“There was a young boy who lived in the South and on one summer day he was by the Mississippi river and he picked up some stones and threw it into the river and he looked down a number of yards on the river’s edge and he saw a dock and on this dock there was an old man who was sitting, so the young boy goes down to talk to the old guy and the young guy has so many questions that he asked this old man, ‘Where did the river begin? Where will it end? How deep is it? How wide is it? How many fish are in it? What kind of fish?’ And so on and the old man tried to keep up with the young lad and answer his questions as patiently and as best as he could, but their conversation was interrupted by the shrill whistle of the River Queen, a paddle boat that was going down river to New Orleans and the boy saw the boat and he started jumping and saying, ‘I wanna ride! I wanna ride!’ The old man tried to calm him down, but he the boy kept yelling, ‘I want to ride!’ The old man kept saying to him, ‘You know you can’t ride, I’m sorry. It’s going down to New Orleans. You shouldn’t go there.’ And so on and the old man was amazed when the boat turned toward the dock and after docking put down the gangplank and the young boy scampered up the gangplank, but before he enters the boat he turns to the old man and says, ‘I knew that this boat would stop for me because the captain is my father.’
Jesus teaches that God is our Father and God is someone that we can trust. The word he uses for Father in Aramaic which is the language that Jesus spoke was ‘Abba and many of you know that that is the very familiar sense, the family sense, the intimate sense of the word. In English it would probably be better translated ‘papa’ or even ‘daddy’ invoking this trust, this love, this intimacy that happens in families. That’s how we should relate to our father. Our Father in Heaven is not some distant intangible, unapproachable being, but he loves us more than we love ourselves and you know, that’s the hardest thing to believe in. I think it’s the hardest thing to believe how much we are loved, but that is the whole story of our redemption. Christ came to show us and to demonstrate that love. Jesus uses a parable in our Gospel today to underscore this and he talks about a man who has settled down for the evening with his family. Now we’re talking first century Palestine and those homes for most people because most people were very poor were just one room dwellings, so everything happened in that one room. You ate, you bathed, you slept, everything happened in that one room dwelling and of course there was no electricity, no lights, so when the sun went down, everybody went to bed and that included all the kids. It included perhaps the family dog, perhaps a couple of chickens as well. So anyway around midnight, this neighbor comes pounding on the door and the guy says, ‘Ssshh! What do you want?’ He says, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived and I have nothing to feed him.’ And you know, hospitality in that culture was so very important and he says, ‘Please give him some bread. I’ll at least give him that.’ And the man says, ‘You know, we’re all in bed. I don’t want to disturb anybody. Sorry, come back tomorrow.’ But the guy pleads with him and finally the household is awakening and the dog is barking and the chickens are crowing and the kids are getting restless. So the man says, ‘Okay, okay, I’m here. Here’s some bread. Go give it to your friend.’
So what is Jesus teaching us about God here? Is God like that man who is badgered into giving his friend something? You know, some of the parables of Jesus about God are not how God is like, but how God is not like and this is one of them in a sense that God is not badgered into giving us things. It may seem like it sometimes, but that’s not true. He loves us and he won’t give us stuff that’s going to hurt us. He’s going to give us something that is going to help us. Now it may not be exactly what we ask for, but it will be better, it will be better, so we have to trust in God is Jesus’ teaching, trust in our loving Father who’s always with us.
Now also in this Gospel reading we note that Jesus doesn’t say, ‘My Father’ doesn’t say ‘Give ME my daily bread, forgive me MY trespasses’, it’s always plural, ‘forgive us our trespasses, give us our daily bread, OUR Father’. So when we speak to God, we always keep in mind the community of which we are a part. We are the body of Christ and when we ask for our needs to be met, we should think of the needs of our neighbor. Sometimes those needs are greater than our own, so God is our loving father. He is more like the man in the story who is carefully protecting his family, doesn’t want them disturbed, wants to keep them at peace, wants to keep them and help him. That’s the way our God is, so we need to trust in God in the good times and in the bad times and the good times and the bad times come to all of us. Especially trust him in the bad times. It’s hard to do that sometimes. Believe me, I’m an expert in the bad times and I know that trusting in God is our salvation. It is our redemption. Trusting in God is our future happiness. I think when the bad times come, we have a choice to make. We can live in fear, fear of the future or we can live in trust, trust in God and pray to him with affection, with love and with trust.
I have a little prayer, a short prayer that I’d like to share with you today. I entitled this prayer, ‘I Trust You Lord’.
Loving Father be with me
When things get out of hand
When I hurt so terribly with pain
I cannot stand
Worry, sometimes fills up my life
And my eyes with tears
Be my strength, my hope, my God
And remove all my fears
To live in fear is such a shame
To think that you’re not here
My faith is lacking in your love
When faith gives way to fear
Oh my God, I trust in you
Help me trust you more
Be with me when things go wrong
I trust you, oh my Lord”