Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name

Matthew 6:9b (NRSV)

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, A Deacon’s Musing: Intention, the United Church in Meadowood (UCiM) during the Season of Lent will be engaging line by line with the Lord’s Prayer. So, for instance, two groups of Brothers & Sisters came together this week to wrestle with just 8 words! Yep – 8 words! I hope some of these Lenten blogs, therefore, honour those faithful conversations, which are occurring within our community of faith.

Before continuing, I have to admit some of my stuff. It was not until 2005 that I was actually able to embrace the image of God as male, need alone as a Father – or Abba – as is transmitted through our Sacred Scriptures. There are lots of reasons, but central is the reality that from my family of origin, the figure of ‘father’ was one that was both non-existent and the stories that surrounded this absent member of my family were dressed in tears, loss, hurt and abuse. Growing up with that filter, I was sensitive to the debasing nature that groups of boys and men can model: whether in a locker room or in a barracks, the language that was used, and the implicit violence of domination always left me feeling like an outsider. As a result, though my faith has been always been core to me, I just could not wrap my mind around God as ‘male.’

Little Daddy Bottle Feeding Baby Doll

Little Daddy Bottle Feeding Baby Doll

I have also journeyed to a place in which I cannot BUT see God as relational. There are indeed many metaphors for God, from stars to an eagle, from dust to Cosmos, but the reoccurring one for Christians is a God of relationships. The image – the metaphor – is often intimate and caring, like a father …

For some within the Christian fold there has been a developing non-theism. Though this non-theistic Christianity poses many appropriate challenges and recognises the damage done by idolatrising God as relational, in particular male, the resulting theology feels – to me – passionless, intellectual and most difficult to feel intimately incarnational.

So, as this first line of the Lord’s Prayer has been core to this week’s discipline, I have had to reflect on my own (previous) block to God as Abba. In 2004, in the intensity of a 3 week Learning Circle during my diaconal training as a Deacon, I met other men, strong men who were motivated by social justice, had been in the trenches, faced the misogyny of a patriarchal system and also possessed compassion, gentleness and offered care. When my own tears were shed during times of intimate faith sharing, they held me, nurtured me and emboldened me to embrace an image of the Holy that could reflect the maleness of God.

Our Islamic kin pose a powerful reminder to those who journey the Christian way. Any image, word, sound or let’s face it sensory or intellectual thing can be idolatrised. When the image BECOMES God, we’ve simply projected our own stuff and boxed the Creator in … with some sarcasm I’d offer it makes creating black:white trite solutions and binaries much easier than recognising the inadequacy of our attempts to comprehend the immeasurable and incomprehensible reality that is the Holy.

As I have come to realise that men can nurture and women can defend, as I realise that the gender roles we construct are quite different than the scriptural understanding that we are all God’s Beloved, I choose to model for the men and boys in my life – as Guardian, as Uncle, as Cousin, as Nephew, as Friend – that my maleness does not mean I have to be the man too often projected onto us. That we – through prayer and intention – can experience Grace to be Love …

Prayer – that’s what UCiM is focusing upon for the next 6 weeks. A prayer central to the Christian experience and one that reminds us that Love is at the very core of our discipleship. As you walk into the Lenten Season, I hope you find ways to be the prayer you are meant to be and not the illusion in which our human world too often traps us …

It’s a mind blowing concept
that the God who created the universe might be looking for company …
Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions

-Bono, U2 (Christian Century, Sept. 6, 2005)