She Lives! Sophia Wisdom is working with us to transform our world. She expands our spiritual experience as we co-create with Her a world of love, joy, peace, and equality.
Sophia Wisdom reveals that we are all Divine.Jesus, Sophia incarnate, said that we are “all gods” (John 10:34). All people of all genders, races, and religions are Divine. The incarnation does not refer only to Jesus. Jesus-Sophia teaches the incarnational truth that all people are Divine. If everyone truly believed what Jesus-Sophia said about the Divinity of all people, would females suffer abuse, violence, exploitation, exclusion, and discrimination around the world? If everyone believed that all people are Divine, would there be wars, domestic violence, gun violence, and other forms of violence and abuse? When we believe ourselves and all people to be Divine, we affirm the infinite value of all people and expand our spirituality to embrace our amazing creativity.
Incarnational theology includes all of creation. The incarnation reveals that the Divine is here with us in human flesh and in all of created “matter.” Divinity lives throughout the created world. The Ignatian spirituality of the Jesuits encourages finding the Divine “in all things.” St. Hildegard of Bingen and Mechtild of Magdeburg, medieval mystics and church mothers, also taught the inter-relationship of the Divine and all creation, the Divine in all beings and all beings in the Divine. We all come from Divine Darkness—the darkness of the womb, the darkness of the earth. We are interconnected in the Divine Womb of the universe. If everyone believed that Divinity is in all creation, would the earth suffer exploitation and abuse? When we believe that the Divine lives in all beings, we experience the sacred value of all and join in caring for all creation.
Dr. Kelley Haynes-Mendez
Dr. Kelley Haynes-Mendez’s poem “Reverence” is an eloquent expression of her expansive spiritual experience of the Divine in all. Kelley says this poem was inspired by a New Wineskins Community ritual focused on Epiphany (“manifestation of Divinity”).
I have always been a child of the night,
Peering into starry skies
With peace and imagination.
A moonchild walking, not blindly,
In the dark.
Unafraid, I walked the catacombs
Of winding spirals and mazes
Hand in hand with darkness,
and did not turn to stone.
As day breaks and my adulthood
sears the dawn,
Bringing hopes and dreams
(and adult responsibility things)
I see the colors of the morning sky
And feel the rain like small velvety petals.
I find puddles amazing,
And blossoming roses majestic.
I am inspired by the frolic
of the bluejay.
I bow to their highness
and with the next step,
I am dancing in rainbows.
Dr. Kelley Haynes-Mendez is a professor and psychologist who resides in Dallas, Texas. She has broad interests, including the impact of diversity and cultural issues on individuals and relationships. In her travels, she has visited Cape Town, South Africa where she served as a summer guest lecturer. She is married to a wonderful partner, and her favorite past-times include reading and vegetable gardening. She is also a proud member of the Lake Highlands Community Garden in Dallas, Texas.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Godde, and the Word was Godde. She was in the beginning with Godde. All things were made through her. Without her nothing was made that has been made. In her was life, and the life was the light of women and men. . . .
She was in the world, and the world was made through her, but the world didn’t recognize her. She came to her own, and those who were her own didn’t welcome her. But as many as welcomed her, to them she gave the right to become Godde’s children (to those who trust in her name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a man, but of Godde). (John 1: 1-4, 10-13, Divine Feminine Version)
The Prologue to the Gospel of John takes on new life through this new translation.
Because of striking parallels between the Prologue to the Gospel of John and biblical passages referring to Wisdom, the Prologue can also be translated with “Wisdom-Word” or “Wisdom” (Sophia).
In the beginning was Wisdom, and Wisdom was with God, and Wisdom was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by her; and without her was not anything made that was made. In her was life, and the life was the light of the world. . . .
She was in the world, and the world was made by her, and the world knew her not. She came to her own and her own did not receive her. But as many as received her, to them she gave the power to become God’s children, even to those who believe on her name, who were born not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, but of God. And Wisdom was made flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld her glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Sovereign, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-4, 10-14)
The Divine Feminine Version (DFV) of the New Testament is a much-needed version among the myriad Bible versions with exclusively male references to the Divine. It is a generous free gift from the editors who have worked on this version for five years.
