St. Matthew’s Sermon 05-14-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 05-14-2017

Mother God

Acts 7:55-60, 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen.

There was a lot of required reading when I was in Seminary. The vast number of texts that were required for each course, much less each semester, was the root of many jokes on campus. And even the professors would admit that you probably could not do all the reading assigned and those you would have to read parts of while doing research for the papers we had to write. So, a student soon learned how to skim through a book; taking in the important stuff, while skipping over everything the author wrote just to fill up the pages. There was one book, however, that sucked me in so quickly and thoroughly that I read every word. That book was “The Shack”[1]; also, recently, made into a movie.

I’ve yet to see the movie but my understanding is that it held true to the book and I was particularly pleased to hear that the characters were cast as they were presented in the book. Unfortunately, not everyone was willing to accept God and the Holy Spirit being played by women.

The book is fiction, the author never tried to present it as anything else. There were theological implications that I couldn’t agree with mixed with those I could but, overall, I found it to inspire thought and raise questions about our (my) assumptions regarding the Holy Trinity; questions that needed to be considered: Like why couldn’t God be seen as a woman in the main characters vision?

We don’t know what God looks like but in our small human minds it is helpful for us to have some imagined figure to help us connect at a personal level to something that is far beyond our ability to comprehend. It’s the same thing that art does for us; like our pictures of Jesus (Painting). We don’t know that this painting of Jesus accurately portrays the man who walked the earth 2000 years ago, but it gives us something tangible to help us connect.

Now, the one thing we can be quite certain that is presented correctly in this particular painting is that, here, Jesus is presented as a male. There’s nothing to argue against that being fact. But we can’t say the same about God. Yes, in most cases in the Bible God is referred to in the masculine; and Jesus refers to God as “Father”; but again, maybe that’s the best he and the ancient scripture writers could do to bring something so mysterious down to the human level of understanding.

And then, there’s the Holy Spirit.

Kind of as an aside, but not completely, while doing some research for this sermon I came upon an article in which the author, condemning the feminine images presented in “The Shack”, stated emphatically, “Father is HE [period] Son is HE [period] Holy Spirit is HE [period]”.[2] She (it is a woman writing this by-the-way) could be confident in her assertion because her bible uses the masculine pronoun “HE” for each; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit[3]. But if she was familiar with the original Greek she would know that, as far as “The Spirit” is concerned, the gender designation is neuter, requiring a strict translation (which she is demanding) to render the pronoun “it”; the “he” is an obvious bios of the translators. But then, as I’ve been saying, would our small, human minds be able to make that deep connection we desire with an “it”? Or, then again, if arbitrarily assigning gender to the Spirit for the purpose of personification, why not use “she”? Which brings me to the point of all this.

Just think, for a moment, about all the secular images we have for nature and for nurture. How many of those are feminine?

We so often hear, in reflections on our natural world, the title “Mother Nature”. It’s quite fitting isn’t it? The natural world flourishes, grows gloriously, and is well sustained as if under the constant care of a mother.

And, how about the sight of an infant nursing at its mother’s breast; the very image of peace and the sense of everything being right in the world.

Even in the Gospels we hear the words spoken, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” (Luke 11:27). Or in today’s Epistle reading we hear motherly metaphor relating to God with the words “Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good”.

And, in humanity or in the natural world, who is more fiercely determined in defense of their offspring than their mother? Jesus himself said “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matt. 23:37) And even the most timid, gentle, mild mannered woman can turn into a grizzly bear if you threaten to do harm to her child.

Now think, are these not also attributes we find in God? And with that, is it offensive to think of the feminine attributes of God?


In the book, “The Shack”, Mack grew up with an abusive father. So, in the context of the story, could he have found the comfort he so desperately need if God appeared to him as a man? In that context it makes perfect sense for his vision of God to be portrayed by a woman; who cooked food for him; and gently nurtured him; in every way he needed!


I do not propose we change all of our prayers and liturgy to refer to God as “Heavenly Mother”; for that matter, I’m not even proposing that we make all of our liturgy gender neutral. But I do not see why we cannot recognize the motherly attributes of God along with the Fatherly. And I see no reason that we should not celebrate the Motherly attributes of one who longs to gather us under her wing, feed us with the pure spiritual milk of her breast and defend us as fiercely as a momma grizzly. And, if it can bring us that much closer to understanding the love of God, why not portray God with images of a woman in art or in our imagination?

[Looking up] Happy Mother’s Day. Amen.


Prayer: O wonderful God, who exists in ways and in places far beyond our imagination; and who gives us so much more than we deserve, hear us as we lift our thanks and praise to you as a community  in this hour and as individuals at any time we pause to recognize your presence in our lives.

Forgive us for the ways that we try to shrink you into the smallness of our understanding rather than striving to expand our minds toward the greatness of the mystery; and teach us to love as you have loved us; without boundaries; without conditions; without expectations.

We also pray for those who are in need of your love and care and that we may be encouraged and empowered to bring healing to the sick, food to the hungry, fullness to the marginalized, and inclusiveness to the rejected in your name.

And, in this special day, we ask for special blessings for all the mothers in our world and those who are no longer with us; bless those who wanted to be mothers but never were, and bless those who were mothers but now are childless.

Finally, Lord, I ask that you hear the personal praises and requests lifted to you by each one in this moment of silence… …In the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ we lift these prayers to you. Amen


Acts 7:55-60
7:55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
7:57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.
7:58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
7:59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
7:60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

1 Peter 2:2-10
2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation-
2:3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
2:4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and
2:5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
2:6 For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
2:7 To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,”
2:8 and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
2:10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

John 14:1-14
14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
14:2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
14:4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
14:7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
14:8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”
14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
14:12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
14:13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14:14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.


[1]William P. Young: Windblown Media, 2016. ©2007

[2]Mary Kassian;

[3]Example: John 16:13-24 New Revised Standard Version