Celebrating Women’s History Month #5

God's Nature – Our Language
by Dean McIntyre

The language, images, and metaphors we use to refer to God in our hymns and songs are more a commentary on our human experience than on God's divine nature. We define and experience God through who we are; and since we are all different, we define and experience God differently. God doesn't change; people change.

Christians have long used male language for God in using the biblical image of Father as well as using male pronouns in our hymns, liturgy, and in Scripture. But there are also numerous examples of feminine language used for God in Scripture, hymns, and in our own United Methodist Book of Worship. As feminine language has been more often used in our General Conference-approved resources (UM Hymnals and Book of Worship), so have they become more used and accepted in daily United Methodist worship. Here are some examples from our official denominational resources:

  • 105, United Methodist Hymnal, "God of Many Names," refers to God as the womb and birth of time.
  • 605, United Methodist Hymnal, "Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters," prays that as we long for God's nurture, we will be fed by God's milk, an obvious metaphor for God as a nursing mother.
  • The Book of Worship #527 prays the following: "O Creator God, let the waters of your womb heal…may the waters that covered us at our birth once again remind us of our creation in you. Remind us that we are vessels of the waters of hope and that your outpourings have power to heal and make whole our bruised world. Let the living waters of creation, womb, baptism, and Spirit encircle us that we may remember we are yours and be thankful." (From 1987 United Methodist Clergywomen's Consultation Resource Book, p.41, written by Rev. Elizabeth Lopez Spence. Used with permission.)
  • The healing service prayer (Book of Worship, pagge 624) notes that God gave each of us life and surrounded us with love in our mothers' wombs and then called us forth to life from that secret place.
  • "An Alternative Great Thanksgiving for General Use " (Book of Worship pg.78, © 1972 The Methodist Publishing House; © 1980, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1992 UMPH. Used with permission) declares, "Holy are you, and blessed is Jesus Christ, who called you Abba, Father. As a mother tenderly gathers her children, you embraced a people as your own…"
  • In a prayer (Book of Worship,398) by Anselm of Canterbury, England, from the eleventh century, we read, "And you, Jesus, good Lord, are you not also Mother? Would a mother not be one who, like a hen, gathers her young beneath her wings? In truth, Lord, you are my Mother! Amen."
  • A prayer from The Book of Worship (pg. 439, © 1964, 1965 by Board of Publication of The Methodist Church, Inc.; renewal © 1992 UMPH. Used with permission) prays, "Loving God, as a mother gives life and nourishment to her children, so you watch over your Church."
  • An opening prayer from The Book of Worship (#463) addresses God as the Parent of Jesus, and our Parent, and declares God to be both Father and Mother to us.



See more about Women's History on the Discipleship Ministries site.

Categories: Womens History Month

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