Tag Archives: worship

INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE FOR GOD (IN WORSHIP) By Troy Troftgruben, WTS Assistant Professor of New Testament

Using inclusive language for God is a matter of characterizing God—to use narrative theory language—and characterizing God as accurately as possible.

In my experience, using inclusive language for God is something that may well not necessarily earn you praise from many. But some do notice it, and it does send a message about who we believe God is.

Two people from my congregation stand out:

One was a young mother of twin daughters, a part of our church staff. One day she asked us pastor: “Can you please work harder at using inclusive language for God? …I don’t want my daughters growing up unnecessarily with the idea that God is male.”

The other was a retired gentleman from my congregation. Shortly before I left, he pointed out to me: “I notice that you use inclusive language for God in worship consistently. And I think it’s a very good thing.”

The most straightforward ways we do this is by simply using non-gender references to God:

  • Instead of “he” and “him,” we use “God.”
  • Instead of heavy use of “Father” (which we use a lot), we make a point to intersperse it with “Heavenly Mother” and “Creator.”

At the end of the day, simple gestures of this kind enable us to act in ways that do not continue to foster the idea of God with which many of us grew up: that of an old, bearded, white male in the sky.

It feels awkward at first. But with time it feels very natural. It felt just as awkward to the church people who first started to use “fishers of people” (vs. fishers of men). It probably felt just as awkward to those who changed from using “Thou” and “Thee” language in the Psalms to “you” language. But they made the change, and we are grateful.

I remember a good friend of mine who grew up in church hearing a non-gender inclusive Bible (as many of us did). She remembers one day then asking her mother: “Mom, is Jesus interested in having women disciples?”

It’s remarkable the things we say, without necessarily trying to say them. …as church leaders, we do well to consider more intentionally beforehand what we say, so that our words convey better what we mean to say.

STAINED GLASS WINDOW by Mary Wiggins, M.Div. Middler

This reflection is one of four offered at the re-dedication of the central stained glass window in the Loehe Chapel at Wartburg Theological Seminary on 4 Feb. 2013.

Stained glass windows have always fascinated me. They are beautiful art regardless of how well known their maker is. There is something mystical about light mixed with color and steeped with symbolism and history. The windows are a beautiful interplay of the creation of people and the creation of our God. Their beauty changes with the turning of the day into something new. It’s something great to contemplate when sorting out deep emotions and discerning dense thoughts. Or something to just stare at when the mind is tired or the attention span is short. All in something as simple as a window. The window we welcome back today does that for us and even more. It is part of our life here. The image of Christ points outward beyond our view, symbolizing our formation.

I first glanced at the chapel window when I was discerning a call to ministry. I saw a photograph of the image on a computer screen of my friend’s Macbook. It was strikingly beautiful even in its 8 by 10 inch form. What was more strikingly beautiful was how this image was the reminder of this place that my friend took with her way out west for her internship. Such love and passion for this place, Wartburg, was represented in the image she saw almost every day in her life in this place.

I myself soon saw the window in person as my discernment lead to a “GO and start visiting seminary and see if the time is right.” This window plays an important part in our life at Wartburg even before we become a part of this place. As a community that worships together daily, the chapel window’s image is ingrained in our experience, just as much as the other elements of the community in which we live.

The image of Christ summoning the disciples is our past

It is our present now here at Wartburg

Ultimately it is our future as we will eventually leave this place.

We will all “Go” and we will proclaim regardless of our degree track. Our callings to discern and embody our vocations lead us here. And this window upon which many a student has gazed during worship epitomizes our experience. We heed God’s call, pick up our lives and “GO” to Wartburg.

In our life here at Wartburg we pick up and “GO” quite often. We “GO” on J-term trips near and abroad with some of us proclaiming in words and others in actions of service and learning. We “GO” on CPE and proclaim the Gospel as the listening chaplain offering comforting presence and sometimes words to those in crisis that we meet. We “GO” on field work and internship and proclaim the Gospel. Each time we return again to this place. And eventually we all GO to Preach the Good News as the leaders that we have been formed to be.