Featured Quaker Sermons Six Months Quaker Preacher

The Testimony of Enough (Matthew 6:19-34)

Editorial note: This week we discussed over email the question “What comes to mind for you when you think of plainness (or simplicity)?” We had a ton of responses from people on our church’s email group. All the responses were thoughtful and helpful. Because there was such a great response I didn’t have to cover some of the basics of this question. One thing that came out of the emails was the fact that some feel more drawn to the word simplicity over plainness or vice versa. This was a big part of the discussion over email. Even still, for those who liked one or the other, the outcome, or way that people shared was similar. I even found myself swapping in plainness where some wrote simplicity, because I am one who prefers the older term for this testimony. The message assumes this prior email conversation.

Plainness vs. Simplicity

One thing I found really interesting over the course of our emails was the discussion that arised around the particular words I suggested: plainness and simplicity. What is funny is that many of you gravitated towards simplicity and for me it was an after thought to put simplicity in there.

My guess is that when people hear plain, they hear “amish,” old order, dull, maybe even “uncool.”

If I had to choose, I actually tend to use “plainness” far more often for two reasons. First, it is more historical accurate as the word early Friends used when they discussed these issues (that and “wanton” minds!). For instance, George Fox wrote an epistle (no. 250) which challenged Friends “to keep out of the vain fashions of the world…[and] to keep in modesty and plainness, fervency and sinceity and be circumspect…take heed of the world’s fashions, lest you be moulded up into their spirit.” Early Friends believed that the powers of the world, which included fashions, and what we might call consumer culture today, had the power to mold us into its likeness rather than God’s.

It is also known as the testimony of plainness in the old faith and practices. Here’s a statement from 1746, which falls under the heading plainness, but also includes the other word:

We tenderly exhort all, seriously to consider the plainness and simplicity which the gospel enjoins, and to manifest it in their speech, apparel, furniture, salutations and conversation, into which our forefathers were led by the Spirit of Christ, in conformity with his precepts and example; and for which they patiently suffered long imprisonments, and great persecutions; being convinced that it was their duty thus to bear a testimony against the vain spirit of the world.—1746.

There are many examples of this taking place in early Quakerism: Speech, Church buildings, Titles, Clothing, Public amusements, Sports, etc.

For William Penn, “the cares and pleasures of this life choke and destroy the seed of the Kingdom, and quite hinder all progress in the hidden and divine life.”

The other reason why I have tended to prefer it is becuase I find it to be more direct, the fact that it rubs us the wrong way isn’t necessary a bad thing. For one thing hasn’t our culture co-opted simplicity? Think of every product, every gadget that promises to make your life more simple. There is the simplicity of design that we see in modern furniture, cell phones, vehicles, kitchen-wares, there’s the time-saving and simplification devices that can help you “spend time on the people who really matter.” Whatever grit the word simplicity had, in my opinion, was lost on marketing table years ago.

Plainness in my mind has more teeth than simplicity (even if misunderstood). We know when something is plain. And before we write it off, think for a moment what you don’t like about the word? Where do those feelings come from? My sense is that we have a really hard time reconciling with the idea that we might not fit in, that what we will do might be percieved as a little off, odd, or strange. One person mentioned over email that it is surely no compliment to be the plain kid in school. And the nick name “plain jane” is anything but a pick up line. We want to be followers of Christ so long as it is socially acceptable.

Have you watched the movie Almost Famous [Taken From JR’s blog]? It’s a story about a 15-year old boy who gets to go on tour with a band called Stillwater in the early seventies. His task is to write an article for Rolling Stone Magazine. Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays the main character Lester Bangs has this classic line he says in the film, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

For early Friends, the point wasn’t that they did these things to be weird, or to look different, plainness wasn’t an end goal. In fact, it was much the opposite and when we look back at early Friends and admire their faith, their courage and sacrifice we need to remember that this kind of vibrant and beautiful faith stemmed from a conviction that what really matters is our faithfulness to being obedient to the way of Christ. Plainness was the practice that helped them to be free to do this. Plainness is a means, it is a conviciton that in order to follow Christ, somethings in life have to be given up, somethings need to be sacrificed because they work against Christian discipleship. They mold us in a different direction. They believed that in our world there are two powers at work, the power of the Lord, and the power of the evil one, these two masters are constantly battling, and the way we live our lives, what we invest ourselves in, what we spend our time on, what we put our hands to furthers one or two of these kingdoms. This is the point Jesus is making about the two different kinds of treasures in our passage this morning. This was a church that sought to avoid anything superflous, wanton, and vain because they wanted to get to the heart of authentic Christian life.

