At the time of writing this, it is Father’s day in the UK. A time to give thanks for our Fathers with us and not with us. For some this is a special day, for others a very difficult day for all sorts of reasons.
God’s people look to him as our Father, one who cares for each of us and takes a supreme interest in who we are, whether we acknowledge him, love him and praise him or not.
Restrictions on movement and lockdown are carefully being lifted, whilst we also examine how we treat one another through the #blacklivesmatter campaign. Life is different and challenging for many, whether you are elderly, middle aged, young or a baby. Our main aim is to reduce the chance of further infections by taking responsibility for our interaction with other people with continued social distancing, face coverings and masks and staying at home in an appropriate way. Many businesses and workplaces are trying to work out how they get up and running again with restrictions and cautions in place that ensure we are safe and cared for. Employment, economies, welfare and human interaction are all impacted. Week 13 of this pandemic is seeing us facing our mental wellbeing, planning to re-build lives and creating new opportunities. It has a feeling of coming out of exile.
God’s people, in exile in Babylon, around 540 BC, thought he had forgotten them and no longer knew them. Even the holy and sacred city Jerusalem (Zion) had been destroyed. Had God turned his face away from them because they had turned their face away from him? But he hadn’t, he is a faithful God who knows us beyond our comprehension. God spoke to his messenger, his prophet from the school of Isaiah.
“But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
Your builders outdo your destroyers,
and those who laid you waste go away from you.
Lift up your eyes all around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, says the LORD,
you shall put all of them on like an ornament,
and like a bride you shall bind them on.
Do we think that God has turned his face away from us? Do we resent the challenges we face or do we grasp the opportunities? Do we want life to be as it once was, with all its normality and joys and issues, or do we want a life guided by and with God himself, which will be better for all? The people of Israel would come out of exile, they would return to their homeland and they would rebuild the holy city Jerusalem; life would be different and better, because God had their name written on the palm of his hands. So it is with us. Do we choose to turn to God and be faithful to him and know new life or turn away and know times of separation from him, even despair? Your name is inscribed on the palm of God’s hands, he knows you and cares for you. What does that mean to you?
Listen to the words of this hymn.
Jesus, sent by God his Father, came and lived with us and showed us God’s love for each one of us. In fact one of his closest friends wrote these words (John 20:30-31):
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name”.
Jesus told his followers, those who knew who he was and is and believed in him that
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Following and believing in Christ, brings us into a living relationship with God, our Father, however our journey with Christ is one of denying our ambitions, our plans, our self, in order to know who in Christ we are and what his plans for us are. Those plans will be one of serving others and being faithful to God, in Christ. It can be a road marked with suffering and challenges, but we know it is a road we travel in God’s presence towards a better world.
Maybe as we come out of a pandemic, we can know Christ afresh, so that lives become different and become fulfilled, because we know the Lord we are serving, as we let his plans, not our plans become reality. We deny ourselves and take up our cross.
Our prayer could be:
Father in heaven, we thank you that you would want to know who we are and that you would want to care for us. May we always remember this and turn to you.
Thank you that we can be part of your family, where you are our Father and we are your children. Thank you that you would send your son to die for us and bring us into your presence where our sins are hidden and forgiven in the death and new life of Jesus Christ.
Help us to deny our plans and ambitions and to seek to know your plans and to follow you in our lives. May our life be in you and be part of your plans for a better world. Strengthen us to do your will as we know your healing in this pandemic.
Thank you for all who are fighting this virus, all who use their expertise and skills to produce remedies and vaccines to save lives. Give guidance to all leaders, may they turn to you and seek your wisdom and discernment in prayer.
Forgive us Lord for living our way and in our strength. In Jesus name we pray. Amen
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.