Everlasting Father - Midtown

Everlasting Father - Midtown

December 10, 2023 • Rev. Mindie Moore

 And His Name Shall Be Called...Everlasting Father 

Isaiah 40:27-31, Isaiah 9:6 

Who here has had to buy a new appliance in the last couple of years? 

Look, nothing illustrates the ideas of “Nothing lasts forever” or “Things don’t last like they used to” than having to buy a new appliance. In fact, as someone who has gone through a dishwasher, washer and dryer, AND refrigerator in my current home, when I saw this post the other day, I both had to laugh and shed some expensive tears. (SLIDE: Refrigerator photo) 

But it’s true, isn’t it! Things aren’t made today like they used to be and our stuff isn’t really built to last. We aren’t set up for long lasting much of anything. And that’s on purpose—companies don’t want to go out of business because no one has to buy their products anymore! So because we live in such a replaceable world, where we cycle through new things again and again, the idea of eternity or something that could last forever feels kind of hard to wrap our heads around. 

But that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today. Because the prophet Isaiah uses this phrase and this imagery to describe what God is like and who hope could be and to paint a picture of how God could work. And these images, and specifically the names that Isaiah uses in Isaiah 9:6 have been passed down for centuries and used to describe Jesus. If you haven’t been with us the past couple of weeks, I want to 2 

remind you what those names are: (SLIDE) Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

So today we’re exploring this name (SLIDE) Everlasting Father. And before we even get into it, I’m going to go ahead and address the elephant in the room—this word, “father”. I know that for some of us, we have a major disconnect from this word. In fact, this word can throw us and distract us from the whole point of what Isaiah is trying to say. Some of us have had really painful relationships with our fathers and so we aren’t always sure how to relate to this image of God as Father. We might even feel a little resistant to it because of the experiences we’ve had in our lives. 

So I just want to say a couple things about that before we really dive into this week’s name: 

First, I just want to invite you, as someone who myself has a lot of junk around this word, I want to invite you to be open to redeeming this word in a different context. To be open to letting the idea of God as Father be a lot bigger and better than any kind of example you’ve seen in your everyday life. To be open to the idea that Jesus can redeem everything, including this word and the things it brings up. 

And second, I want us to all understand that the phraseology around this name has evolved over time. And that matters because just like the other names we’ve looked at together in this series, this one has a lot of depth to it, and when we explore that depth, we get a much bigger and more complete 3 

picture of what Isaiah was really trying to say. In fact, in the original Hebrew, the original name that Isaiah gives this person who will bring hope to hopeless circumstances, it doesn’t translate directly to “Everlasting Father”. It translates to (SLIDE) Avi Ad: Possessor of Eternity. 

Which is...a little different of a take than we’re used to. 

Breaking it down like that makes me pay a lot closer attention to the role Eternity plays in this name. There's something about that idea of Everlasting or Eternity that is worth paying attention to and is really unique to how God relates to us. Because whether we read this name as Everlasting Father or Possessor of Eternity, the truth is, the fact that Isaiah uses this language of eternity really matters. We need to know that God doesn’t begin or end and that the love God has for us is so much bigger than anything we can wrap our minds around. God is always going to be there for us, God is always going to be working in ways we don’t see. God is always present and we can trust that this big, everlasting God isn’t going to let us down. 

In a lot of ways, this group of people Isaiah was talking to was set up to understand this idea because they already had practices in place that pointed them back to the truth that God is really big. One of these practices was the way they kept Sabbath and how they would be forced to stop doing and producing for a day and let God actually hold all the parts and pieces of their lives. And this happened no matter WHAT—even 4 

when things were tough and it felt like life was out of control, they would actually hand over every single thing to their God and say—this is yours. It’s not up to us, we don’t have to depend on ourselves. You’re the God of the universe, you’re the forever and ever, and we can trust that you’ve got this, even if it’s just for 24 hours. 

