Between last week and this week, if you have been reading the RCL First Reading often mistakenly (even by me) known as the Old Testament Reading, you will notice that there is a theme of parental images for God. Last week’s reading had very female images of procreation and childbearing, while this week the images of God are paternal. Both are used to describe aspects of the Almighty, not exclusively one nor exclusively the other. We see these strong images for God, and they resonate within us, either to our male or femaleness, and in reflecting God we reflect these aspects.
Gender issues at present, seem to be of importance in Australia. Diversity and unconditional acceptance are also being championed. Those involved in Child and Family Ministry know they live in this world where gender is fluid and families take many forms. But sometimes the faith communities that we work in can appear isolated from the generalist views. Such communities would be shocked by my discussion of gender, their theologies may work a different interpretation of these pages.
So, how do we work in both worlds where the views are seemingly at odds with each other. We look at scripture and our practical deeds combined they are not separable. We get pulled and pushed from within and without, where our actions frame our theologies and our theologies frame our practices as we discern our actions.
We, are not alone in this, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral has been professing this for 300 years. The Child Theology Movement has been asking us to do the same in the last 2 decades.
Then we have these two passages studied Sunday about, offering God in female metaphor and God in male metaphor, and they are both God, God hasn’t changed just the frame from which we are working has, the way that we are talking. Both in the same book, book embracing us to have a personal relationship with God. Gender indiscriminate. Yes, we can go out there and speak with the current society and even speak their language. A feminist view of God is still a view of God, etc. It is about how we open up to that personal relationship. If Jesus can talk with the woman at the well whose marital status was fabricated, we can stand with the multiplicity of family dynamics to encourage them into a personal relationship with God, regardless of their gender makeup or family misgivings, and then if we are not pulled apart we can stand with the congregation, our larger family and help them understand and accept in the way that we have been taught.
Families are not easy communities, ministering to families is not an easy calling. Getting the balance right is a tightrope act that really requires God’s input. Both, families and Child and Family workers need to know the person of God, in all its complexities and they both need communities that understand and can walk with them.
Congregations, don’t box your Child and Family workers in, give them a voice and let them use their training, which is practical theology, your congregation will grow in depth if you allow them to practice all their skills, preaching, theological study and care of the families, all the church family of your congregation.
There may also be less Child and Family Worker burnout.
Renita J. Weems, Battered Love: Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets, Introduction: A Metaphor’s fatal Attraction, ( 1995, Fortress Press, Minneapolis) P. 33