Congregations who are striving toward more inclusive worship will welcome this new version. Their worship leaders may use inclusive, gender-balanced language in sermons, litanies, and hymns. But they have few options for inclusive scripture readings. The predominantly masculine divine language in these readings then strikes a discord with the rest of the service.
There are two gender-neutral versions of the Bible on the market: The Inclusive Bible, a translation by the Priests for Equality, and The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version, a modification of the New Revised Standard Version. These versions are better than those that use exclusively masculine references to Deity, but they do not reclaim biblical female divine language to balance the male divine language so prevalent in most faith communities and the wider culture.
Until recently, congregations have had nowhere to turn for gender-balanced scripture readings. Now we can go to the Divine Feminine Version (DFV) of the New Testament.By including female language for the Divine, the DFV affirms the sacred value of females who continue to suffer from violence, abuse, and discrimination throughout the world. The DFV contributes to a theological foundation for gender equality, social justice, and peace.
It is wonderful indeed to see “Mother,” “She,” and other female references to Godde included in this new translation. The word “Godde” combines the words “God” and “Goddess,” the translators explain. “The word ‘God,’ because of its long history of association with an exclusively masculine image of the Divine, implies to many people a masculine way of conceiving the Christian God, and ‘Goddess’ is a word that Christians have not traditionally embraced. The term ‘Godde’ seeks the middle ground between ‘God’ and ‘Goddess,’ combining a feminine-type ending with the traditionally masculine-type word. It’s intended as a more gender-inclusive term, something broader than both ‘God’ and ‘Goddess’ and yet transcending both as a term that points beyond itself to a divine reality that we can grasp only by metaphor. This term serves as a constant reminder that the Godde of whom we speak is not the ancient man with the white beard so quickly recognizable as a traditional Christian stereotype.”
In this article, published in Christian Feminism Today, one of the co-editors of the DFV, Mark Mattison, introduces this new version of the New Testament.
She lives! Wisdom lives and works in the world through this Divine Feminine Version of the New Testament. I pray that the Divine Feminine Version of the New Testament will help expand our experience of the Creator of all females and males in Her/His own image and that it will contribute to gender equality, social justice, and peace in the world.
The editors also graciously gave me this Christ-Sophia Version of the DFV. This version replaces references to “Christ” with “Christ-Sophia,” acknowledging the strong biblical and historical connection between Jesus Christ and Wisdom (Sophia in the Greek New Testament).
Co-editors of the Divine Feminine Version (DFV) of the New Testament:
Vocal Divine (left to right): Lana Dalberg, Dionne Kohler, Kathleen Neville Fritz, and Alison Newvine
What wondrous thing is happening herewhere minds and souls are opening?The scales fall off our blinded eyes;new sight arouses hoping.A new thing springs forth on the earth,with blessing, hope, and healing;the power of Woman saves all life,Sophia-Christ revealing.Epiphany surrounds us now,as we reclaim our wholeness,Sophia-Christ within us all,inspires us with new boldness.REFRAINLook, look, for She is here;Her Wisdom words have long been near.Now, now, behold Her grace,Divinity in Her image.
Epiphany is the traditional Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi. Traditionally observed on January 6, Epiphany can occur anytime, anywhere. Epiphany is not limited to the experience of the Magi. “Epiphany” has come to mean “any revelation of divine being.” Epiphany continues to happen where minds and souls are open. Revelations of divinity surprise us with newness, just as the revelation of divine being lying in an animal feeding trough startled the Magi.
The fullness of divinity has long been hidden under layers of exclusively masculine sacred images. Female divine images may at first startle us with their unexpectedness. Because of our culture’s long devaluing of females, we may even feel that female names are not lofty enough to carry divinity, just as the Magi must have at first wondered if divine revelation could come in the form of a small infant in a manger.
The early church believed that Jesus was a revelation of Sophia (Greek for “Wisdom”). Early Christians associated Jewish wisdom literature’s personified Sophia with Jesus, believing Jesus to be the incarnation of divine Sophia. But many Herods along the path of Christian history, in order to secure their own power, have tried to destroy the revelation of divine Sophia. Sophia has been hidden, but She could never die.
