The Core Sunday Gathering

September 18, 2011

Series: The Sexes
Week 1: Our Heavenly Parent

Sterotype quiz                        1. Which is least likely to never make a wrong turn while driving?                Alex                Kelly

                                        2. Which is most likely to forget to use fabric softener?                        Jordan                Robin

                                        3. Which is least likely to never stop talking about who’s dating whom?        Charlie                Morgan

                                        4. Which is most likely to be disinterested in joining a rugby team?        Sam                     Shannon

-Answers: 1. Kelly (man), 2. Jordan (woman), 3. Charlie (woman), 4. Shannon (man)        

        -Any surprises here? The names were all androgynous, right?

                -I’m going to give a few gems away right up front here…

                -Because it turns out we vary as individuals far more than we vary as genders.

                -I am more different from Christina (or Tyesha or Jennifer) than men are different from women.

                        -And this is a good thing.                        

        -Any other complaints about the quiz? Could the questions could have been phrased better? More straightforward?

                -Turns out life is not all that straightforward. But we try to fix that… We try to cram it into these little boxes,

                        -but we have to wreck it in order to package it.

                -We’ve got a box called “MEN” and a box called “WOMEN” and we pick life up one thing at a time:

                -[CRUMPLE PRINTOUTS, THROW INTO BOXES]

                        -“Sports” – MEN. “Shopping” – WOMEN. “Hardware” – MEN. “Decorating” – WOMEN.

                        -“Career” – MEN. “Relationships” – WOMEN. “Building Stuff” – MEN. “Cleaning Stuff” – WOMEN.

                        -“Beer” – MEN. “Wine” – WOMEN. “Trucks” – MEN. “Minivans” – WOMEN.

Assign Scripture: Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

-[SLIDE] Alexander Maclaren’s Genesis (1904): “Three facts as to humanity are thrown up into prominence: its possession of the image of God, the equality and eternal interdependence of the sexes, and the lordship over all creatures. Mark especially the remarkable wording of verse 27: 'created He him; male and female created He them.' So 'neither is the woman without the man, nor the man without the woman.' Each is maimed apart from the other. Both stand side by side, on one level before God.

                -Somewhat ahead of his time, really.

                -This phrase “male and female he created them” is mentioned before we even know anything about Eve.

                -So we don’t have to get hung up on the fact that God created man before woman

                        -Because both are mentioned right up front, before we even know Adam’s name.

                        -Not to mention that all the animals were created before Adam,

                                and they would have already been created male and female as well.

                -This verse is two parts of the same thought: That when God creates in his own image,

                        there will be both male and female

-We’re going to spend some time on this next week, and what it says about men and women

        -But today I want to look at what it says about GOD.

        -The point is that God did not necessarily create gender, Gender flowed from his own image.

                -These concepts are both part of his nature.

                        -Apparently part of being the One and Only God, is that you contain these mind-bending paradoxes

                                -He is a God of Wrath, and a God of _____________?  Love

                                -Both Transcendent (far above) and ___________ Immanent (close and throughout everything)

                                -He is All-Powerful and ___________ Humble. He is All-Knowing and yet delegates Free Will to us

                                -Jesus is both Human and _______ God.

                                -And he brings the Kingdom that’s both here now and _____________ not yet here.

                -God contains all these things within His own nature and identity

                        -We can’t contain paradoxes within ourselves, because we’re not God.

                                -Still, women are more paradoxical than men. That’s probably why they’re closer to God.

                                -And so hard for men to figure out.

        

-We can see that God is not male or female, so people will say that God has no gender, when in fact God has ALL gender

                -And we, as humans, can thrill in the privilege that we get to embody both sides of the heart of God

                -None of us gets to look like God by ourselves. It’s when you take us all into account, male and female…

                        -And even then, it’s not till we understand the space between, that the nature of God comes into focus

                                -Tennis happens between the rackets, but not without both of them.

                                -Sound exists between the source and the listener, but not without both of them.

                        -GOD IS LOVE. When the space between us is empty, or full of spite, God disappears

                        -But when the space between is full of compassion, empathy, and love, that is when WE SEE GOD.

                        -[SLIDE] Just as his Presence was manifest on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant b/w the seraphim

                        -His presence exists in us when the space between is filled with love. Two or more… and HE IS THERE.

-Even if we understand that God is neither male nor female or maybe that he’s both... That she’s both…

                -It doesn’t always solve all our problems. We still don’t know how to talk about God.

                -What if I said, “Oh Heavenly Father and Mother…” does that make you uneasy?

                        -And “Oh Heavenly Parent” just sounds weak and stupid.

                -How do we talk about God in a way that expresses his real nature, but is also biblically consistent?

        -First, you can forget about expressing God’s real nature. Forget about accuracy.
        -If there’s a word that accurately describes the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth…
you can’t pronounce it

                        -There’s a saying that, as soon as you name something, you limit it… you contain it.

                        -And God will not be contained this way. This is why Jews won’t say the tetragrammaton, and spell it “G-d”

                -But God wants us to be able to talk about him, so he gives us these beautiful metaphors.

                -The upshot is that we now have a tremendously colorful, diverse way to understand and communicate God

                        -But the danger is that we would take the metaphors too seriously. (Giving God a white beard and robe.)

        -We often see God as Father, as Warrior, as Judge… all masculine concepts with a hard edge

                -And we easily forget about God represented as a childbearing Mother, or Hen with her chicks

                        -or simply as the longsuffering, merciful and compassionate lover… the soft and approachable Spirit

-But language is always, in itself, limited. Limited by structure and culture.

        -All nouns and pronouns in Hebrew are gender-specific. Kind of like Spanish. There is no neuter word “it”

        -Words used for God the Father tend to be masculine words, and words for the Spirit tend to be feminine

                -For a while I got caught up in the feminine words Hebrew uses for the Holy Spirit

                        -I thought how great that was, because it seems to balance out the Godhead,

                        -assigning a masculine gender to Jesus, and a feminine gender to the Holy Spirit

                -But turns out, masculine and feminine words don’t make the Father male or the Spirit female,

                        -any more than the feminine Hebrew word for “animal” makes every animal female

                -Chinese has the benefit of a gender-neutral noun, so they use it for God. English doesn’t have this.

                -So we may have to accept that, as long as we’re speaking English, it will be somewhat gender-specific

                -So that we can’t perfect our words, but we can perfect our message

                        -We perfect our message by reminding people that God cannot be bound by our little categories

                        -Because even we, as humans, can’t be bound by them… so how much less our Creator?!

                        -We can remind people that not only do women reflect God’s image just as much as men,

                        -But that neither gender reflects God fully without the other.

-We see the result of our small-mindedness and categorization. [Dump out little boxes]

        -Everything is crumpled up and ruined. But if God can redeem our hearts, he can redeem our language as well.

                -If you call Yahweh your Father, remember his femininity… his tenderness and compassion and mercy

                -If you call Yahweh your Mother, remember her masculinity… her strong rescuing arm and passion for justice

        -But most importantly, that God’s fullness is contained in the space between these things

                -Psalm 85:10 “Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”

                -He is what brings these opposite things together, and he’s revealed it all in us… his children. Her children.