The God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness …” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1: 26-27
Humankind, male and female both created in the image of God, and then throughout scripture there are specific feminine attributes used to describe God. In Deuteronomy God gives birth to Israel in groaning and travail as of a woman giving birth. In Isaiah God is described as a nursing mother (chapter 49) and a mother who comforts her child (Chapter 66). In Hosea God says, “I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs…”(13:8) In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus uses the motherly image of a hen gathering her brood under her wings. Finally in 1 Peter God’s children are likened to newborn infants.
Is it any wonder then that some individuals are uncomfortable when God is only ever referred to as “Father?” Certainly we were taught to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven…” but God it seems to me is truly “parent.” For this reason we might be careful not to over use the pronoun “he” when referring to God. — Also, I noted in my study that although we see womb and birthing in association with God, prostate is never mentioned.
All this of course came to mind since tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I looked into that as well… The clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.”
Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service. Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day.
The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar.
Tomorrow will be my fourth Mother’s Day without my dear mother. No one will ever replace her, but what comfort to know that God fills the role of both Father and Mother.
Let us pray:
Gracious God, we thank you for the gift of our mothers, but also for all who provide maternal support to others. Be with those for whom this is the first year without their mother and be with mothers who have lost a child. We give thanks for the blessing of our earthly mothers and for a God who gives us the motherly and fatherly presence we need in their absence. In thanksgiving and in the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
The Rev. Ellen Meissgeier