1 Peter 2:2-10
Theological Professor Miguel de la Torre asks a question I like. He asks, “If Jesus ever came to North Carolina and needed to use the public restroom, I wonder which bathroom he would use?”
Dr. de la Torre uses this question to begin a talk on whether or not God is male. Often we assumed God is male because Jesus is God incarnate… and Jesus is a man. A Rabbi. And our pictures we paint and draw show God as a male. Think of the white haired old dude we usually associate as ‘God!’ in cartoons, in movies, in the Sistine Chapel…
But the Bible is a bit more… ambiguous. Jesus calls God ‘Abba,’ ‘Father,’ but Jesus also calls himself a mother hen, a gate, and a road or way. Jesus prays to God as Daddy, but also tells stories where God is a woman seeking a lost coin.
But it’s not just the Gospels. In the Torah, the Old Testament, we find Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
Here, God is pictured as a mother, with us as her nursing baby! And in Wisdom, God’s wisdom is referred to as Sophia, a woman, who is delightful and wise.
Yet, we can just as easily pick plenty of passages in the Torah where God is male.
So which is it?
Dr. de la Torre points out that the 10 Commandments ban making graven images… as in, we’re not supposed to paint or draw or carve images. Muslims have interpreted this as images of any person. Because people will then worship the image and not God. So Islamic decorations are made with shapes, flowers, birds, and beautiful calligraphy. But not people. Jews have interpreted this commandment as not to draw God – because God is beyond what we can ever capture on paper. Even the name of God is too holy to say; how could we possibly profane the image of God with our chicken scratch and scribbles? Christians? We… well, we’re highly influenced by the Greeks and Romans who became Christian… and they loved their statues of gods.
So here we are. With lots of paintings and drawings and images of God, and Jesus, and other holy people our Abrahamic siblings would shudder at.
Maybe they were on to something… because seeing God in all these images as an old white-haired man in a robe and sandals means we picture God in only that way. And seeing Jesus as a blue-eyed blond-haired bearded young man means we only picture Jesus that way…
But the Bible never gives us either image! The Bible tells us God is a Spirit, an Eagle, a Rock, a momma Bear, a master, a shepherd, a gate, a burning bush and a still small voice and more and more. But God is also more than each of these images.
In the same way, our scripture today calls Jesus a stone and a building block. In past weeks we have spoke of Jesus as bread and water and wine. But, we know – Jesus is more.
These are examples, to help us understand our relationship with God, the Spirit, and Jesus and how the Godhead relates with us.
Sort of like I call many of you my grandmas and grandpas, my aunts and uncles, my brothers and sisters – although only a few of you today are biologically that close to me. The biology doesn’t matter – the relationship does.
What God looks like doesn’t matter – the relationship we share with God does.
But if we really want to get Biblical about the image of God, we’re specifically told in one place what God looks like: in Genesis: Genesis 1:27 “So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them.”
We are made in God’s own image. All of us. Maybe… God is beyond sex and gender then. Or maybe, God is all sexes and genders. Or maybe… sex and gender don’t matter at all… what matters is relationships.
By reminding ourselves these images of God as Father or male are flexible, and meant to show us an example of relationship rather than state what God looks like or what gender God is… by reminding ourselves, we can reclaim our scripture and faith from idolatry. We can remember our God is more than what any mind can fathom or eye can see or ear can hear.
We can do things like re-read our scripture with the relationship terms that speak to us most.
Such as… In my mother’s house are many rooms.
Show us the Aunt and we will be satisfied.
Our Grandma, who Art in Heaven…
This Mother’s Day – celebrate the relationship of ‘mother.’ If that relationship is with someone who is also the female who gave birth to you, so be it. If not – no worries. The relationship is what matters.
And always, read scripture with an eye towards the relationships.
For relationships are what matter.