OWAAT May 13: Ending Isaiah, On the Social Justice Origins of Mother’s Day, and Biblical Images of God as Mother

We continue our daily Bible reading in Third Isaiah, finishing the entire book at the end of this week. As we wrap up our reading of Isaiah, how does this book speak to you in your life, faith, learning, and mission?

This Sunday is also Mother’s Day, a holiday that has sometimes been loved too well but not wisely by the church. As with any day celebrating something that is not a part of the liturgical year, YMMV (your mileage may vary) in how you and those of us in church feel about this holiday. Christians have had a variety of experiences with and feelings about their mothers, or motherhood, and it is important to be sensitive to those perspectives. Not everyone in church will want to share openly why they may have particular feelings about Mother’s Day, but those planning worship can and should do so with that expectation. There are some ways of acknowledging the day that respect the variety of experiences we have. One of my favorite ways is to lift up the ways in which certain biblical passages imagine God as mother, even as we acknowledge the ways in which those images are products of their cultural context.

Daily Bible readings:

May 13 – Isaiah 60
May 14 – Isaiah 61
May 15 – Isaiah 62
May 16 – Isaiah 63
May 17 – Isaiah 64
May 18 – Isaiah 65
May 19 – Isaiah 66


Do you know that Mother’s Day was originally envisioned by Julia Ward Howe as a day for mothers (or as she says in her proclamation, “Christian women”) in the US to actively work for peace, rather than as a sentimentalized holiday to increase the profits of floral and greeting card companies? Her 1870 “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World” notes that the great men of the time had poor luck bringing about peace and that it was up to women to be peacemakers: “We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” And yet, as we experience in the world of interpretation of biblical and other texts, while a text may not necessarily change, the narratives and contexts of its interpreters are generally in flux, leading to regular renewal of interpretations around the text and, in this case, the event called for taking on a life of its own missing the “teeth” of its earliest incarnation.


What has come out of our prayer practice of journaling your prayers? Have you tried creating any visual images in your journal? How might that act of creation change your prayers?


One of the things that surprised me most about FBCO is the importance it places on relationships. Conder and Rhodes consider in Organizing Church: Grassroots Practices for Embodying Change in Your Congregation, some uniquely Christian aspects about relational meetings (or 1-on-1s): “In local organizing, much of the energy and politic of a relational meeting might be sourced in anger, passion, and the desire for pointed change in a community. These are all certainly present in an ecclesial [church] setting. But there is also a theological history and logic in the ecclesial context that sets boundaries, makes demands, and invigorates deep, imaginative possibilities for the relational meeting.” (p. 52)

How are your relationships supporting the building and revealing of God’s realm? With whom do you need to have relational meetings to live out God’s call in your life? How does God respond to your prayers?

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for ideas and things to do.

Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world!

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

“May 9, 1858: Mother’s Day for Peace,” Zinn Education Project, May 2014, https://zinnedproject.org/2014/05/mothers-day-for-peace/

Brown, Tricia. “Honor Moms on Mother’s Day without Hurting Others.” United Methodist Communications, n.d. http://www.umcom.org/learn/honor-moms-on-mothers-day-without-hurting-others.

Brueggemann, Walter. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015.

Conder, Tim, and Daniel Rhodes. Organizing Church: Grassroots Practices for Embodying Change in Your Congregation, Your Community, and Our World. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2017.

Driskill, Joseph. Protestant Spiritual Exercises: Theology, History, and Practice. New York: Morehouse Publishing, 1999.

Enns, Peter. “Is There Resurrection from the Dead in the Old Testament?” Pete Enns, 7 March 2018. https://peteenns.com/resurrection-in-old-testament/.
Ward Howe, Julia. “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World” (Boston, 1870), https://cdn.loc.gov/service/rbc/rbpe/rbpe07/rbpe074/07400300/07400300.pdf.
Women’s Ordination Conference. “Female Images of God in the Bible | Women’s Ordination Conference,” n.d. http://www.womensordination.org/resources/female-images-of-god-in-the-bible/.