The other day, as I was reading this passage again, I tried to imagine that I was one of the people gathered on that hillside. In my imagination I could hear his voice, I felt a breeze soothe the perspiration on my forehead, and I began to hear these words with new ears. Jesus kept repeating two simple words over and over. When he talked about us as the light of the world, he used these words. When he talked about loving our enemies, he used these words. And again, as he moved on to generosity, prayer, and fasting, there were these same words. The words I heard over and over were simply, “Your Father.”
I began to sense that in addition to the substance of the message Jesus preached that day, he was also trying to plant something deep in my spirit, namely, the assurance that God Himself is my Father. “Of course,” you might think. “We are all God’s children.” Our idea of the Holy Trinity begins with ”God the Father.” It is one thing to recognize God’s title as Father, it is quite another to know him as such.
What happened to me as I read the passage and put myself among the listeners was something beyond an idea, beyond a theological construct. I heard Jesus remind me again and again that I have a Father, a Father in Heaven. I have a perfect Heavenly Father. What’s more, my Father is within my reach. He’s able to find me in the most hidden place. He is actively involved in my day, my actions, even my thoughts, and this is a good thing, because he’s my Father.
I went back to the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, this time with a pen in hand. I made a list of affirmations about my Father and me. After closing the book, I had a list I could read out loud. Alone in my office, I read each statement out loud. I heard the sound of my own voice speak the truth about God, who is also my Father. It was a list of things I could be sure of.
• My Father encourages me to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me.
• My Father wants to perfect me.
• My Father does not reward “outward performance.”
• My Father sees what I do in secret and will reward me.
• My Father will meet me behind closed doors.
• My Father knows what I need before I ask Him.
• My Father forgives me when I forgive others.
• My Father feeds the birds; He will feed me.
• My Father knows what I need.
• My Father gives me good gifts from heaven when I ask Him.
I learned one final thing sitting on the hill with Jesus. There’s a phrase he uses only once, but once was enough for me: “Our Father.” At the very beginning of what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” Jesus doesn’t start with the words, “My Father,” he starts with “Our Father.”
This gave me one final picture in my mind. I saw Jesus as my brother, someone who is with me whenever I pray. In my imagination I had a picture of Jesus putting his arm around me, saying, “Whatever it is that’s troubling you, whatever it is you need, come on--let’s go to our Father together.”