“Our Father” or “The Lord’s Prayer”
Hello Beloved friends,
I pray you are all well on this beautiful and dare I say – perfect day that God has given us. Though I must share: the perfection of today’s weather is only my perception. A perception which believes the perfect weather is say low 70-degree Fahrenheit weather with a slight breeze and a lot of sun. But this weather is not perfect for everyone. Is it? I doubt it is, as some people enjoy 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above while others prefer 50 degrees Fahrenheit or below. I believe we, in our community, probably have some variance of what defines the “perfect weather.” Furthermore, this perception of “perfect” as it pertains to weather can be easily validated and defended in any discussion; for, there are observable pieces of evidence we can share depending on how we enjoy engaging in the world.
However, what do we do when the world is not observable? When we do not know for sure? When the very evidence we do have of the defined subject seems to confound the question more than help in its conclusion? In the UCC, we offer a phrase which helps: ““In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; in all things, charity.” Of course, this phrase did not originate with us. It is attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD). The only difference being the original word for diversity was something akin to “liberty.” Yet, that is not how we act as Christians too often is it? We deem what is right and get upset when people do not use the same phrase – the same words we “think” should be used.
I have seen this issue appear many times in my life. One example I can express is around God’s gender. Now, as you know, I use both “He” and “She” for God. Is this right? We have no idea. Tradition says God is male. Yet, our reason says, God is both and everything in between because God created us ALL in their image. Is the image physical or spiritual? We do not know for sure and nowhere does it expressly explain the term in the Bible. The Bible too expressly uses “He” for God; but the Greek and Hebrew words for the Holy Spirit are all feminine. Finally, experience expressly shows that our world has been male dominated and oppressive to women which could explain so much about where the “He” language came from originally. Yet, in all of this explanation we have to ask one thing: is it essential?
Does it matter what God’s gender is to you? If it does not, then might I invite you to the ideas of diversity and charity. For, it does matter to some people. Some people in this world, who may have been harmed by an oppressive male or father. It may matter to some people whose father figure was actually their single mother, older sister, or Great Aunt. It may matter to someone who finds the “male Father” figure just too much of a barrier for them to have a relationship with God. On the same note, if God’s gender does matter to you. If you need to hear and understand God as the Father then may I invite you to the ideas of unity and charity. For, we all must ask ourselves regularly: what is the essentialness of understanding God as the Father. Is it because God is male? No. I believe it is because of those core qualities of Fatherhood we witness in God: love, protection, care, creation, loyalty etc. These qualities do not only appear in males; yet society has applied them as characteristics of a “father.”
That said, I believe this understanding from St. Augustine is the very reason why we in the UCC use the term “The Lord’s Prayer” instead of “the Our Father.” For, we are not celebrating God (which is essential to our faith) as male (which is unessential); but rather, God and all the qualities we witness in God who we perceive as our ideal Father. Yet, that is not all there is to God is it? God is also the Holy Spirit and Christ Jesus. God is also the original from whose image we were all made from. And in the end, we cannot answer what God’s gender is; therefore, let us give charity in all things. Finally, as we come upon Father’s Day to celebrate the fathers and father figures in our life, let us also remember God and Her qualities which define Him as the ideal Father.
May your week be perceived as a blessing and gift; for, that is who you are to me.
your pastor and teacher, Brian
As summer approaches, let us consider how you love God. Remember love is not just a feeling but an action we do everyday. Feel free to text, call, or email me always to share as I am here to support you and your relationship with God wherever you are on the journey. My number is (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, my pastoral care hours are Mon. 9-4, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 8-4. Many blessings and Love to you all.