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The God of our fathers

August 9, 2013 One Comment

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by Mathew Block

Moses stood before the burning bush. A Voice had just spoken to him from the flames. “Moses!” it had called. “Moses!” And he had answered: “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” the Voice said. “Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then it said: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.

The story is one we all know: the calling of Moses. It’s the beginning of a whole new story for the Israelites—the story of how God would rescue them from the land of Egypt. No longer would they be slaves. No, now they would take possession of a land of their own, a land flowing with milk and honey. It’s the first chapter of what would prove to be a long journey.

And yet, even as this tale begins, it hearkens back to the stories that precede it. “I am the God of your father,” the Lord tells Moses, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In fact, when Moses asks God to clarify who He is, He tells him the same thing two more times. Who is He? He is “The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

We might ask why this matters. God is promising to save the Israelites from their current oppression. So what do a bunch of long dead people—their fathers—have to do with it?

For people like you and me, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that our lives are part of a bigger story. We can be very self-focused, if we’re honest: we’re concerned primarily with our own struggles, our own sorrows, joys, and hopes. We tune in to the news listening for the stories that affect us: what our politicians are doing, how a drop in the value of of the Loonie changes what we can afford, what our weather will be like tomorrow. And as we focus on how it all affects me, we can begin to forget about our neighbours, near and far.

By reminding us who He is, God helps us break out of this self-focus. He’s not just “my God” or “your God,” though He is that too. But He’s more than that. He’s also the God of our fathers, the God of those who have gone before us. He’s the God not just of 21st century Canadians with 21st century problems; He’s the God of the whole Church, spread out through all time. In a way we cannot, He sees the whole story. He sees the connections between your church and the church in Rome 2,000 years ago. He sees the threads which tie your story to the story of Christians yet to be born.

He is our God, yes, but He is also the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “This is my name forever,” God told Moses, “the name you shall call me from generation to generation.” While the story of God’s people may appear to us as disconnected chapters, from God’s view they are all one seamless whole. Their God is our God; their stories are our stories. And so it is, from one generation to the next, down through the ages—one great story weaving us all together.

While the story of God’s people may appear to us as disconnected chapters, from God’s view they are all one seamless whole.

It’s ultimately the story of Christ—the story of His love for sinful humanity. And nowhere do we read it so clearly as we do in the pages of Holy Scripture. Indeed, as Martin Luther affirmed, “All the stories of Holy Writ, if viewed aright, point to Christ.” Christ Himself says much the same thing in John 5:39—“These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” From the beginning, the Word has spoken one story and one story alone: Christ.

He is the Word of Power by which all things are made, and the Word of Mercy promising salvation after the Fall. He is the Word of Summons to Abraham, Moses, and all the saints in the Old Testament. He is the Word of Judgment at Sinai. He is the Word of God made flesh at Bethlehem. He is the Word of Forgiveness at the Cross and the Word of Hope at the Resurrection. His story is The Story in all Scripture for all Christians at all times.

As the Church, it is our sacred duty to tell that story again and again. We immerse ourselves in the Word of God, daily encountering Christ and His forgiveness anew. We look back to the God of our fathers, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, rejoicing at His work in their lives; through them, He has blessed us too. We’re all part of the same story God is telling.

cl2804-cover-webWe also see the story of God’s love for humanity told in the history of the Church. It’s present in the sufferings of the martyrs of the Early Church. It’s present in the spread of Christianity throughout Europe in the Medieval Era. It’s there when Luther nails The 95 Theses to a church door, and it was there at Lutheran Church–Canada’s  (LCC) founding twenty-five years ago.

In this issue, we remember that founding. For some of us, it may seem a distant memory. For others, it may not be even that; I was less than a year old when LCC was founded. But together we remember it because it is the story of God’s faithfulness to our mothers and fathers in this land—another chapter in the long, unbroken story of God’s love and mercy to the Church.

How fitting then that celebrations coincided with our National Youth Gathering. For while this story is that of our fathers, it’s also the story we pass on to future generations. And this is ever our refrain: “Look what God has done for us. Imagine what He will still do!”

———————

Mathew Block is editor of The Canadian Lutheran.

One Comment »

  • The God of our Fathers « Captain Thin said:

    […] For the answer to that question, turn to my recent article “The God of our Fathers” in The Canadian Lutheran. […]

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