The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger rich in kindness and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6)
This weekend, as the world keeps Father’s Day, It seems odd, perhaps that the Church, which many has many feasts of Our Lord - most obviously his resurrection at Easter - and a feast of the Holy Spirit - Pentecost, which we celebrated last weekend, yet has no feast of God the Father.
And yet, to understand the Father, is to understand the Trinity, which we celebrate today.
There are people today who say it is unhelpful to refer to God as “Father”. For one thing, they argue, it is sexist, too focussed on the male gender.
And for another, it is said that many people have a negative understanding of Fatherhood - fathers are sometimes abusive, violent or just absent.
And again, sometimes people think of God being like a Victorian Father, a Dickensian Step-Father: Strict, fierce and quick to punish. This idea is also described as the ‘God of the Old Testament’ - setting the laws and justly, but harshly punishing the offenders. It seems to be hard and mechanical view of God.
In these circumstances, how can fatherhood be a good image of God?
But the Father who presents himself to us today is none of these things. He is - in the words of the Old Testament itself: The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger rich in kindness and faithfulness.
He is also - in the words of today’s Gospel
The one who - ‘loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)
And as the second reading also makes clear:
Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. (1 Co 13:12)
Notice the word and the idea which is common to all three, not law, not judgment, not anger, not punishment, not even justice - but Love.
We can be misled in our ideas of Fatherhood, if we think it is just a matter of ancestry, descent, and family ties. True fatherhood is not about the bloodline, it about a bond of love.
It is not that our image of fatherhood is inadequate for understanding God - no, it is rather the opposite: that our experience of human Fatherhood will always be challenged by the perfect, glorious benevolent Fatherhood of God.
Jesus taught us to call God our Father, because God is love - love that wraps us round as his children - love that makes a family what it is truly meant to be - love that defines what a true Father is, and which challenges us to be his true children.