Consequences of a Life Following Christ

Another point about this is that for Early Friends faith was much more like a taking on a covenant of marriage than it was to believe in a set of rules or doctrines. There was this idea that upon recognizing and coming under the power of Christ one enters into a covenant with the Lord in a way that his or her life is entirely re-made. All their choices, the way they live, how they act, what they enjoy, their priorities all change because of this covenantal encounter with Christ, similar to what you have when you get married. Once your married you no longer live for yourself, everything you do, every choice you make takes into account the needs, desires, and your love for your spouse.

Over time, in the 19th century, this idea of a covenant with Christ transformed into church being more about a contract of a set of rules that someone signs. This is when the word plainness was dropped and the word simplicity was picked up. Simplicity is a little easier to accept, and after all what is simple to one person doesn’t have to be simple to another. Thus, it became uprooted from the context of a community and was more a testimony as rule, rather than a testimony as a consequence. That communal, consequence of conviction that arises from obedience to Christ became a lifestyle rule that we choose on own privately how we handle it.

So then, when we talk about testimonies, regardless of the words that we use, I think we need to recapture this idea of communal, consequence of conviction. That we collectively consider how the Spirit of Christ is leading us to live our lives, what Christ is guiding us to spend our time on, our money on, etc. Christian discipleship requires sacrifice and a giving up of oneself, that will lead us to cultivate a “plain” life.

Matthew 6:19-34

Treasures of Enough

In our bibical text this morning, which comes again from the Sermon on the Mount – like our previous two testimonies, Jesus talks about what we possess, who we serve, and our stance towards that which we need to live. Here is where Jesus talks about the two treasures, and the two masters.

In v. 19-21 Jesus says that where your investments are is where your attention is. So if you have a bunch of invetsments in the stock market and they bomb, you know what he’s getting at in a real way. But he doesn’t just mean your investments. I think what he means here is anything that makes you unfree, anything that molds you into its own likeness and begins to control your time, your resources, your identity, your allegiances, etc.

Our treasures on earth, whatever that may be, are the obstacles to our discipleship with Christ, they bind us up and make us unfree. To Jesus, “stuff” changes our lives, wealth distorts our priorities from the kingdom of God. All around him he saw people being ignored because they were sick and poor, or exploited to make others rich. His entire ministry was to welcome these kinds of people who were casualties of money and power. Jesus says your heart is with your treasures, that means your true loyalty, your love, your passion is with what your heart possesses.

Nothing enslaves more than that which we cannot live without. – S. Hauerwas

The testimony of plainness today then asks, what is it that makes you unfree? Where is the treasure of your heart? What can you not live without? We need to repent of being “This is because we are possessed by our possessions,” and turn to God who gives real treasure.

Abundance of Creation

Finally, we turn to the last portion of our text where Jesus talks about the lilies of the field, the birds of the air and clothing the grass of the field. I think is appropriate for our times because many of us are worried about what is going on with Jobs, etc. If you want to know what a new revision of the testimony of plainness might be, then we need to return to creation for our theology and include it in this conversation. Because Jesus sees it as the main example of God tending, caring for, and treasuring what is beautiful and in a way that all is cared for.

Why are the animals important in a reflection on plainness? For one there is a natural beauty in the created world that doesn’t require superflous things. Another is that the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, and the grass of the field do not worry and I think to live a plain life is resistance to our current consumer culture which causes undue amounts of worry. They trust that God is a God of abundance. It is us who do not trust. Our lack of trust comes out in hording. We take (and consume) as much as we can, as much as is allowed by our credit reports, because we do not trust that God is a God of abundance. Worry is a symptom of our desire for control over our circumstances, worry is also a symptom of our being molded by a consmer culture. If we do not worry, then we are content, and if we are content with who we are and what we have, then we will not sucomb to latest marketing pitch.

“Abundance, not scarcity, is the mark of God’s care for creation. But our desire to live without fear cannot help but create a world of fear constitude by the assumption that there is never enough. Such a world cannot help but be a world of injustice and violence because it is assumed that under conditions of scarcity our only chance for survivial is to have more.” (S. Hauerwas, 82)

The more (superflous) things we try to amass for ourselves, the more we are operating out of an understanding that God is a God of scarcity rather than abudnace. For us to not worry is to resist the anxieties of our world and live in a way that is marked by a life that lives out of a covenant with Christ, ready and free to be obedient when he leads us.