You know, when Isaiah first spoke the words that we heard read today, he was talking to a group of people that were doing this, but they were also a group of people who were recovering. They were trying to rebuild. We talked about this a little bit a couple weeks ago, but Isaiah is, at its core, a trauma narrative. These people went through a devastating event where they lost their homes, their traditions, all their security and when we get to Isaiah 40, they are just trying to pick up the pieces. I want you to understand that when we talk about these spiritual practices or even the idea that hope could be possible. Because when Isaiah comes in and says, “don’t you know?! God can’t fail you! God can’t grow weary! God is going to be there for you no matter what!”...I would guess that might have been hard to believe. I’m guessing that at some point, maybe for a long time, those people felt like God had abandoned them. 

And so it’s Isaiah’s job here to remind them, to bring them back to the truth about who God is and say that this God who “possesses eternity” was here before this thing happened to them, and this same God will be here after. Isaiah says that the struggles of this moment are not the struggles of forever, and 5 

that (SLIDE) no matter HOW far away we feel from God, God’s not actually that far away from us. 

I think we, in our world right now, we need this reminder. Because even with all the differences that are true between our time and Isaiah’s time, the thing that hasn’t changed for us as people...is our NEED to have a God we can depend on no matter what. We need to know that somehow, this massive, cosmic, eternal God is more than just a distant being off somewhere far away. This God is involved. This God is capable of knowing us and seeing us and understanding all the parts and pieces of our stories and loving us through it all. 

That’s a hard concept to grasp, being so big but also so connected, so I want to try and give you a real-life framework that might help. So, Zack and I are big fans of the band Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. We’ve seen them many, many times in concert, we follow them on social media, we even went to Nashville for a special show and did a mural tour that they suggested (SLIDE). And they are SUPER relatable people. I will tell Zack sometimes when I’m scrolling through Instagram, “oh did you see what Drew did?” like we’re on a first name basis, ok. 

But then this Thanksgiving, imagine my SURPRISE when (SLIDE) Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors were on the Solo Stove float at the Macy’s Parade! I was like, wait...this band is kind of a big deal? Like people know them, and not just us. We AREN’T 6 

actually on a first name basis and their music has a way bigger impact than just my family. 

And you could maybe apply that to any of your favorite music that you listen to. The reach is very personal but it’s also really wide and bigger than we realize. 

But here’s the difference when it comes to God—it's not one-sided. It’s not just a personal connection on OUR end. When it comes to God, that big God knows us. And that big God (SLIDE) is the kind of God that we can trust

And Jesus is the living example of what this looks like. His whole life is this miracle, this fulfillment of all these hopes and dreams, this idea that God would love people enough to come to earth...and he shows up as this normal guy who washes your feet and sits at your dinner table. 

He loves in a way that perfectly embodies the idea of this name “Everlasting Father.” And one of the clearest places he does this is in his relationship with his disciple Peter. Full disclosure, Peter is my FAVORITE disciple because he is just the realest of the real. And being so real, sometimes, he makes it incredibly hard for Jesus (or anyone) to love him! I mean, his temper is so bad that once he cuts off a guy’s ear in a fit of righteous rage. And you know, in that moment, Jesus is I’m sure very annoyed, but he is just calm and says, “Peter. Put the sword away. We don’t cut off people’s ears. Let’s be reasonable here.” 7 

So with a guy like Peter, it would have made a lot of sense to most people for Jesus to have walked away from him. Because it’s not just his temper, it’s the fact that he even goes so far as to deny that he knows Jesus when Jesus is in his very worst moment. But the thing about how Jesus loves, is he loves Peter when he’s faithful...and he loves Peter when he’s fallen. And there are no conditions attached to this love. Peter doesn’t have to earn it. Peter doesn’t have to be less of a wild card. It’s just how Jesus loves. It’s forever and it’s right now and it isn’t going anywhere. 

