Tanya Wittwer writes in reply to Doug, in the last post.
In a comment on a previous posting, Doug asked Karin, “Karen what do you mean God Him/Herself . Where do you get that idea from God is a she (sic). Yes you would like that wouldn’t you.”
None of the names and words we have for God can describe the totality of God, and perhaps none accurately describe any of the characteristics of God. The love of God is surely of a totally different dimension than love we can know as human beings. The strength of God bears no relation to human strength. So all we have are metaphors.
Just a week or two back, the lectionary Gospel for the day included one of Jesus’ images for a searching God: the woman searching for the lost coin. The church has had no difficulty in the images either side of this one (Luke 15:3-10 the caring shepherd, Luke 15:11-23 the waiting father), but the image of Luke 15:8-10 is rarely found in artwork, prayer or language for God.
The Hebrew Scripture reinforces the idea that God is beyond gender, with the words for the Holy Spirit (Ruach Hakodesh) and for God’s visible presence (Shekinah) being feminine terms. It is unfortunate that the English language does not make it easy for us to talk about God in language that avoids gendering.
One strong biblical feminine image is that of God the birthing creator. In Isaiah 42:14, God says, “like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant,” and in Deuteronomy 32:18b “You forgot the God who gave you birth.” Often feminine and masculine images of God are found side by side, as in Job 38:28,29. Other passages portray God as the mother feeding her young, caring for her young children, cleaning us, clothing us, wiping away our tears (Isaiah 66:13). Matthew and Luke report Jesus’ longing to gather God’s people, as a hen gathering her chickens under her wings.
The incarnation was into a male body. But Jesus’ gender does not limit the Word to male embodiment. The Word became human to save all humanity, and call all humanity into the reality of God’s reign, where we are united as one in Christ regardless of gender (Galatians 3:28).
One of the difficulties of the church having used only male language for God is that it seems many forget that our words reflect only images of God, and instead fall into the idolatry of creating God in the image of man. Male naming and identification becomes part of legitimating the oppression of women. Scripture tells us that “God created the earth creature [adam] in God’s own image, in the image of God they were created: male and female God created them.” (Genesis 1:27 – my translation). An important aspect of my pastoral work is inviting women to know clearly that they, too, are created in God’s image.