Today is a day for taking a risk from the pulpit, so here I go.
But I am able to take this risk because Robert took a risk today with the offertory anthem he chose.
And Robert took the risk because someone at our grad school took the risk to use this anthem in the chapel services we both attended.
And the chapel worship planner took the risk because the author of the anthem text, Bobby McFerrin, took the risk to write it.
And he took the risk to write it because of the witness of his mother. She took the risk to have a child, to influence her child deeply with her love, and it led, through a chain of courage, all the way to this pulpit today.
So what’s so risky about this anthem?
Well, it takes what is very likely the best known and most beloved text in the Bible, the 23rd Psalm, and changes the pronoun for God in it.
Instead of “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters,” you will hear the choir sing, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all I need. She makes me lie down in green meadows, beside the still waters she will lead. She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs, She leads me in a path of good things, and fills my heart with songs. Even though I walk through a dark and dreary land there is nothing that can shake me, She has said She won’t forsake me, I’m in her hand. She sets a table before me, in the presence of my foes. She anoints my head with oil, and my cup overflows. Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me, all the days of my life, And I will live in her house, forever, forever and ever.”
For some of you, calling God “She” will not be at all troubling. It will be beautiful and inspiring and even comfortable and familiar.
For others of you, it will be distinctly off-putting. You won’t be able to connect to it at all, and you’ll be wondering if it’s really okay to change the Biblical text like this.
Many of us fall somewhere squarely in the middle.
We’ve heard of the practice, we understand theologically that God is much bigger than our paltry human concepts of gender, but actually praying to God our Mother?
We do that pretty rarely, if at all. I mean, why would we? Continue reading