T. C. Moore: The Father Heart of God: Setting the Lonely in Families
Guest blog by T. C. Moore (pictured on the right with his son Tyson). T. C. blogs at: Being T. C.
He says about himself: “I began following Jesus at 16, shortly before my 17th birthday. Jesus rescued me from self-destruction, planted me in his family, and revealed my purpose to me. Following Jesus is about Love and Allegiance and Mission.”
T. C. is the planting pastor of the New City Covenant Church in Boston, Massachusetts (a church plant of the Evangelical Covenant Church). He is also a part-time student at the Boston campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary — the Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). You can find out more about his family here: About the Moore Family.
This is a 10 minute sermon he prepared for the Evangelical Covenant Church's assessment center for prospective church planters.
In the NIV, Psalm 68 verse 5 and the first part of verse 6 reads:
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…"
I can't say that I have what some people call a "life verse," but if I had to choose one, this passage would definitely be in the running. In this brief passage we discover several profound truths about God. In fact, I believe we glimpse the very heart of God and the heart of the gospel.
This psalm of David is written to ancient Israel. And in this period and in this culture, women and children were completely dependent upon men to provide for the needs of the family. Therefore, broken relationships were very costly. Much like we still see in the developing world today, widows and orphans were among the most desperately needy in society. All throughout the Hebrew Bible (particularly in the message of the prophets), we continual read the refrain of justice for the poor, for the outcast, for the foreigner, for the widow, and for the fatherless. Sometimes Israel would forget where they came from and begin taking advantage of the poor, or denying justice to disadvantaged, God's word came to them in judgment. For example, Exodus 22.21 through 24 reads: "Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. And my anger will be aroused." This was the prophetic message of God because it reflects the heart of God and the mission of God.
Psalm 68.5 and 6 teaches that God is a God both of mercy and justice.
God's heart is the heart of a Father and in his mercy he is moved by the pain of the fatherless and plight of the widow. God's heart is moved by broken relationships. God is not indifferent nor unaware of our condition. He sees and he cares. God is both compassionate and passionate. He won't allow the weak to be exploited forever. He will fight for them and make things right.
We can clearly see that YHWH is the type of God who steps in to heal and make whole what is broken, to bring justice and to reconcile people to himself and to others.
This brief passage also shows us that God has a plan, and a way of going about this mission. God sees our need — that we are lonely. Though we were created to be related, due to sin, we have been estranged from God and estranged from each other. In the beginning, when God brought order out of chaos, God surveyed all that had been made and said that it was very good. But one thing was not good. It was not good that man should be alone—so God created family. In God's own likeness and image, to reflect God's own beauty, humanity was formed as both male and female. Like God, humanity was created wonderfully united and beautifully diverse. God's ultimate goal was to reveal himself fully, to dwell with humanity, to be our God and we his people.
Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in Jesus Christ.
For in Jesus, we see the God who takes on flesh and dwells among us; the God who suffers along side humanity, sharing in our pain and redeeming us with self-sacrificial love. In Jesus we can clearly see the God who reconciles humanity to himself and restores right relationship. Jesus is widow's champion and the father to the fatherless. So in Jesus we see both the justice and the grace of God. And in Jesus we see the establishment of a new community, a new way of being in the world—that is the family of believers. Christ's church is the family of God—the household of faith.
It's perfectly appropriate for God to use family as his solution to a broken a hurting world, because God himself is a loving community of persons. In God's very nature we can also see the mission of God.
Miroslav Volf, a Serbo-Croatian Christian theologian, once wrote:
God is not a self-closed unity, but rather a community of three divine persons. Believing in this God—surrendering one's existence to this God — necessarily means entering into the divine community… Trinitarian faith accordingly means becoming community.
Also St. Augustine famously once wrote in his Confessions, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."
This is what Psalm 68.5 and 6 reveal to us: That God's nature and mission is covenantal love and justice.
These verses are particularly meaningful to me because I grew up without a father. The only child of a schizophrenic mother, and with no siblings, my loneliness ended up leading me to seek family in gang-life. Twelve years ago, if you had asked me who my family was I would have had to tell you my family was a group of thugs who lived in my neighborhood because they were the only family I knew. I longed to belong to someone or something that I could give my life to. I needed family, purpose, identity and home so desperately I was willing to kill for it and die for it. But gang-life never cured my loneliness. This so-called family never provided what I needed when I was going through with some of the toughest times of my life. When my girlfriend at the time had a miscarriage and I was devastated, I found no comfort in gang-life. When I was wrestling with hatred and resentment for my sick mother, there was no counsel in gang-life. The only thing gang-life actually offered was an arrogant facade to mask the pain I felt inside and a mission to make others feel the way I felt.
But … God … twelve years ago, broke into my life like a home invasion, rescued me, and revealed himself to me. God showed himself to be my true home, my true family. God offered me unconditional love and a new mission to demonstrate that love to the world.
In that first church to which I belonged, men of God became physical, tangible representations of God's love. They put flesh on the gospel for me. Their smiles became the smiles of God; their jokes became the jokes of God; their hugs became the hugs of God; and through them God spoke to me.
At a church picnic, the senior pastor pulled me aside and ask me where my father was. I said, "I don't know pastor, I've never met him." He said to me, "T. C., There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents. God loves you and that's what makes you legitimate." I didn't even know how badly I needed to hear that, but God knew.
Ever since that church sent me out, I've made it my mission to be family for the lonely; to incarnate the Father's love for someone; and to walk along side others as we join God in his mission of justice.
The application of this passage is clear: God is the family humanity needs. If it’s your first time in church, you need to know you have a home in God. Surrender your existence to God and become who you were always meant to be.
If you're already in the family, remember that you are body of Christ, the household of faith, the family of believers. Incarnate the love of God for someone. Throw open your arms and welcome others into our home. Let God use you to reveal his Father heart of love and justice — that's the way he's remaking the world.
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