Sabbath ramblings...

Yesterday one of my daughters posted pictures from our recent birthday weekend - and, once again, that set me off thinking about how the symbolism of God as parents works for some and doesn't for others.  All metaphors are incomplete, to be sure, and they clearly shift in their effectiveness over time, culture and context.

+ To think of God as "Abba" - or "poppa" as my daughters sometimes say - is tender and intimate; but only if your real life father embodied those traits, yes?  Otherwise, it is frightening and oppressive. With my children - and the children at church - their vulnerability and innocence evokes within me a deep compassion and concern that I know is born from above.

+ I recall making a conscious shift in my theological and liturgical language in the late 70s - leaving behind a lot of masculine words for God - and sensing this had great value for a hundred reasons.  I also discovered, however, that in some places and times, I wanted and needed to speak to my "heavenly poppa" and ideology made it uncomfortable.  My hunch is that it was then - in the late 80s - that I started to give up on being consistently politically correct in favor of deeper pastoral care.

I rather like Peterson's reworking of I Corinthians 9 when he shares St. Paul's insight about this:

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

I am still very clear that inclusive language helps more than it hinders in public worship - and can be done in either a poetic way or a heavy-handed way - so beauty trumps ideology.  This brings to mind another insight of the apostle's found in Romans 12:

Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."

Back in my Cleveland days, my spiritual director, Fr. Jim, spoke of the sacrament of confession in these terms:  Just as Jesus came to show us a God we could touch (the incarnation), confession gives us a God who listens and forgives.  It is a tangible symbol of God's grace.  That made a world of sense to this died in the wool Protestant because it takes the pastoral moment seriously and makes grace visible.   I have been blessed countless times being a father - and give thanks that I can be nourished by my heavenly Father - and Mother - and Light and Hope and Spirit, too. 

I don't have too many illusions that my love is anything like God's, but it does connect me to a lover greater than myself - and gives me hope and comfort, too. (How 'bout this blast from the past?)

I have also come to value the bridgegroom/bride metaphor as a relationship with the One who is Holy.  In my marriage with Dianne I have learned about failure and grace - frustration and joy - presence and hope, too.  And while I believe this metaphor needs to be extended and explored given the call to gender justice, I don't want to lose it either as it has shown me something of how God is with me at my best and worst.  Certainly this is true for Di - and if we are created in God's image - how much more so for the Lord?  Isaiah 62:

No more will anyone call you Rejected,
and your country will no more be called Ruined. You'll be called Hephzibah (My Delight), and your land Beulah (Married),
Because God delights in you
and your land will be like a wedding celebration.
For as a young man marries his virgin bride,
so your builder marries you,
And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride,
so your God is happy with you.

I'm not so much into the abstract metaphors as my communion with God is intimate and both cosmic and personal.  What metaphors work best for you?  I would be blessed to know...


Black Pete said…
Water: lifegiving, powerful profound,opaque yet translucent, upholding, yet terrifying. Answers need, not desire.
RJ said…
Most excellent - thanks.

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