To Glorify God | To Grow in Faith | To Give in Service | Together in Christ
Grace Lutheran Church, Hatfield, PA; Pastor Nancy M. Raabe

Pastoral Reflections

Images of God in Prayer

We are now including the psalms every week in our worship, singing them j as they were originally meant to be shared in community. The Book of Psalms has been called the “prayerbook of the Bible.” These 150 remarkable prayers, each with its own character, have an amazing capacity to address us in the midst of whatever situation in life we are facing at a given time. In our worship life, the psalm is not a “reading” but is a response to the Old Testament reading in a way that anticipates the Gospel reading. It can be thought of as a bridge from the Old Testament to the Gospel. Study the texts on a given week and you will see how that works!

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite psalm. If someone were to ask I’d say “whichever I read most recently.” But Psalm 131, one of the shortest, is especially close to my heart:

O Lord, I am not proud;
I have no haughty looks,
I do not occupy myself
with great matters,
or with things that are
too hard for me.
But I still my soul and make it quiet,
Like a child upon its mother’s breast;
My soul is quieted within me.
O Israel, wait upon the Lord,
From this time forth and forevermore. (ELW translation)

The psalmist invites us set aside all our worldly concerns and become like children, opening ourselves to God in utter trust in God’s loving caretaking. This is especially useful to us now, as we once again face the uncertainty of the pandemic. What are some ways, then, that we can think of God? Who IS God, to each of us?

To Jesus, God was “My Father,” but at times both Jesus and Paul called God “Abba,” an Aramaic word that literally means “Daddy.”

You may be surprised to hear that there are also compelling scriptural images of God as “Mother.” For Isaiah, “God formed me in the womb” (49:5) and God says through the prophet, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (66:13). Human beings, male and female, are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:1-2). In Matthew we have the beautiful image of Jesus desiring to gather his children to him “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (23:37), while John’s Gospel uses a woman in labor as a symbol of the resurrection (16:21).

Early Christian writers bring in maternal images when speaking of God; John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (d. 407 AD) names God not only Father but Spouse, Sister, and Mother. Best known, though, are the feminine names for God used regularly by medieval women mystics and especially Julian of Norwich (d. ca. 1416): “But our true mother, Jesus, he alone bears us to joy and to endless living.…”

Our hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, contains a beautiful hymn based on Julian’s writings, “Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth.”

1 Mothering God, you gave me birth
in the bright morning of this world.
Creator, source of ev’ry breath,
you are my rain, my wind, my sun.

2 Mothering Christ, you took my form,
offering me your food of light,
grain of life, and grape of love,
your very body for my peace.

3 Mothering Spirit, nurt’ring one,
in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow
until I flow’r, until I know.

As we ask ourselves, “With what shall I come before the Lord…?” (Micah 6 :6), let us open ourselves to new ways of experiencing God that will unleash God’s creative power in each of us. More than ever, the world needs that creativity that resides in each of us to help sustain our community through this time.Amen.

Yours in Christ’s peace, Pastor Nancy Raabe

Grief and Loss: Shattering the Myth of “Why”

We’ve all heard the five words at some point in our lives: “Everything happens for a reason.” An unexpected setback. A debilitating accident. A diagnosis you never thought you’d hear. An illness that wreaks havoc on your life. A sudden death. Dreams that die, hopes that are crushed, relationships that end. Then, those five words, words seemingly simple, uttered without thinking, yet…

Recovering the Christian Funeral

Our time with Covid has given birth to some peculiar practices. One concerns funerals. For the past 2½ years, when a loved one died and friends inquired about when services would be held, they were typically told, “Oh, we are just having a celebration of life later on.” Why hurry, the family is thinking? Why not wait weeks or even months to…

Always here for you

For some reason, churchgoing in America seems inevitably to be tied to the school year. Maybe it’s because we have a “summer schedule” for worship that is lighter than our regular one. Maybe it’s because we launch our new programming season on what we call “Rally Day” each year in early fall, around the time that school goes back into session. I’m…

Meeting the risen Christ

Back on May 4 (yes – the Fourth was with us!), the subject of our final confirmation class of the year was Jesus’ Resurrection. Mostly I talked at the students, as it is a difficult subject to have a dialogue about and whose truth we must accept as a matter of faith. But one thing I hope that they heard is that…

Christ IS risen indeed!

“Have faith.” It’s what we say when we are not sure of an outcome. “Have faith, it will all work out.” “Have faith, the doctors are really good at what they do.” “Have faith, your daughter will come around eventually.” Easter gives us a whole different take on this. We have faith because we cannot see the outcome. Faith begins and ends…

Why Come to Church?

I am an advocate of the mainstream media, but boy, do they like to tell us what is wrong with the church and with religion. Last month it was an opinion piece in the New York Times on why churches should stop their online services. This month it was an opinion piece in the Washington Post on why church attendance will never…

Crisis Response

A reminder that, while material goods are desperately needed in Ukraine, the most effective gifts at present are financial. Follow this link to make a difference through the ELCA’s Lutheran Disaster Response:

The Joy of Liturgical Worship

Recently, a young man on a clergy Facebook group I am part of wanted to know what the purpose of traditional liturgical worship could possibly be. He told us that he grew up with knowledge of the ELCA but didn’t feel that worship the way most congregations do it had anything for him or his early-30-something peers. He didn’t see the point…

Why Churches Should Keep Their Online Services

I am a big fan of the mainstream media because those outlets demand accountability. Opinion pieces are another matter. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but sometimes those can really stir things up when they are placed by zealous editors in mainstream publications. The slow rolling earthquake that has kept the terrain of churchgoing unsettled for nearly two years now was ramped…

The Song Goes On

Singing together! Remember when we used to do this heartily, lustily, putting our entire bodies into the act as the Spirit would flow through us in soul-stirring praise of God? Remember how the risen Christ became vividly present among us through this very human act? How singing knit us together, all those in the room, in a way that was beyond human…