When I was in Nebraska recently, I taught a Bible study on Friday morning. There were more people present than at many of the churches at which I have preached, and I had lots of fun with the class. My topic was “Stories They Never Told You in Sunday School.” I’ve been using that title a lot lately because it is a book I hope someday to have time to write.
The topic is one that can fit in lots of different settings because there are so many stories that have been neglected. I sometimes wonder if the stories we weren’t told have had a greater impact on our culture than we will ever know. In particular, I’ve been pondering lately how we have missed what Native Americans might have called the “two-spirited” nature of God.
Last night, in our Wine & Word class, we looked at Deuteronomy 32:18 where Moses says to the people that they have forgotten “the rock who fathered you, the God who gave you birth.” In that same chapter, he also talks about how God is like a mother eagle teaching her young to fly. Throughout the scripture, from Genesis 1, where God said, “Let us make humanity in our image … male and female God created them,” there are maternal and feminine images of a presumptively masculine God.
It fascinates me to think of how different our culture might be if our Sunday school teachers had told us stories of how God was like a Mother Eagle, a Birthing Mother, a Nursing Mother (Isaiah), a woman looking for the one who was lost in the dust and dirt (Luke 15), or even like Jesus who completely identified with the Mother Hen longing to gather her young. How different a world we would live in if we had just read the entire Bible with eyes open to see how the feminine in us is holy/sacred/divine!
This is just one example of the many stories we didn’t learn in Sunday school. These stories might have changed everything for many of us. They might still change, even today, how we deal with creation and those we consider enemies. It isn’t too late to learn some of these stories, but, as the African Proverb says, “Until the lions learn to tell their story the hunter will always be the victor.”
Rev. Michael Piazza