In a world in which most religions begin with God the Father or some sort of male image of the divine, and are founded by male figures such as Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, do we undervalue Motherhood or the role of women in faith?
Once, on Mother’s Day, I referred to God as our parent in my pastoral prayer for the day. Only hours after worship I was sent a long email by one of my congregants calling me down for using the term parent instead of Father.
They had not noticed before that I always call God, God. I replied to their email by reminding them that God is neither a man nor a woman, but Spirit. Certainly, Jesus called God Father, Abba much of the time. But, Jesus also used other imagery, including female imagery. . . .“How often have I desired to gather you children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Luke 13:34
I met a young man once who was outside the church who had an abusive relationship with his father and so never wanted anything to do with God until he was told it was okay not to think of God as his father. I also know several successful business women who believe the church is still so patriarchal that they shudder at the thought of being in a place where they would be disallowed to do anything because of their gender.
We need to let go of the idea that God is one dimensional and has a long white beard sitting up in the clouds. We need to celebrate the vastness of God with the many imageries the Bible uses. God is Spirit who is infinite and cannot be fully defined in human terms, but can be understood a little more as a good parent who loves unconditionally.
This Sunday, on Mother’s Day, we will look at some of the qualities of God that we can see in our mothers, one being that of comforter. As the book of Isaiah says, “As a mother comforts her child, so I [God] will comfort you; you shall be comforted” (66:13).
My hope is that all loving images of God are celebrated, because other then Jesus, God has no favorite child.