In the chapel at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, you will find among the decorative Gothic carvings a large icon of a pelican in a nest feeding its young.
At my orientation to the seminary, the president explained that it was an ancient symbol of Christ from the second century. It comes from a legend that when their young have nothing to eat, mother pelicans will pierce their own breast with their beak and feed their young their blood to keep them alive. Mother pelicans came to recognize the self-sacrificing love of Christ
It struck me because I, like many people, am so much more used to images of God as father than God as mother. While of course it is right and good for us to call God our father — and that metaphor teaches us much about God’s character — scripture and Christian tradition is also full of images of God as mother. There also we can find truths that lead us toward a deeper understanding of God.
For Family Sunday School on this Mother’s Day weekend, I find myself thinking about those images, and what they can teach us about who God is.
As we celebrate this weekend all those who have been mothers to us, by birth or by choice, as well as all those who care for and nurture others in our world, I hope we can recognize the sacredness — the Christlikeness — in that action and honor all the “mother pelicans” displaying the image of God all around us.
Director of Youth Ministries
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