Is God a Boy or a Girl?

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Is God a Boy or a Girl?
Matthew 23:37
May 16, 2018
Today we remember and honor our mothers.  I’m sure you remember some of your mother’s pet sayings that stay with you over a life-time.  I’ve compiled a list of things that mothers, including my own, say to their children.

When my children were small I would say prayers with them each night.  One night, just before I tucked my eight year old daughter into bed, she looked at me with all seriousness and asked, “Dad, is God a boy or girl?”
I couldn’t tell an eight year old that her question was a hot topic in theological circles at that time, that language about God and describing God was the subject of scholarly articles and speeches and books among the most distinguished Biblical scholars in the country.
What’s more I couldn’t say to her that feminist theologians were leading the attack on language of God that address God exclusively as a male: God, he; God our Father.  Feminist theologians were pointing out how such language supports patriarchy, the rule of males over all creation.
Since I had done a lot of reading on those subjects, and done a lot of thinking about them for my own preaching, many thoughts flooded through me mind.  But I knew that if I told her everything I knew, it would just confuse her.  So I had to give her an answer that was both true and fitting for an eight year old mind.
Children ask the most wonderful and difficult questions, don’t they?  And a child’s conception of God is both funny and interesting.
Eight year old Danny Dutton from Chula Vista, California had a home-work assignment to explain God.   Listen to what Danny said about God:
“One of God’s main jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die, so there will be enough people to take care of things on earth.  He doesn’t make grownups, just babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way he doesn’t have to take up his valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can just leave that to mothers and fathers.
“God’s second most important job is listening to prayers. An awful lot of this goes on, since some people, like preachers and things, pray at times beside bedtime. God doesn’t have time to listen to the radio or TV because of this. Because he hears everything, there must be a terrible lot of noise in his ears, unless he has thought of a way to turn it off.
“God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere which keeps Him pretty busy. So you shouldn’t go wasting his time by going over your mom and dad’s head asking for something they said you couldn’t have.
“Atheists are people who don’t believe in God. I don’t think there are any in Chula Vista.   At least there aren’t any who come to our church.
“Jesus is God’s Son. He used to do all the hard work, like walking on water and performing miracles and trying to teach the people who didn’t want to learn about God. They finally got tired of him preaching to them and they crucified him But he was good and kind, like his father, and he told his father that they didn’t know what they were doing and to forgive them and God said O.K.
“His dad (God) appreciated everything that he had done and all his hard work on earth so he told him he didn’t have to go out on the road anymore. He could stay in heaven. So he did. And now he helps his dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones he can take care of himself without having to bother God. Like a secretary, only more important.
“You can pray anytime you want and they are sure to help you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the time.
“You should always go to church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there’s anybody you want to make happy, it’s God! Don’t skip church to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong. And besides the sun doesn’t come out at the beach until noon anyway.
“If you don’t believe in God, besides being an atheist, you will be very lonely, because your parents can’t go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can  It is good to know He’s around you when you’re scared, in the dark or when you can’t swim and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids.
“But…you shouldn’t just always think of what God can do for you.  I figure God put me here and he can take me back anytime he pleases. And…that’s why I believe in God.”
That’s pretty good, isn’t it?  I wonder how many of us could do as well to explain God.  But….back to our question: is God a boy or girl?  Is God a male or female?


The most obvious answer is “neither.”    God is neither male or female.  God is spirit, as John 4 points out.  But what exactly is “spirit.”  This is getting very difficult, isn’t it?
The larger question is “Who is God?” and “What is God like?”
And naturally, to answer that question, we turn to the source book of the church for our answers.
When you ask most people that question–“Who is God and what is God like?” the answer you most frequently hear is,

“God is our Father.”
That has been the prevailing image of God in the church for 2000 years.  But it may surprise you to crack open your Bible and find out exactly what the Bible says about God.
The most common Biblical metaphor for God is God as father-like.  But get this: the father-image for  God appears only seven times in the Old Testament.  Let me repeat that, only seven times.  The concept of Father God” in the O.T. stems from the fact that the  father of the tribe or the father of the family was a patriarch, controlling everything.  Males were supreme; females were second-class citizens.
The mother-image for God appears ten times in the O.T.   Note the slide.  And if you are keeping score: father-image 7, mother-image 10.  I believe the  Old Testament is trying to teach us something here: more on that in a moment.
In the N.T. the father-image of God is used 275 times.

