well pleased.” May these words remind us of God’s love and challenge us to live as God’s children. May those words play in our mind and remind us that our heavenly Father believes in us and wants us to begin our ministry of love fully charged with his grace. Let us realize that we are loved by God, our Father in heaven, and experience a security that stabilizes our present and points us to a positive future. Amen.