Sunday’s Scripture ~ Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7, 2:18-22
This week the Tuskawilla community begins a four-week series exploring the collect prayer form. The collect prayer form dates from medieval times. The collect prayer has four components. Each week of the series we will explore one component of the prayer. This week we begin with you.
The you in the collect prayer refers to the entity to which we are praying. As Trinitarian Christians the you we are praying to is the Triune God and our God has many names. Growing up the names I typically used for God were God, Lord, and Father. I was comfortable with these names because I was raised and my faith formed around these names for God.
And then I went to college…and I was exposed to a new way of thinking about names for God. Unfamiliar words, concepts, and descriptors of God seeped into my worldview. I was rocked by the teachings of women like Rosemary Radford Ruether, Mary Daly, and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. Offerings from female and feminist theologians and philosophers began shaping me. God can be God the Father / He, but God is not limited to God the Father / He. What about God the Mother? God the Bakerwoman? God giving birth through the act of creation?
What about conceptions of God beyond God the Father?
Why is this necessary? Why do we need so many names for God? Is there something wrong with God the Father/ He? I do not think there is any wrong with these names, descriptors, or conceptions of God. But I think the Father / He descriptors limit how we describe our God. Father / He places God in a box…God created the box, but God does not exist in the box.
True, our fallible, imperfect human language can only glimpse in words all that our God is, but expanding our vocabulary and conceptions of God breathes incredible life and vitality into our understanding of God. Additionally, there are persons present in our world that have terrible horrors in their past. Referring to God as Father, King, Conqueror, Mother or others may stir up hurt feelings or painful memories that they do not want to relive in their personal communion with God; therefore, they find a name that is comfortable or approachable in their relationship.
I am privileged to serve as the leader of a faith community and in my leadership I am sensitive to inclusivity concerning names for God. Whereas I grew up using Father / He now I refer to God as God, Lord, Savior, and balance my imagery for God with masculine and feminine descriptors. This personal practice helps me remember that God is beyond gender stereotypes. God created us in God’s image – the way that God wanted us to be – male and female God created us. I believe God bears within God’s self all the possible expressions and descriptors; so, the treasure trove of descriptors and names for God that we have at our finger tips is as deep and as plentiful and as full of surprises as Mary Poppin’s carpet bag.
What name do you use for God? What names or descriptors for God are comfortable for you to use and known to you? Which names or descriptors for God challenge you or call you out of your comfort zone? Consider these questions as you pray this week. Explore if God is calling you to breathe into using a new name in your relationship.
Prayer: “God, like a bakerwoman, you bring the leaven which causes our hopes to rise. With your strong and gentle hands, shape our lives. Warm us with your love. Take our common lives and touch them with your grace, that we may nourish hope among humanity. We pray trusting in your name, through Jesus our Christ. Amen.”*
*Prayer by Ruth Duck, The United Methodist Book of Worship, 469.