It was Jesus’ favorite description of God, which leads me to believe that his earthly father  must have been a wonderful role model.  Jesus called God  God “Abba,” an Aramaic word which means something like “Daddy” or “Papa.”  It is a term of endearing intimacy.  ‘‘Daddy, would you read a book to me.  Daddy, could we go get some ice-cream.”
But there are so many more images in the Bible which describe what God is like.
There are abstract images, which challenge our imagination and tease our intellect: God as spirit; God as the Eternal Word, God as Wisdom, and that wonderful passage of the burning bush in Exodus 3 where God says in response to Moses’ question, “Who are you?”  God responds “I am who I am….or I will be who I will be.”  God is saying, “You can’t pin me down.  You have no human categories to contain me.”

And then there are the animal images of God: mother bear, eagle, lion, mother hen.

And the nature images:
Fire—Deuteronomy 4:24
Wind   Acts 2:2; John 3:8
A Rock—Isaiah 17:10
Water—Jeremiah 17:13
Light—John 8:12; Isaiah 60:2-3
A Vine—John 15:1
And the human images of God:




What’s going on here?  What is the Bible trying to teach us?   In the main, the Bible is saying to us, “Your concept of God is too small.  God cannot be compressed into any one image, nor can God be totally described in all the images of scripture.  Or if I could paraphrase what God said to Job in chapters 38 and 39, “Who are you pygmy brain, to think that you could know me.”
What  I am saying about the language about God this morning isn’t just some abstruse theological exercise, but goes to the heart of our faith.  For if being able to trust in God is at the heart of our faith, then how we visualize God will affect our relationship with God.
A woman came to one of those conservative churches searching for a meaningful faith.  It so happened that the pastor of this church always used the words “God our Father” in his sermons and prayers. That was the only metaphor he used for God.  This particular woman had been repeatedly sexually abused by her own father, so the word “Father” triggered the most painful memories.
I read the other day  that one of every four children under the age of six in the U.S. live at or below the poverty line, and half of these children live with single mothers who themselves are poor.  So we have now a  generation of children–millions of them–when they think of father they think of someone who abandoned them, someone who did not do his duty, someone who was never there for them.
So I believe that the future of our faith is at stake in the language of God question.   We need lots of images to help us come to know God.  The Father image isn’t bad; it just isn’t enough.  Our language about God should be as diverse and varied as the Bible itself.   The Bible, as we have seen, teems with  hundreds of metaphors to expand our view of God.
I want to suggest that in your relationship with God, think of an image about God that means something to you.  A woman I know had such a wonderful mother that she always began her prayer with the words, “O God, my Mother.”  That conjured up for her the picture of a God who loved her more than she loved her own life.  So find an image that speaks to you, an image that will expand and not restrict what God is and what God wants to do in your life.
A few years ago we loaded up a U Haul trailer and took both of our children off to college, to Southern Illinois University.  Our daughter was  a junior there, but it was our son’s first year, and we became EN’s,  E.N’s, empty nesters.
I felt really sad as started the  long drive back to Chicago, I had a case of the sad sniffles for a couple of hours.  (Later, when I told friends how sad I felt that we were empty nesters, some other former EN’s told me, “Don’t feel so bad, they will be back sooner than you want.”
At any rate, driving back to Chicago,  I was thinking about all the things my son and I had done together that have meant so much to me that I would  not be able to do that  fall and winter–trips to Chicago Stadium watching Michael Jordan soar and slam; our evening ritual of washing the dishes, I  washing, he drying; the cross country meets and the track meets when I would cheer him on.
I don’t think he knows–and perhaps none of us ever know this until we are parents ourselves–about how much a parent loves his child; perhaps more than we love our own lives do we love our children.  I don’t think our children know how desperately we want close relationships with them, however inept we are in pulling that off.

