Right now we are watching Hurricane Matthew crawling through the Bahamas toward the coast of Florida and wondering what will happen next. And this is indeed a world of frightening uncertainties, beloved. Literally anything can happen here. Any day you can take a tumble in the garden, go to the doctor with a sprained ankle, and begin a terrifying medical journey that may lead you anywhere at all. Ask me if you don’t believe it. I know. No wonder you and I wake up in the night troubled by those endless, worrisome possibilities and asking the darkness–What next?
What next? Uncertainty is a terrifying thing. And that is the reason God has given us the name by which we can get hold of him anytime, day or night–Father. He is always there the way you thought your father always would be—ready to answer when you are afraid, doubtful, overwhelmed by those endless possibilities.
In this world the people who love us most can’t always be counted upon to answer. They get old and hard of hearing. Their minds wander. They get Alzheimer’s. They die. They always have their limits. But God the Father does not. His attention span is as limitless as the universe he created. And he is always with us—always ready to hear when we call out to him, always ready to calm our fears and to take us into his arms.
In a multitude of ways God is different from you and me. He never wasn’t and always will be. He is holy. We are not. We give our children names. He gave himself a Name. In the Book of Genesis we are told the story of the burning bush and how the Lord shared his own self-given name with Moses—“I am who I am.” And that became his sacred, mysterious, unpronounceable Name in Israel. To fervent Jews their God was “the Lord,” “the Almighty,” “God most high,” and as many other names they used to avoid profaning that holy Name by speaking it aloud. They walled the Name around with silence in order to protect it from being soiled by common use. They exalted the Name of so high that frightened, lonely people could never reach it.
But when God came down into our world in the person of Jesus, he shared with us another name for himself—“Abba.” In Aramaic it is the most intimate form of the word for a male parent—daddy. “Our Father” is a cold translation indeed of that bosom name that Jesus actually used. Jesus taught us to think of God as a father to us, as a warm, embracing presence scented with the smell of Aqua Velva. And when we face one of life’s terrible uncertainties, the Spirit of Jesus invites us to pray to God the way we called out when we got awake in the night—Daddy! I had a bad dream! I’m afraid!
That’s what he wants of us. God made us precisely so we could do that. Before we were, God already possessed everything–a whole universe of wonder and ineffable beauty. But that was not enough. He wanted children—the most basic human wish. And he made us so that we would call out to him as a child calls out to a loving father and take us into an embrace scented with the smell of the stars.
Oh, there is a dark hurricane blowing through the world tonight–a storm of endless possibilities, some of them very terrifying indeed. We hear it roaring away outside our bedroom window and we are afraid. But God is with us, beloved, closer than we are to ourselves, and all we need do is call out to him—Daddy! Daddy are you there? And he is. And we need not worry that we call out that name too often–the more we use the holier it becomes.