Monday, May 15, 2017

Upper Room Liturgy - May 14 - Mother's Day

Deb Trees and Dave DeBonis led the Upper Room liturgical celebration on Sunday, May 14 – Mother’s Day. Dave’s Homily starter for the community’s shared homily and Deb’s homily conclusion are printed below a reading from Yolanda Pierce: Why God is a Mother, Too.

Why God Is a ‘Mother,’ Too
Yolanda Pierce, May, 2013

Long before I became familiar with the academic debates concerning calling God “Mother,” debates that I am now currently a part of as a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, I was being raised in a household where I instinctively understood that the divine presence was manifest in the loving hands and arms of mothers, and most especially in the life of my grandmother who raised me. My grandmother’s kitchen was a theological laboratory where she taught me how to love people just as naturally as she taught me to make peach cobbler and buttermilk biscuits. I watched and listened as she ministered to the sick and the lost, with a Bible in one hand and a freshly baked pound cake in the other, despite having no official ministry role. 

I knew that if God was real, if God truly loved me as a parent loves a child, then God was also “Mother” and not only “Father.” Only years of dogma and doctrine force you to unlearn what you know to be true in your own heart, demanding “Father” as the only acceptable appellation and concept for God.

Scholars who oppose the notion of God as Mother often focus on the gender of Christ and his naming of God as “Abba” or Father. Others argue that God is beyond gender, all the while privileging masculine language to understand God. There are also scholars, myself among them, who support the naming of God as Mother along with God as Father, deriving their support from biblical passages which privilege more “feminine” metaphors and analogies, including the image of God as a nursing mother (Isaiah 49:15; Numbers 11:12); God as a midwife (Psalm 22:8-10); and God as one who gives birth (Isaiah 42:14). We do not have to choose only one form of address. God is Creator and Sustainer. God is Protector and Defender. God is Mother and Father. If we are humble, we know that human words and metaphors are incomplete and can never do justice to describing the majesty of who God is.

These are the inspired words of Yolanda Pierce and the community responds by saying:   Amen.

Homily Starter by Dave DeBonis.

Katherine Attanasi in her June 2014 article entitle Can We Call God Mother?  states that “describing God using characteristically feminine terms can elucidate important aspects of God’s nature. She points to images of God as “giving birth, nursing, comforting, and caring highlight humanity’s complete reliance on God.” She also notes that it is a critical part of Christin history to acknowledge our “dependence on God for both spiritual and natural birth.” Attanasi also notes that because we were ALL were created in God’s image and “women’s realities offer helpful metaphors for describing ‘divine mystery.’”

Debbie Blue in her article entitled God's Feminine Side Is Plain to See points out that the writers of the bible were clearly at a loss when trying to find the best images and metaphors for God. They referred to God as “a lily, a rose, dew, wind and fire. God is a mother bear and a lion. On the other hand God is not a lion, but a lamb. God is not in the fire or the wind, but in the still small voice.” Clearly out metaphors are not serving us well when it comes to the divine.

Blue also notes that God was frequently referred to as a bird but unlike the Roman Empire that exalted the eagle because of the images of strength and power that it evoked, Jesus compared himself to a hen when addressing the people of Jerusalem, saying “How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings." Blue points out that Jesus chose not the majestic and muscular image of the eagle but rather and the loving one.

We certainly are overdue in ending this unidimensional image of God that minimizes the complex, and multifaceted nature of the Divine. Let’s give God as Father equal standing as all the other images that attempt, with limited success, to understand a mystery. Let’s rid ourselves of the need for God to be Superman and open ourselves to a God that is gentle, loving, and nurturing. As Blue notes, “Jesus reveals God's essential being not as power, but love. Like the hen with her wings over her chicks, there is some fragility in this picture. But perhaps images of a vulnerable God are important if we hope to have a world that is not overrun by bullies and corporate kings.”
We are the living stones that build the church and spread the message of Jesus. Stones have no gender and each one is equally important. We are told by Peter that we have been chosen, that we are precious in God’s sight, and that we are a royal priesthood so let us continue the work of Jesus recognizing the profound strength in gentleness.  

Homily Conclusion, Deb Trees
Today, we remember and honor those who nurtured us: parent, extended family, neighbors and friends.  Our special day of commemoration helps us to stabilize our thoughts, and our lives.  We acknowledge, with the celebration of this day, our connection to those who touch our lives, and our connection to being human.  Mother and Father, the Spirit of God in human form, is based on OUR knowing, OUR experience, and ways for us to make sense of the Spirit who walks with us and lifts us up. Spirit cannot possibly be only one or the other. Duality is not consistent with an all-knowing and all-power Infinite Being. Here in this wonderful day of tribute and love, let us be connected to our birthing, creative experience and knowing.  And let us share what we know with all who touch our lives, in constant gratitude.

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