Is God a boy or girl?  That’s the question my little daughter asked me.
Here’s how I answered her.  “Well, Amie, God is a divine spirit, who created us and the world.  God is so great that I can’t fully understand everything about God.  But I believe that God is like me, a father, who loves you more than anything.  And God is like mom, who takes care of you and who would do anything to help you.”
The look on her face told me that my answer was satisfactory, and we kissed each other goodnight.
The Bible says that God loves us just like we parents love our children.  God wants a close relationship with us just like we want to be close to our children.  God misses us when we are away in some far country.  God wants to cuddle us close, like a mother does her nursing child.  That we should be so valued by the Creator of the Universe is the miracle of all miracles.

Categories: Weekly Sermon

News from the Deacons

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Our prayer chain has lost a link and we need help in fixing it

Deacons are updating the prayer chain. If you are not receiving an E-mail from June Schooley or a phone call concerning prayer needs and want to be on the prayer chain, please contact Dot Bell or Carol Spiegelhoff . We also need volunteers to call 4 or 5 people who don’t have emails.

Categories: Newsletter

HART Pantry

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HART PANTRY wishes to Thank all of you for your continued support, both financial contributions and in kind donations. HART is ending another school year with approximately 25 graduates from the kiddos we have been helping in 2017/2018. Thank you to June Schooley for donating handmade graduation cards to hold our gift cards for the graduates. Our gift is again going to be matched by one of our Sun City church partners. We continue to work in all three local school districts until the end of school and then will keep food bags at the Peoria Community Center throughout the summer months for those students in need.

We have increased our volunteer staff to over 30 folks and with the help of Barb Tiberi now have both a Facebook page and a WEB site. We are working in 2018 to strengthen our Board of Directors and take our business records online making us more efficient. We hope to purchase new laptop computers for those staff members involved in keeping financials and inventory so all records will be kept in house.

We are aware that the needs of and numbers of At-Risk and homeless teens continue to grow in our local society and we also know that HART PANTRY cannot step up to those needs without the continuing help of our donors. We appreciate all of you who find it in your hearts to help us help the kiddos.

Happy Summer,

Ruth Langford


Categories: Newsletter

Preschool News

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May is underway here at the preschool. We have a busy month planned for the kiddos. Mother’s Day and graduation are just a couple of our upcoming events. This month we will be focusing on spring time, Moms and how important a Mother’s love is. The students are enjoying learning some new songs at chapel time and reading new stories.

Picture day will be April 25, 2018 at 9:00 am. Children should be dressed in their best with a big smile. Graduates will take pictures in their caps and gowns as well.

Graduation is May 23rd at 10:00 am in the Sanctuary. We will have light refreshments in fellowship hall afterwards! All are welcome to join in this great celebration.

Muffins for Moms will be held on May 8, 2018. We will be having a special treat for our moms and grandmas during drop off time to let our moms know how special they are to us.

Categories: Newsletter

Langfords Receive Senior Service Award

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Dick and Ruth Langford were nominated by the Session of the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria for the Senior Service Award of the Presbytery of the Grand Canyon on April 12, 2018. Terry and Barbara Swicegood, as well as the Langford’s daughter, Cassie, were present for the occasion. The citation for the Langfords read as following:

“If you have visited First Presbyterian in downtown Peoria, you have probably been stunned by the immaculate yard and historic building. Dick has played a role in that loving care as chair of Building Grounds while in Session. Ruth is on her second term as Deacon and serves as Executive Director of HART pantry, a mission project of Peoria First that provides weekend meals for high school students without food. At back to school time, Ruth is busy with providing backpacks for school children through HART pantry. Dick has served as treasurer of the Chris Harri Foundation, a financial fund to help area churches and drives for Northwest Valley Connect. They both faithfully prepare communion trays each month at church.”

Categories: Newsletter

New Members

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P.P.C. has Five New Members
With five new member, this brings the membership total to about 140. Three of the five have been in Pastor Terry’s new member class. The other two probably went through a new member class in their former church. You decide if the time period of their class was long, long ago or recently.

Savannah is the granddaughter of members Al and Irma Rodriguez. Megan O’Kelly is joining by confession of faith. Megan is the daughter of members Seth and Lisa O’Kelly. Carsyn Tupper is also joining by confession of faith. Carsyn is the daughter of members Harold and Rebeka Tupper.

Having been members of their previous church before coming to P.P.C. we have Jean Charlton and Pamela Newton joining by reaffirmation of faith. Jean cuts grocery bags into strips and weaves them into sleeping mats for the homeless. It takes about 700 bags per mat. She also sings in the church Chancel Choir. Pamela recently moved to the area from Kentucky and has been faithful in attendance for worship here at P.P.C.