If we learn to see God the way Jesus saw him, as a God who can be trusted, who abundantly cares for all creation, including us, then we can grow into a community who operates out of that place of trust. Who recieves only what is given, who does not hoard, who shares with all, who does not over extend and exploit others, whether people or creation, we can then live a live of plainness, unfettered and free to follow Jesus Christ.

Blog Entries Quotations

An Uneasy Task for the Church – Romero

This is the mission entrusted to the church,

a hard mission:

to uproot sins from history,

to uproot sins from the political order,

to uproot sins from the economy,

to uproot sins wherever they are.

What a hard task!

It has to meet conflicts amid so much selfishness,

so much pride,

so much vanity,

so many who have entroned the reign of sin among us.

The church must suffer for speaking the truth,

for pointing out sin,

for uprooting sin.

No one wants to have a sore spot touched,

and therefore a society with so many sores twitches

when someone has the courage to touch it

and say: “You have to treat that.

You have to get rid of that.

Believe in Christ.

Be converted.”

Oscar Romero – The Violence of Love

Featured Quaker Six Months Quaker Preacher

Composting Quakerism: A Podcast Of Quaker Ministers from the NW

Last fall a few of us (younger) Quaker ministers from the Northwest Yearly Meeting got together to start work on a podcast. After a little deliberation we decided to call it Composting Quakerism (Facebook page), bringing together two of my very favorite things. Compost is rife with theological allusion, and packed full of living organisms in various stages of decay. The idea behind the podcast is to assume that within Quakerism there is both the decay, as well as that rich soil ready for new life. Each podcast we ask basic questions, does the Quaker faith have relevance in our lives, what is it like being Quaker ministers in the 21st century, and what needs to change.

On initial launch our facebook page steadily ramped up to 170 people, not too bad for a podcast by Quakers!  There’s been little feedback, but I know people listen because we’ll randomly get a friendly comment here or there about something we talked about. The podcast is really a roundtable discussion where Jason, Darla and I share stories, do a little talk about history, and then try and find ways to apply this in our new context. Our audio equip leaves a little to be desired so you may have to crank up the volume, but hey, we are fashioning our project around compost after all.

Blog Entries Six Months Quaker Preacher

Being Dad

Just the other day I said to my wife, Emily, “I really like being a dad.” I will tell our oldest daughter L that from time to time as well. I find that there are some events that take place, some moments along the journey of the day that really remind me that I really love being dad. Some of the things that typify this experience are things I remember doing with my dad(s): wrestling, making tents, playing on the playground and working on bikes are a few that come to mind. There are other days and other experiences that are completely new and these too have a way of helping me see, even if the glass through which I look is dark, what is so great about fatherhood.

Today was one of those days. I had been planning all week to take L down to our local bike shop, Camas Bike and Sport, to join in their one year anniversary festivities. I’ve been noticing that L has been showing interest in bikes a lot lately. She likes to check out mine and ask me about it, she likes to look at other people’s bikes, and we have an old, non-working, bike a neighbor left behind that she consistently asks to ride. So my idea was to hook up our burley trailer so that she and I could ride to the bike shop together, hang out, eat some free grub and let her do a little “window shopping.”

Well, for one, every moment with a 2.5 year old is a potential treasure trove of stories waiting to happen. She helped me assemble the hitch so to my bike so we could connect the trailer, all the while explaining to me how to do it with arms waving as she paced back and forth as if she was explaining a matter of grave importance. Then, when my hands were to big to pull a spring out of the gear shaft it was jammed in, she was able to grab it with her tiny fingers with no problem. Except one thing. She said, “Dad, hands dirty. Want to wash them!” Okay, not quite my little greasemonkey yet, but then again, I couldn’t wait to go wash my hands either. 😉

She loved riding in the trailer and frequently commanded, as only someone riding in something that looks way too much like an ancient Roman chariot would, “faster, faster, want to go faster.”

When we got to the bike shop we said hello to a few friends there. Checked out all the fancy bikes, while desperately trying to ward off envy, enjoyed eating some tacos provided by the Mexican restaurant across the street. (I put in a few raffle tickets to win a new commuter bike, but since I haven’t received any phone calls since yesterday, I’ll take that as an indication of how the raffle turned out.) I don’t think L has ever eaten hard-shelled tacos before (she’s had plenty of Mexican in her life however) and she loved it. But one of the things that cracked me up was that she only wanted to eat the bottom part of the taco were all the meat was (not something your vegetarian mother likes to hear!). And lastly, I got her to try out some different bikes. I am kind of interested in one of those balance bikes. I guess the theory goes, that kids are better off learning balance first on bikes with no peddles. Once they get that down (by age 3 for many) peddling is really easy. Sounds good to me. So we tried some out. L really only liked it if I would pull her around on it with her legs up in the air. Finally, she said, “Dad, I want a real bike.” As she ran over to the Barbie pink two-wheeler with training wheels (also happened to be twice as expensive as the balance bike!). So we rode that around for awhile. She’s been talking about riding bikes all day long now.

