God goes by a variety of names in the Hebrew Scriptures, including Yahweh, Adonai, and El Shaddai. Ultimately, the Lord is beyond all human vocabulary. When Moses asked God's name, the Lord replied, "I am who I am." Therefore, the Scriptural authors oftentimes used the language of poetry in attempts to describe aspects of God's nature. They spoke in similes and metaphors. So we have those wonderful statements of faith: God is a rock ... fortress ... defender ... shepherd ... foundation ... and so much more.
In the New Testament church, the disciples slowly came to a Trinitarian understanding of God. They affirmed the Jewish belief in one God, but the early church experienced the Lord as three different persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. God is above us, with us, and in us.
Every name and description tells us something about the Lord. Each of us as unique individuals finds that some titles are more meaningful than others. Through the years, however, there has been one title that has been of special importance to Christians, cutting across gender, racial, cultural, and theological lines. When Jesus was asked by the disciples how they should pray, he taught his followers to pray, "Our Father."
Jewish rabbis had addressed God in this fashion prior to Jesus' time. They would sometimes begin their prayers to God the Father of all. In the original Aramaic language that Jesus spoke with his disciples, however, the word he used was "Abba." This is a title for God found nowhere else in Jewish literature.
"Abba" is more familiar than the English word "father." Instead, it was the way a young child would address an earthly parent. In English, we would literally translate the word as "Daddy." This title was important not only to Jesus and the Twelve but also to the early church.
Thirty years later when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in Greek, he still preserved the original Aramaic word in Romans 8: "... because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ ... ."
Jesus chose to describe his relationship to God as a son to his father. And Christ invites his followers into this same relationship. We are brothers and sisters to Jesus, sons and daughters of God. In Christ's name, we dare to come before the Lord God in prayer and call him "Daddy."
On Father's Day, we honor our earthly parents; but we also recognize that at their very best, fathers give us a glimpse of our heavenly Father's love for us.
Dr. Bill Burch is the senior minister at Sam Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in Cartersville. www.samjonesumc.org