Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church
Thirty years ago for Mothers’ Day, I preached a sermon called Mother God, and though Good Friday was lost past that year, I was nearly crucified! It was too soon, at least in my rural Ohio parish. Those church members were not ready to think about the feminine attributes of God.
Even in 2022, I am afraid that most Christians still think of God in male terms. Intellectually, we understand that God the Creator and God the Spirit are not explicitly male, but since Jesus was a man, too many of us tend to picture the deity in exclusively masculine images.
We have been well-trained to do this. Peter is the most celebrated disciple and the first bishop of the Christian Church. Indeed, Roman Catholic priests trace their ordinations directly through St. Peter, despite his infamous triple denial of Jesus when the chips were down.
Women, on the other hand, were the first to witness and the first to testify to the empty tomb, according to all four male Gospel writers, but this contribution earns much less hoopla in Christian history. In fact, in Luke’s version of Easter, the women immediately come back from Jesus’ grave and tell the guys that the tomb is empty, and “it seems to them an idle tale!” Every one of us owes our faith in the resurrection to courageous women, and the boys thought that their report was silly at best and a lie at worst!
I wish that I could say that things have changed completely in our two millennia of being Christ followers, but they haven’t. The good news is that in my own Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and many other protestant denominations, women are pastors. Indeed, our Presiding (national) Bishop is Elizabeth Eaton along with 23 of 65 synodical (regional) bishops who are women, but earning the title is just one mark of respect. Far too few women serve in large congregations as the heads of staff. Women earn less money, have a harder time finding calls, and go longer in between them than male clergy in our denomination. Worse, female pastors report a disgusting amount of sexual harassment from their male colleagues as well as disrespect from their congregations. In the church as well as our larger society, women are still not believed or trusted the way that they should be.
We owe so very much to women of faith, and not just the “biggies”—the biblical witnesses or the bishops.
For me, it was my mother who passed along the faith to me and made sure that I went to church. If she had been born later, she surely would have been a pastor.
As it is, she is the one who introduced me to Jesus and gave me the foundation of my life and work. I suspect that I am far from alone in owing a deep debt to the women who have guided my faith.
There is absolutely no doubt that all of this comes from God—God who is nurturing and tenacious, God who is gentle and determined, God who is loving and relentless. Our God inhabits the very best of what we call male and female gifts. As Mothers’ Day approaches, let’s start listening to and trusting women. Let’s raise a glass to all the single moms, the tough ladies, the caring women, the teachers and the bishops, who helped make us all who we are today.