When we got home to take a nap I was pretty tired. So when I tried putting her to bed, I kept falling asleep. she’d grab my face and turn it toward her to check and see if I was still awake. I fell asleep while telling her a storied about a little girl who rode her pink bike back and forth to school and all the adventures she went on.

Featured Quaker Sermons Six Months Quaker Preacher The Biblical

The Testimony of Truthfulness (Matt. 5:33-37)

Text from my sermon June 13, 2010.

This morning we begin our summer long discussion on Quaker testimonies with the testimony of truthfulness, or what has more typically been called the testimony of truth-telling, honesty, integrity, against oath-taking, etc.

Irregardless of what we call it, listening to, learning, and living the truth are the central activities to the Quaker tradition of truth. These practices of the truth what we see in God’s own acts: when God speaks, God speaks truth, when God acts (as we see in the life of Jesus), God acts truthfully, and when we build communities based on the Holy Spirit these communities become learning communities of truth.

Blog Entries

Iconoclast: Interview with Wes Howard-Brook

Here is a really great interview from the Iconoclast this week which looks at the difference between a theology of creation and a theology of empire. The person they interview is Wes Howard-Brook whose commentary on John “Becoming Children of God” is really good (from what I’ve read so far) and who has a new book coming out that sounds equally fantastic: “Come out My People: God’s Call Out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond.” Read more about it on Jesus Manifesto.
Check out the podcast on iTunes:
Featured Sermons Six Months Quaker Preacher The Biblical

The Convergence of Quakerism – Ephesians 2:11ff

The text from my message given to Camas Friends Church June 6, 2010

Personal Histories

In the last couple weeks, I have been reflecting a lot on my own history, my own personal narratives that have shaped my life. With having recently gone home this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. I confess that I have a tendency to want to break with my past, to want to start over. I like clean slates (in fact, my dad was in a band by the same title, and so I’m a bit partial!). Who doesn’t like, and sometimes need a clean slate? One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is a new, unopened notebook. To open it for the first time. To see the clear white pages, to think about the possibilities, to decide what will get written in that notebook all inspire me.

Through these reflections I started to realize that my own tendency, or temptation, to neglect my history, and to turn away from it. I suppose there are many reasons, some potentially good, to do something like this but I came to the conclusion that for myself to pretend like it has no power over me is dishonest. To do that is for me to not be true to who I am. No matter the things I am ashamed of in my past, the things I do not understand, or cannot change, these are all woven into the fabric of my being. So I recognize within me the temptation to want a clean break.

Convergent Friends Featured Sermons The Biblical

Lady Wisdom as Mid-Wife (Proverbs 8)

While I was at Pendle Hill a couple weeks back I mentioned there was a lot of talk about meeting houses closing, there was a lot of talk about death, some literal death, some the death of our meetings and with it a (big) piece of our own stories. But there was more a sense that so much is changing in our world and within our meetings that it feels like the world as we know it is dieing. At one point one of our sessions, actually the session I was most looking forward to took a turn towards grief. We were talking about signs of life within the Friends church, exciting new communities, house churches, intentional communities doing justice oriented work, etc., and then all of a sudden people started sharing their greatest difficulties, the things they were worried about, their fears within their meeting. And we realized that there was some deep sadness over something being lost for many folks.

During one of our periods of open worship God reminded me of the role of a mid-wife. We all know what a mid-wife does and that maybe this is the language, and the image, that we in the church need to start considering. Because here we are in the middle of troubling times. I think we have a lot of rubble that is being created all around us, more rubble continues to form. We are in the middle of huge changes and transitions. Things really are changing. I don’t think in 10 years the church is going to exist in the way it does now if we don’t start to really consider some of this.

We cannot coast, we are facing crisis, we need more sustainable ways to exist as a community.

But we can press forward. Mid-wives do not, they cannot give up, or retreat when their laboring patient is in the middle of transition. They have the tools necessary, they have seen this thing before, and even though they don’t know exactly how it will all end, they accompany, guide, and nurture the new mother. Just like Lady Wisdom, they accompany the creative work of our heavenly creator.

