May 1, 2016: “God” is not a boy’s name.

Posted on : Apr 28th, 2016 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” You may have heard that or said that when you were a kid; but as we grow up, we know those words aren’t true. Names do hurt. And naming is important.

From the earliest years of Israel’s history, and even still today among some conservative Jewish communities of faith, the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Holy One, your God in vain” is so revered that God is not named. Some in these communities use g-d or G-d as the symbol for the name of God.

In Hebrew, there was a designation for the unspeakable sacred name of God, which we in the English language translate as four consonants: “YHVH” or “YHWH.” In the translation from Hebrew to Latin to English, the “V” was replaced with a “W.” In English, we’ve added some vowels to make it pronounceable: “Yah-weh.” YHVH is the personal name of God and God’s most frequent designation, occurring over 6,800 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Because it is composed from the four Hebrew letters Yod, Hey, Vav, and Hey, it is also referred to as the “Tetragrammaton,” which simply means “the four letters.”

You may be saying “TMI!” but I put this forth to show the painstaking lengths that our ancestors went to, so as not to name God and thereby, inadvertently, take God’s name in vain. How quickly we changed that!

Today in most Christian churches, God is a boy’s name. Not only is God male, but an old man. A very old man!

From the Christian Feminist movement, from the gay and lesbian liberation movement and from the transgender movement, we are learning over and over again that gender stereotypes are painfully destructive. The way we name persons, label persons, and assign gender to persons has significant impact on their self-worth and being. From the earliest days in the lesbian/gay movement the strongest societal and religious reaction against gay and lesbian people came from challenging gender roles. Let us not forget that it was the drag queens who finally said “Enough!” and fought back against the police harassment at the Stonewall Inn in New York City – the event that most often is used to define “the beginning of the modern day” Gay and Lesbian Liberation movement.

And likewise the current anti-transgender reactions all have to do with our culturally defined gender roles. The public challenging of these gender roles is being played out in challenging men’s private space and women’s private space: bathrooms! When one thinks about this rationally, it is hard to believe that bathrooms have taken on such a huge significance, but nobody said this stuff was rational. It is also startling to look at who the majority of victims of violence are in the transgender community.

That radical feminist, Jesus, challenged our God-related gender stereotypes in a conversation he had with a Samaritan woman, who had 5 husbands and was living without the benefit of marriage with #6. The disciples were stunned to find their beloved Rabbi talking and interacting with a woman, let alone this woman. First of all, Jews and Samaritans hated each other. But this woman had almost as many husbands as Elizabeth Taylor, and was living with a man to whom she was not married! Everybody knew her – and probably talked about her. To say the least, you can be sure her name was tarnished. But, as always, Jesus offered new insights about who God is and how much this woman was valued in God’s realm.

Today, much of society’s resistance to gender equality, gender identity and sexual orientation is rooted in the male-dominance of the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.   Likewise, much of the violence against women, gay and lesbian folk and transgender people is rooted in the belief that God is male and therefore men are superior and have God-given power over women. Nothing could be farther from the biblical truth. “God” is not a boy’s name. God just is “G-d” or Spirit.

Names do make a difference and how we name God, and the gender we assign to God makes a huge difference. Just imagine how our relationship with God would change if we envisioned God to be Black or Hispanic? To be a woman? To be gay or lesbian? To be transgender? I think it’s time to rise above the naming of God as an old, white man in the sky, so we can discover the many names and expression of God that are there for us.

Blessings to You as we seek to become more spiritually alive in this season of Easter,

Dan

 

 ~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Exodus 3: 7-14

Moses asks God, “What is your name?”

 Then God said, “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt; and I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

 And furthermore, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is the name of that God?’ what shall I say to them?”

 God said to Moses, “Tell them, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’”

 

 John 4: 1-30

A Woman of Samaria Meets Jesus at Jacob’s Well

Jesus stopped at Sychar, a town in Samaria, near the tract of land Jacob had given to his son Joseph, and Jacob’s Well was there. Jesus, weary from the journey, came and sat by the well. It was around noon and a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

The woman replied, “You’re a Jew. How can you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink? Our people hate each other.”

Jesus said, “If only you recognized God’s gift, and who it is that is asking you for a drink, you would have asked him for a drink instead, and he would have given you living water.”

The woman replied, “If you please! You don’t even have a bucket and this well is deep. Where do you expect to get this ‘living water’? Surely you don’t pretend to be greater than our ancestors Leah and Rachel and Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it with their descendants and flocks?”

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give them will never be thirsty; no, the water I give will become fountains within them, springing up to provide eternal life.”

Then the woman replied: “Then give me this water so that I won’t grow thirsty and have to keep coming all the way here to draw water.”

Jesus said, “Go, call your husband and then come back here.” And the woman replied, “I don’t have a husband.”

“You’re right – Jesus said – you don’t have a husband! The fact is, you’ve had five, and the man you‘re living with now is not your husband. So what you’ve said is quite true.”

The woman answered, “I can see that you’re a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you people claim that Jerusalem is the place where God ought to be worshiped.”

Jesus replied, “Believe me, the hour is coming when you’ll worship God neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you don’t understand; we worship what we do understand – after all, salvation is from the Jewish people. Yet the hour is coming — and is already here — when real worshipers will worship God in Spirit and truth. Indeed, it is just such worshipers whom God seeks. God is Spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and in truth.”

“I know that the Messiah – the Anointed One — is coming, and will tell us everything,” said the woman.

Jesus continued, “I who speak to you am the Messiah.”

The disciples, returning at this point, were shocked to find Jesus having a private conversation with a woman. But no one dared to ask, “What do you want of him?” or “Why are you talking with her?”  

The woman then left her water jar and went off into the town. She said to the people,  “Come and see someone who told me everything I have ever done! Could this be the Messiah?” At that, everyone set out from town to meet Jesus.

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