This song, “What Wondrous Thing” also refers to Jeremiah 31:22: “God has created a new thing on the earth: a woman protects a man.” That “new thing” that began long ago in Jeremiah’s day is springing up on a larger scale today as individuals, churches, and other organizations discover the great need for women’s gifts for the healing of our world. As Bridget Mary Meehan, Bishop in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, states, “Women priests remind us that women are equal symbols of the Holy. Females and males are created equally in God’s image. Until we integrate the Divine Feminine in our religious systems, in our structures, and in our whole approach to life, we will be flying on one wing. We will not be whole. We will have the patriarchal domination continuing, and that obviously is leading the world and religion to destruction. The patriarchal model is not working for people. It’s not of the Spirit.”
Now the egalitarian model is emerging, including women’s gifts and power to save life. “Look, look, for She is here; Her wisdom words have long been near. Now, now, behold Her grace, Divinity in Her image.”
For many years I longed to hear and sing Christmas carols that included biblical female images of God. Then Sophia Wisdom called me to write new inclusive lyrics for the Christmas songs I so love. Sophia Wisdom works within us and throughout our world. She Lives!
Here is my Christmas gift to you of some of my inclusive carols.
Midwife Divine Now Calls Us
Rev. Larry E. Schultz conducts the choir and congregation of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina, in singing “Midwife Divine Now Calls Us” to a familiar carol tune.
One of the female divine names and images in the Bible is that of Midwife. “Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me, you have been my God” (Psalm 22:9-10). In this psalm, the poet expresses feelings of being forsaken and persecuted, and finds reassurance in this picture of God’s tender care beginning at birth. Another image of the Divine Midwife comes in Isaiah 66:9: “’Shall I open the womb and not deliver?’ says God; ‘shall I, the one who delivers, shut the womb?’ says your God.” The image of the Divine Midwife joins with the image of the Divine Mother to strengthen the biblical picture of God’s intimate involvement with us.
This song invites us to join with the Divine Midwife in bringing new life to birth within ourselves and throughout the world.
Recorded by: Ward Productions, Pinehurst, North Carolina
Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes
Recording artist Shannon Kincaid sings “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes,” with pictures from various artists, to the tune of “Joy to the World.”
The book of Proverbs depicts Wisdom as a female image of the Divine: “She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of Her; those who hold Her fast are called happy” (Proverbs 3: 15, 17-18). “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes” calls us to co-create with Wisdom a world of peace, justice, equality, love, freedom, and joy.
This video gift comes with the hope that Wisdom will guide us to change our violent culture and to co-create with Her a peaceful world.
Sound forth the news that Wisdom comesto bring new life to birth.Arise with hope, Her labor join,and peace shall fill the earth,and peace shall fill the earth,and peace, and peace shall fill the earth.No more let fear and custom hidethe path of Wisdom fair.She leads the way to life and joy,with gifts for all to share,with gifts for all to share,with gifts, with gifts for all to share.Joyful are we who heed the callof Wisdom in our souls.With Her we break oppression’s wall,so love may freely flow,so love may freely flow,so love, so love may freely flow.Crown Wisdom Queen of heaven and earth.Her reign will set us free.Fling wide the gates that all may comejoin hands and dance with glee,join hands and dance with glee,join hands, join hands and dance with glee.
Vocal Divine sings stanzas 2 & 3 of “Come to Our World, O Christ-Sophia” at Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran in San Francisco. Vocal Divine (left to right): Lana Dalberg, Dionne Kohler, Alison Newvine, and Kathleen Neville Fritz.
