Scripture Passage this Week: Galatians 4:21-31
Our folk stories are filled with intrigue based most predominately on the uncertainties of parentage. There are many stories of orphans destined to live lives of servitude only to discover their real identity as royalty. There are young girls oppressed by evil stepmothers. There are boys who are usurped in their station of life by suitors of widowed mothers. Right at the moment, I can think of three stories of girls locked in a tower, hopelessly captive.
At the very least, the typology of such folk tales indicate how central the issue of family dynamic and parentage plays on civic life. In my town today, there is an outrage about a mother, who is a doctor, but who also allowed a sleepover of teen girls to turn into a drunken, deadly evening.
In this week’s passage of sermon study, the typology mentioned above is used as an allegorical hermeneutic for the people of Galatia. Paul has already asserted to the Galatians that they have inherited the promises of Abraham. As father, Abraham is the western world’s great patriarch and, as such, stands as the unifying figure in how the Bible describes God’s redemptive plan for all of civilization. It is the covenant made between God and Abraham that stands as the promise to all that blessing will extend throughout the earth. The Galatians are, according to Paul, adopted into that family as equal heirs.
For many complicated reasons, Paul must address the issue of not just Abraham’s patriarchy but also the question of maternity. Like the folks stories of our childhood; it’s not just “who’s your daddy?” but also “who’s your mommy?” Again, harkening back to the Abramic roots, Paul asks the Galatians the figurative question about whether their mother in faith is the woman of slavery or the woman of freedom.
In most of Christian history the Trinity was known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit rather than Holy Ghost because the Spirit engendered a feminine attribute to the Trinity. It was understood that birth, growth, nurturing and comfort were qualities historically attributed to women. So when Paul addresses the question of maternity he is telling the Galatians and us that our mother is the Spirit of freedom.
God allows himself to be known in anthropomorphic constructs for the purpose of relationship. As such, there are many reasons why I choose to mostly describe God in male terms. But do not be mistaken, His/Her identity is rooted in Love and Grace toward the children of this world. That is always the last word.