Please get to know our new members and find out more about them. WE ARE GLAD YOU ARE HERE AND HAVE JOINED P.P.C. AND ARE OFFICIAL MEMBERS.

Kenneth P. Johnson

Clerk of Session

Categories: Newsletter

Happy Birthday Peoria Presbyterian Church

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If you are a new “kid” at P.P.C. you might be interested in some history of the early years. If you have heard the story you may be excused and go play.

Upon the completion of the Arizona Canal in 1885 the word got out to people in Peoria, Illinois that with irrigation water available in the desert making it profitable to clear the desert brush and plant crops. About twelve people came and settled thirteen miles northwest of Phoenix.

They named the new settlement Peoria after their former hometown after arriving in 1886. In 1889 H.C. Mann, his wife Jennie, and 15 year old daughter Alice arrived from Kansas. With no suitable housing, the Mann’s lived in a store which was the site for the first religious service. The closest well for domestic water was in Glendale, four or five miles away. Mr. Mann had a well dug 30 feet deep in now the old town business district. The water table is now maybe 300 feet deep.

Jennie Mann saw the need for a Sunday School and combed the area for children to meet in her home, the store building. This was the start of the first Presbyterian Sunday School in the 1890s. Adults also came for worship sitting on boards supported on boxes. There was no piano. In 1891 the first Peoria District #11 school building was built. Sunday School and worship was now held in the school house.

NOW FINALLY, a group from Peoria in 1891 affixed their names to a petition to request the Presbytery to organize a Presbyterian Church in Peoria. Their request was met and the Peoria Presbyterian Church was organized April 10, 1892. The group met in the schoolhouse until the present sanctuary (the north portion) was completed at the end of 1899 with the new being dedicated February 4, 1900. If my dates are wrong and if you were present at this time, lets talk.

Peoria was not the first Presbyterian Church organized. Before Peoria, Presbyterian Churches were organized in Prescott in 1876 following the first Presbyterian Church organized by Sheldon Jackson in Tucson, Arizona Territory. In 1879, P.P.C. in Phoenix; 1888 in Florence; 1889 the First Pima Indian Presbyterian Church; 1891 F.P.C. in Flagstaff; then Peoria in 1892.

There are some P.P.C. history books in the office, or there were or see me to borrow some if you do not find one. In the meantime, HAPPY BIRTHDAY PEORIA PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH FOR YOUR SERVICE OF 126 YEARS TO THE PEORIA COMMUNITY.

Ken Johnson

Categories: Newsletter

Session news

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There was not much business that needed action in the April meeting and the meeting was closed with prayer about 6:15pm (a 45 minute meeting).

The treasurer’s report from January 1, 2018 to March 31, 2018, listed income.

Donna Davis was reelected as church treasurer, Lisa O’Kelly as the church financial secretary, and Ken Johnson as clerk of session serving in this position for 52 years straight. Once elected, it is hard to get out.

Each year the Presbytery has an event, THE SENIOR SERVICE AWARD. Each church selects a couple (married) or a single person, 65 or older, that has been outstanding in service to their congregation. Dick and Ruth Langford were selected from P.P.C. Ruth is serving as a Deacon and Dick has served on Session. They prepare the communion trays and started the HART Pantry providing food to high school students for those without food when school is closed on weekends for several high schools in the area. Also, bicycles for transportation. Dick has been a driver transporting people to appointments to name a few. They were honored at a luncheon with other seniors

April 12th.

P.P.C. is part of a group of churches receiving money from the Chris Harri Foundation. Chris was a bachelor with no survivors upon his death. He owned several acres on 19th Avenue from Bethany Home to Camelback. Maybe hundreds of acres. He was thrifty, sleeping on a hay wagon and eating clabber (sour milk with brown sugar). Every quarter interest money is given to churches in the cluster to be used for maintenance.

Session is grateful to the church Deacons for their services, namely they host a lunch for the family and those attending a memorial service upon a family member’s death. There are different bowls of salads, desserts, and whatever they prepare at home and it is good eating. The most recent meals were for the Hazel Heinz and Tom Gilsdorf memorials. DEACONS, IT IS APPRECIATED ALONG WITH YOUR OTHER DUTIES AT P.P.C. AND WE LOVE YOU.