“Christ-Sophia” is a biblical symbol of the Divine, making equal connections between male and female, black and white, Jewish and Christian traditions, thus providing a foundation for communities based on partnership instead of domination. Sophia, the Greek word for Wisdom, is a biblical female divine image that opens new possibilities for justice, liberation, and new life. New Testament writers link Christ to Wisdom, a feminine symbol of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew) symbolizes creative, redemptive, and healing power. In their efforts to describe this same power in Christ, the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers draw from the picture of Wisdom. The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the “power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ “became for us Wisdom(Sophia) from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The book of Proverbs describes Wisdom as the “way,” the “life,” and the “path” (4:11,22,26). The Gospel of John refers to Christ as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Bringing this biblical connection of Christ and Sophia to our worship can inspire partnerships that contribute to peace and justice in our world. Christ-Sophia inspires continual new birth. Christ-Sophia empowers us to make the vision of the new creation a reality. Celebrate the birth of Christ-Sophia!
Vocal Divine sings “Our Mother Within Us” to a familiar carol tune.
Although many churches limit God to male names and images, Scripture does not limit God to maleness. The Bible gives a multiplicity of divine names and images, including female divine names and images. Maternal divine names and imagery occur throughout the Bible. The prophet Isaiah pictures God as a comforting Mother: “As a Mother comforts Her children, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). Biblical mothering images also include a “Nursing Woman” (Isaiah 49:15), “Mother Eagle” (Deuteronomy 32:11-12), and “Mother Hen” (Matthew 23:37).
“Our Mother Within Us” also refers to the biblical call to sing to God a “new song” (Psalm 96:1; 144:9).This new song to a familiar tune is my response with the hope that singing new songs that include female names and images of the Divine will contribute to a new story of love, peace, and justice in the world.
A revolution is happening through Divine Feminine rituals! More and more faith communities are reclaiming the power of the Divine Feminine in sacred rituals.
Rituals move feminist theory and theology/thealogy from the head to the heart. Words and visual symbols in rituals shape our deepest beliefs and values, which drive our actions. Multicultural female divine images in our sacred rituals affirm the sacred value of females throughout the world who continue to suffer from violence, abuse, and discrimination. For feminism to transform our culture, we need Divine Feminine rituals in faith communities. In Women-Church: Theology and Practice, Rosemary Radford Ruether writes: “One needs communities of nurture to guide one through death to the old symbolic order of patriarchy to rebirth into a new community of being and living. One needs not only to engage in rational theoretical discourse about this journey; one also needs deep symbols and symbolic actions to guide and interpret the actual experience of the journey from sexism to liberated humanity” (p. 3).
As I was growing up in the Baptist tradition, hymns were my favorite part of our rituals. One of the hymns I loved singing was “He Lives,” increasing in volume along with the congregation as we came to the refrain which repeated over and over the words “He lives.” Not until many years later could I even imagine singing or saying, “She lives.” I had learned to worship a God who was named and imaged as male. But while studying in a conservative seminary, I was surprised to find Her. I discovered female names and images of Deity in scripture and in Christian history. As an ordained minister, my call has included writing, preaching, and teaching to persuade people that we need multicultural female divine names and images in rituals if we are to have social justice, peace, and equality. My call expanded to writing Divine Feminine rituals, including lyrics to familiar hymn tunes.
My discovery of Her continued as I found clergy and laypeople who are transforming their faith communities through rituals that include multicultural female divine images. My latest book, She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, celebrates these people who are engaged in transformative ministry within the church and the wider culture. Their stories reveal the connection between the Divine Feminine in rituals and justice in human relationships, illustrating Sophia Wisdom’s works such as gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality, economic justice, care of creation, nonviolence, interfaith collaboration, expanding spiritual experience, and changing hierarchies into circles.
She Lives! includes prayers, hymns, litanies, and other resources for Divine Feminine rituals. Also, there is a section that provides information on feminist faith communities I have discovered.
One of my hymns in She Lives! is “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb.” This hymn connects darkness to the Sacred Feminine, empowering us to end injustice and heal the wounds of Earth. The hymn contributes to racial justice by changing the traditional symbolism of darkness as evil or ominous to darkness as creative bounty and beauty, affirming the sacred value of people of color through these positive images. In this video, recording artist Shannon Kincaid sings “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb,” with pictures from various artists, to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
This post is an excerpt from “Revolution Through Rituals,” published in Feminism and Religion. Read the full essay.