Tony Lowe, who participated in our workshop reflected on this subject as well:

The same is true of the process that we must go through as well. New life means change which will be exciting to some, but threatening to others. I am convinced that some of the negative responses/attitudes even actions to the idea of convergence are coming from a place of feeling threatened or fearful of where it might lead. And the threat is not just a perceived one. There is by necessity an element of death in new life. Jesus told his disciples that a kernel of wheat had to fall to the ground and die in order to produce new life. And the same is true of Friends. As hard as it may be for some of us to accept, there will be death as a part of this new life, death of some institutions, places, and things we have cherished. There will be Friends’ Meetings and Friends’ churches that will be unwilling or unable to make the transition.

Then I began to think about the role of the midwife, not just as it relates to birth and new life, but also as comforter, caregiver, even as a companion at death. Like them, we are called to rejoice with the those who are bringing forth new life, but to offer comfort and care to those in the process , and to weep with those who life is ebbing away.

And so whether we are at Pendle Hill discussing whether we can see signs of life, or just the signs of death, whether we are worshipping with Quakers outside our own groups who have many differences but share a common language of the Spirit, or whether we are here in Camas imaging what kind of community we can build and sustain, not just for those of us here in this room today but for our young daughters and sons we need to consider the language we use, the tools we have for navigating these times. And that’s why I like this language of Lady Wisdom and the Mid-Wife. Both accompany, both nurture, bother are caregivers for new life, and are present during times of death. Like the ancient wisdom who calls, we have tools to make this through. We are not called to do this work on our own.

(See part one of this post)

Blog Entries The Biblical The Cultural

The Wounding of Creation

This morning someone in our meeting requested prayer for the oil spill and during the time of prayer the image of the oil spill came back to me in a powerful way. I envisioned the hole where the spill gushes out as a seeping wound. Creation is deeply wounded, and that wound continues to gush uncontrollably. We do not know what to do to make it stop. We technologically advances, brilliant, wealthy, powerful, people are utterly helpless to keep her from bleeding to death. We cannot make it stop. This excessive oozing of the “blood” flowing from creation is clear and obscene symbol for the wounding that creation has bore for quite some time now. For this short time, everyone is pained by these images. Many, when (and if) this is over, will try and wipe the slate clean and go on with their day-to-day lives, as though nothing ever happened. This is like the other tragedies that have happened this year, they all force us, for however short a time they last, to face the reality, that the Earth and its people are not to be taken for granted any longer. Right now, the images are stark and recurring. This obscenity of this situation, is the same as the woman who has bled for 12 years wandering out into the public to track down a healer-physican (Luke 8:42), it is intrusive as the lame man begging for help outside a place of worship day in and day out (Acts 3). It  is out in the open, unavoidable, unstoppable and absolutely intrusive. It tells us something about our society, and our own lives.

Creation is wounded, and there is nothing we can do to heal these scars. God help us. God forgive us.

Blog Entries Six Months Quaker Preacher The Biblical The Theological

Lady Wisdom, Feminine Divine and Proverbs 8

Last week we discussed Proverbs 8, here are some of my thoughts on the passage.

Let’s be honest here, the (divine feminine) language in this passage can be little shocking to American Christianity, which is so often dominated by men. Who is wisdom? Well, whoever she is, she’s a woman. I read this as saying that God has this feminine side, these attributes that do not fit the stereotypes of “masculine” spirituality. Joyce Hollyday says, “If In the Greek, she is named Sophia. In the New Testament, she appears as the Holy Spirit. In both she represents strength and creativity, truth and life.”

One writer says (Joan Chittister):

In Proverbs, wisdom is always a female figure. For example, from Proverbs 4: “Get wisdom, get understanding, do not forget or turn aside from the words I utter. Forsake her not, and she will preserve you. Love her, and she will safeguard you. Get wisdom at the cost of all you have. Get understanding, extol her and she will exalt you. She will bring you honors if you will embrace her.”

And an Old Testament theologian writes (W. Brueggeman) that:

“This poetry lines out three lyrical claims for “wisdom”:

*Wisdom has been there in creation since the outset. There never was a time when God’s world was not ordered according to coherent well-being.

*Wisdom is an agent in accomplishing creation, a “grand artisan” who contributes decisively to the project.

*The relation of the creator and wisdom is one of deep and endless joy; both together rejoice in the world and in the humanity that is known to be “good.”

