7/18/99, P8A

“Papa! Papa!”
Romans 8: 14-19

ne night last week I forgot to feed the cat. I realized what I had done when she began to follow me around the house, fussing. I asked Marilyn if she had fed Ginger, “No.” she said, and then added, “Wouldn’t it be a terrible feeling if your Master forgot to feed you?”

In our text, the Apostle Paul pictures our relationship with the Almighty God as being similar to that of a child to a loving Father. We are His dear children, and He is our Father. He never forgets to feed us. He loves us, and knows our names.

I had a member once who must have had thirty cats. She was an older widow and lived alone in an unpainted old farm house, having no air-conditioning, not even any screens, so that the cats had the run of the place. And they all seemed happy, because their master always fed them. I asked her if she could tell them apart, “Why yes, they each have a name, and I know them by name.” And then she began to call them by name and they came purring around her feet. They knew their names too, and acted like they were in “Cat Heaven.”

We serve a Father who knows our names and knows our frames, but who loves us anyway, warts and all.

In fact, we are not considered by Him as servants, or slaves, and He does not think of Himself as our Master. Through the blood of the Cross we are made children in a loving family. We think of Him, not as The All Powerful God who flung the stars into space, but as a Father; or, as Paul is saying in this letter to the Romans, and to us, we feel toward Him as we would feel toward a caring, secure, “Abba Father,” or we might say, “Papa!” Just as my cat Ginger comes and scrunches up in my lap and seems so secure, so we can draw close to God, and He will draw close to us. We can cry out to our Father God as “Papa, Papa!”

In the Old Testament, folks saw God as a Master, and themselves as slaves; but in Christ, we have become coheirs to the Kingdom, with Christ. He is the only begotten Son; but we are adopted into the family as children.

We need to always remember just how special we are to Him. We are The King’s Kids. We have royal blood flowing through our veins.

Now, how do we know this? We know that we are in a loving spiritual family of God just like we know when we are in a loving earthly family. We know the inner assurance of being loved within the Christian family, just as
we know anything else--- we know through our feelings, our emotions, our intuitive nature. Our text says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (v. 14, NRSV). Others translate the word “led” as:
guided, or moved. (Williams and Beck). The point is that we know because of “that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (v.16). John Wesley developed this text into the doctrine of “The Witness of the Spirit.”

Ultimately there is no actual proof of spiritual realities, there is sometimes great evidence that might point toward proof; but in the final analysis, spiritual relationship with the family of our Papa God, is based on faith. Proof would short circuit the entire process of believing, and assurance, and knowing on a feeling level--- which is where we live in our most precious and intimate relationships. Your deep love for your spouse, your parents, your kids is not based on DNA evidence, it is based on a love affair. “Near Death Experiences” cropped up again yesterday in the Saturday, Faith & Values Section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As you know, I worked with Raymond Moody on the first book on this subject some 23 years ago. Then, as now, the experiences that people often remember as the result of a close brush with death, always give them a new faith, never based on scientific discovery, but upon the experience itself. Others have tried to say that these thousands of collected similar experiences are proof; but no, they are evidence perhaps, but in reality they are just like the experience we have all hopefully had with the nearness of our Abba Father, Papa God, in times of crisis, or spiritual events. The whole notion of the inner life of faith is based upon the intuitive, feeling level, is it not?

None of us would ever want the religious experience reduced to scientific proof. I recall that when the giant Hubbell space telescope was launched nearly ten years ago that some hoped for a picture of God, or
heaven, or some other proof of the spiritual realm. No, instead the Hubbell has sent back pictures showing how marvelously more vast the heavens are than we had dared to calculate. There are things out there that should have by now humbled any astronomer by showing how tiny we are in this unfathomable universe. Our Papa has gotten so much bigger--- only Our Papa God could have thought all of this up. When I gaze at these Hubbell pictures in “Sky & Telescope” magazine, I feel like crying out “Papa, Papa how great you are!”

And the hope is that one day we will get a closer look at this universe that Our Papa has flung into space. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” (v.19). On this side of
death we have only a very distorted image of what is one day going to be experienced by us in the glory of heaven. We do not really know where heaven will be. The Old Testament presented the imagery of heaven as being up, up and away out there somewhere. The New Testament carries forward this same simple metaphor. However, it could be right. Maybe Our Papa created all of that out there as a kind of celestial playground for his children of eternal life. No one knows now, but someday we will know all things, for we shall see it all as it really is!

Perhaps by reading this familiar part of our funeral ritual in its context we can have something of an understanding of what it might mean when the preacher reads the words: “I consider that the sufferings of this
present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” (v.18). Indeed, we know that we are a family that is heaven bound! One day soon we will crawl up into God’s lap and say, “Papa, Papa!”

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

7/18/99, P8A