Session is pleased with the new church secretary, Kira. The Sunday Bulletins and the April Newsletter were well done. Thank you Kira.

A going away, a thank you, we will miss you, and a best wishes reception was given for Karen Neely during coffee hour recently. Karen is moving to Georgia to be closer to her children.

Karen served on Session for six years, was the Chairperson of the Christian Ed Committee, and sang in the Chancel Choir to name a few of her P.P.C. chores. I called Karen “my little sister”, that is how much I thought of her.


Ken Johnson

Clerk of Session

Categories: Newsletter

A Tribute to Tom Gilsdorf

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Thomas Lee Gilsdorf passed away on March 27, 2018. He proudly served his country for over 20 years, then worked as an Aerospace Master Mechanic for Honeywell for over 26 years. He loved spending time with his family. He enjoyed working on old cars with his sons, brothers and his grandchildren, passing on his knowledge of how to breath new life into them. Tom will be missed dearly by all his family and friends.

-Gilsdorf Family

Tom had brain surgery in 2017 and was in good spirits when I visited him in the hospital. He was even dressed in street clothes and not a hospital gown that shows your back end while out of bed and walking. He was in church not too long after surgery.

Tom was not a member of Peoria Presbyterian but was part of the church family. His wife Mickey is a member since 1969. They were sweethearts in Peoria High School and Tom graduated in 1968. He joined the Air Force in 1969 and served his country for over 20 years. He then worked as an aerospace master mechanic for Honeywell for over 20 years.

Tom’s hobby was working on old cars and was a member of The Grumblers’ Car Club.

I taught Jr. High Sunday School in the early 1960s and Mickey was in my class as a young girl. She is currently serving on Session as an Elder and is the chairperson of the worship committee. Besides Mickey, Tom is survived by sons Schott and Roger, five brothers, grandchildren, his mother, nieces, and nephews.

Tom’s suffering is over but he will not be forgotten. Every time we see an antique car on the road we will think of Tom, “Did Tom get a bucket of bolts running” as it zooms past us?


Ken Johnson

My family and I would like to thank all of you for the kind thoughts, prayers, cards and wonderful food that you have blessed us with since the death of my husband, Tom. Even though we knew he wouldn’t be with us much longer, we always thought we’d have just a little more time. But his suffering has been relieved and he is at peace. I know he watches over us and that we will be together again someday. Again, thank you all. Your caring and support is truly appreciated.

Mickey Gilsdorf and Family

Categories: Newsletter

Note from Pastor Terry

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An interim pastor has one overriding responsibility–to prepare the church for the coming of the next pastor. From the very beginning I have understood that I was not called here to be your permanent pastor I was here for the interim, to help strengthen the church and secure it for the immediate future. I think that’s happened. Finances have stabilized. Attendance is good. The staff is competent. The congregation, as far as I can tell, is content. We do have two looming issues. How do we grow or at least replace those who leave by inactivity, mobility or death? Ten years from now many of those sitting in the pews be worshiping in the church in heaven. And the second issue is the viability of the preschool. The Session has discussed these issues at some length.

At the December Session meeting I told the Session that as I contemplated my future here I had some thoughts. I felt “called”. What began as a “job” had developed into a “call.” A “call” means what the Lord requires of me. I asked Session just to hold on to that thought and we would have a fuller discussion about what that meant in the spring when it came time to renew my contract. At the March Session meeting with our presbytery representative Mary Lynn Walters attending, we had a good discussion about my ministry, about the church, and its future. The upshot of it all was that Session voted unanimously to extend my contract for another year. So I will begin my third year here in May. Let me say again that, as much as I love our church, I have never wanted to be your permanent pastor. I like the fact that you can give me sixty days notice and vice versa. It reminds everyone of my fundamental role–that I am an interim and together we are preparing for the coming of your next pastor.

So how long will I stay and when will the church begin the process of seeking a new pastor? The Session and I have had frank discussions about that. For now we have no time-table. I trust that you will know and that I will know when it’s “time.” I have always wanted to leave a church while I was still wanted. That’s healthy. Right now I feel energized, engaged, and very fortunate to be here. I believe God will reveal to us what’s next.

Categories: Newsletter