In Christian tradition, and most especially in John 1 concerning the “Word,” it is asserted that this feminine “wisdom” came into the world specifically in Jesus of Nazareth, so that Jesus is the peculiar carrier of God’s good intentionality. ((all quotations above taken from Sojourners articles).

Now this isn’t stuff you typically learn about, but it’s right here. This passage tells us that “lady wisdom” was from the beginning part of the creative work of God, a great artist who was “like a master worker…” And it should challenge our use of language as the church.

When we start talking about where the church is headed, I think we need to really consider the language and the way in which we envision God. Because much of how we structure our communities, much of how we even talk about God leaves little room for anyone who doesn’t fit into the right gender stereotypes.

In other words, this is a call for a bigger, deeper, more open understanding of God, because we assume that we see God is reflected back in the way we see ourselves and treat others.

Again Chittister says:

The basic principle is that what is not in the language is not in the mind. So if you are ignoring women in church language, or lumping women under a so-called generic term which is only generic half of the time, then what you have done is erase half the population of the earth. They can exist only when somebody else calls them into existence. So half of us are left to figure out when they mean us and when they don’t.

That’s why in the Hebrew tradition the idea of naming, of giving identity to, is a very important part of the theology. And we recognize it at that level. But we have failed to recognize it when we say, “Dearly beloved brethren, let us pray for the grace to recognize that we are all sons of God.”

I never got that grace—that’s how I’m sure that kind of intercession doesn’t work. I remember from the time I was 5 years old, looking around the church, knowing that they had forgotten somebody; they’d forgotten me, and I was in the church. I was not a son of God. I was a daughter of God and very comfortable with that.

Many women I know have had similar experiences of this. This is something that needs to change in our churches, in our homes and in our societies. We need to work to make sure that women (or any people) are not being left out of the picture.

Quakers, Women and Language

And this talk about language, and how we use what we say to structure thought and communities has always been important to Quakers. This summer (at Camas Friends) we’ll spend sometime talking about plain speech, and why we say meetings and meetinghouses when we talk about the church building.

Quakers have historically, at least when they are at their best, not just affirmed the equality of men and women but sought to put that into practice and create structures that are from the beginning formed for this purpose. If we all have the Inward Light of Christ, if we are all God’s children, and can all respond to that of God within us, then we truly are equal in God’s eyes. Unfortunately, we often don’t actually believe this with our actions. Often it has been those in power who have sought to make this less than true, but this is not always the case.

Quakers have encouraged women to preach and be ministers since the 1660’s, this is something we like to be proud of. Yet, we know, just by looking around at our churches that we don’t necessarily really believe this to be true. Much more work needs to be done and some of it has to do with the very language we use.

I was reading some Quaker history this week and the author of the book, Elbert Russell, wrote that in the transition from non-pastoral to pastoral meetings there was also a transition towards more male leadership. And I think that as pastoral friends we really need to consider this, and consider why this has happened, and how we might undue it as well. We need churches that practice a faith where all are empowered to be fully alive in the Spirit. Part of this will be speaking in ways that the women in our communities see themselves in God just as much as we men do.

Two Ladies

And I want to be clear on two personal points here. I have not always believed this, because I never learned this perspective until I got a little older. I was a part of a community that wouldn’t even recognize my mom as having leadership roles in our church, even though she was one of our youth leaders for years and was clearly gifted for that work. So I understand the place where many of us come from in this bigger issue and I also know that I still have a long way to go in learning about all of this.

And now as a father of two young women, these questions have hit home for me in a new way.

Following all this then, is a call for more language that incorporates both the masculine and feminine divine and sees God, and our language about God, as being far outside gender stereotypes. What must we do to help bring about change in this area? This is a call, in the middle of a world spinning out of control, to search not just for new ways to talk about our spirituality, but to make sure that everyone’s voices are being lifted up. As Chittister says, “It isn’t that we shouldn’t call God “Father.” It is that we shouldn’t call God only Father. It isn’t that Jesus wasn’t male. It is that Jesus was a great deal more than male.”

Rather, we need a plurality of images drawn from women’s and men’s experiences, not only with each other but with the creative power of nature as well: God as fire, bread, breath of life, mountains, and waters. We need to create transformative metaphors that give both men and women the sense of their holistic potential, and don’t just duplicate gender stereotypes on the divine level. God can be loving father who carries the little child in his arms and strong mother who, like the mother eagle, pushes us from the nest and teaches us how to fly. Interestingly enough, all these images are already present in the Bible. Rosemary Radford Ruether