“God is not a boy’ s name”
Have you seen this bumper sticker?? It is on the bulletin board in our narthex near the water fountain. What in the world does it mean and where did it come from? You ask…Well…I am so happy you did!
Last year when I was at The General Convention 2015 as an alternate deputy, I visited most all of the booths set up in the gallery from various organizations from around the church. And I brought LOTS of materials home. Some of them made their way onto our bulletin boards…some from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, some from the Church in Jerusalem, and this one from the Episcopal Women’s Caucus. I have been a member of the EWC for many years and was happy to visit these dedicated women at their booth.
So…what does that phrase mean? It means that God does not have to be a “he”. God is not a boy’s name and God is not a girl’s name. God is God. Period. In my preaching, I try my best not to attach a pronoun to God. ”God” usually works just as well as “he” or “she”. It may seem obvious to some, or silly to others, but detaching the male gender from God makes a lot of sense to me. It may seem natural to you to use the pronoun “he” for God, but to others it may be a stumbling block, conjuring up images of that bearded old man in the sky who reigns down damnation and judgment. To others, it may remind them of an abusive father or older male in their lives, thereby getting in the way of their feeling the abundant love that God is.
There are times in our liturgy that many, including me, substitute the word God for he. In the opening sentence the Officiant says : “Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit” and the response is “And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever”. It is easy to substitute ‘God’ for ‘his’ in the response and say: “and blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever”. In the Sursum Corda (Lift up your hearts) at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer the Celebrant says: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” and the response is: “It is right to give him thanks and praise”. The response can be changed to: “It is right to give God thanks and praise”. Neither of these changes affects the meaning of our words, but they can help to remind ourselves that God is neither male nor female.
As our prayer and spiritual practices remind us that God is indeed greater than male or female, our words can support this knowing as well. I hope that you will try these changes to the words of the Book of Common Prayer and see if they expand your mind and heart and full experience of God in worship.
We will start printing these words for you in our bulletins in December…let me know if you find it helpful to your spiritual growth and discipleship.
Wishing you a Blessed Advent,