I remember one of those “light bulb” moments from seminary. My father, Don, was a faithful, gentle, loving man who deeply cared for his family. As a child it was easy for me to have positive images of God as male because my earthly father was such a blessing.
My friend, Penny, had a much different experience growing up. Her relationship with her family was strained and bordered on abusive. Images of God as father did not work for her; if fact, she shared that when God was mentioned as “father” painful memories flooded her soul. It was then that I understood: words matter.
Jesus uses a tender, female image to refer to God as he laments over Jerusalem: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” In John’s gospel there are seven “I am” statements that reveal who Jesus is, including “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am the Bread of Life.”
As a person committed to preaching the good news of Christ’s love for all people, I invite people to expand their images of God. Ron DelBene wrote a wonderful book called “The Breath Prayer.” This simple, short prayer (7 words of less) is constructed based on what one needs. The steps:
1) Identify what I need
2) Choose an action verb that identifies how God can meet my need
3) Choose an image for God that connects with what you need
Several years ago I was given an appointment to a church which some colleagues thought was “a reach,” saying that I was too young to serve that church at the age of 35. I wrote a breath prayer, using the formula above, and memorized it. I took a deep breath and prayed it all day long – in traffic, while I was waiting in line at the grocery store. I prayed:
“Prince of Peace, cast out my fear.”
Two weeks later I experienced complete peace. The fear was gone.
May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, richly bless you this weekend.
Joy in our Risen Lord,
Pastor Cathy Johns