That’s how an Everlasting Father loves. It’s not seasonal or transactional or any of the other limiting things that can be true of our human relationships. God is in this for the long game – Jesus proves in relationship with Peter, God shows it with the ancient Israelites that Isaiah is talking to, and we see in this truth in how the Holy Spirit is in relationship with us right now. 

The bottom line is that (SLIDE) God is in this for the long game. No matter who we are or what doubts we hold or what traumas we’ve walked through, God’s not going anywhere. We don’t have to worry that this love is going to run out because that’s just not who God is. This isn’t a relationship that is earned or lost, it’s just how the possessor of eternity sees you and me and everyone else—as people who are absolutely, with no exceptions, deeply loved. 

This kind of God doesn’t give up on us. No matter what. 8 

I remember a time when I got to experience this kind of love in a very real way. When I was in third grade, I was on a (wait for it) competitive Jump Rope Team. We were called The Rockin’ Ropesters. If you didn’t think I was cool before this moment, here we are. 

But so I was on this jump rope team, and when you were on the Rockin Ropesters, there was a whole outfit. Blue shorts, white polo, special shoelaces, and this very specific hairstyle with these shiny hair tie accessories. I LOVED IT!! 

But there was a slight issue for me getting this look together. Some of you know that part of my story is that my mom died when I was really young. And my dad did not necessarily have the required skills to pull off the hairstyle. So I would show up to stuff at the beginning just kind of looking a mess. And I think how this potentially could have been super annoying for the teachers running this club of 30 jump roping 3rd graders. But my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Oden, was one of the coaches, and she noticed what was going on. She knew my family situation and she pulled me aside and said, “you come 15 minutes early, and I’ll do your hair and it will look like everyone else’s”. And she did. Every single time, she was the one making sure my outfit and hair were exactly right. She made sure that I always had a ride to practice or competitions and that I never stood out as the kid who didn’t have a mom. She just took me under her wing and cared for me in a setting where I could have felt very 9 

alone or sad because I didn’t have what all the other kids had. She just loved me really well. 

I’ve always remembered Mrs. Oden and how she cared for me. And one of the most amazing parts of this story, is that decades later, when I was at a St. Luke’s function, I was talking to someone there. Talking to someone who actually attends Midtown now. You might know Lee, she’s on our hospitality team here. And we discovered in this conversation about where we were from and our backgrounds that the woman who was Mrs. Oden to me...was mom to her. (SLIDE) 

I was so stunned that God would connect the two of us like that, so many years later. That I would get the chance to tell Mrs. Oden’s daughter what an impact her mom had on me and how that unconditional love really shaped my life. 

I can’t explain things like that. I can’t explain how God loves us well enough to connect us to Godself and to people who remind us that we matter. That we are worth loving. That there is something bigger than whatever we’re going through and we’re not alone. 

I can’t explain it...but I’ve lived it. And maybe you have too. And because I’ve lived it, that’s the kind of love I hold on to as tight as I can. 

You know, this is the time of year where we really need to hold on to this kind of everlasting love. Because I know that this is the time of year where we gather with people and sometimes 10 

those gatherings are really full of joy and sometimes they can be really painful. Maybe both things are true at the same time. But this is the time of year where we can see what’s broken in our relationships in a different way. And I know some of you over the next couple of weeks are so excited about who you’ll see and what you’ll do...and I know some of you are kind of dreading it. 

So here’s what I want you to hold on to over the next few weeks— (SLIDE) You are loved. You are loved by the one who holds all of eternity and still knows your very name. And if you need to write that down and put it in your pocket and pull it out and read it again and again I want you to do that. Because if you remember ONE thing you heard in church this Christmas season, I really hope this is it. It’s the most important thing I can tell you. 

Because NOTHING and NO ONE can change the love that the Everlasting Father has for you. And God will do anything and everything to make sure that we know that. That’s the story of Jesus in a nutshell. And it’s the story we carry with us wherever we go. 

Let’s pray.