Rev. Larry E. Schultz conducts the Chancel Choir of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina, in singing “O Spirit of Power” to a tune he composed, with pictures from various artists.
This hymn draws from the biblical affirmations that “God is love” (1 John 4:7) and that the “Spirit of power and of love” dwells in all of us (2 Timothy 1:4), casting out all fear. (1 John 4:18) Scripture gives a multiplicity of divine names and images to suggest the all-inclusiveness of this Spirit of love and power. But most worship services use exclusively male language and imagery for Deity. This exclusivity lays the foundation for male domination and female devaluation.
Including biblical female names and images of the Divine affirms the equal value of females and empowers everyone. Scripture often names and images the Spirit as female. The first chapter of Genesis describes the Spirit moving over the face of the waters to give birth to the universe. The Hebrew word translated “Spirit” (Ruach) is feminine. The word translated “moving” (rachaph) is used to compare God to a mother eagle in Deuteronomy 32:11; this is the only other place in Scripture where rachaph is used to describe divine action. Martin Luther describes a female Spirit giving birth to the universe, linking this image to that of Jesus as mother hen (Matthew 23:37). The Christian Scriptures picture the Holy Spirit giving new birth, providing a link with the Hebrew Scriptures’ references to the Spirit (Ruach) giving birth to the universe. One of the oldest biblical texts records Jesus’ calling the Spirit “She”: “The Spirit, the Paraclete, She shall teach you everything” (John 14:26, translated from the Syriac version). The first word for “Spirit” (Ruach) in the Bible is feminine, the first picture of God is of a mother eagle giving birth to the universe, and the Bible pictures the Spirit giving new birth. The image of a female Spirit giving birth is central to biblical revelation.
A female Spirit is also often found in church tradition. This fourteenth-century fresco in a church near Munich depicts the Trinity with a female Holy Spirit in the center.
Discovering this female Creative Spirit empowers women to embrace our creative power, empowers men to embrace aspects of their creativity that have been traditionally labeled and disparaged as “feminine,” and reinforces the biblical truth that we are all created in the divine image. The Spirit is embodied in everyone—all genders, races, cultures, and religions.
This video comes with the prayer that it will inspire us to claim the Spirit of Power and Love within us all, and that it will give hope and strength as we labor for economic justice, racial justice, gender justice, care of creation, and peace.O Spirit of Power, who dwells in us all, inspire us each hour to follow your call. Awaken our vision to all we can be, and challenge our labor to set people free. Though many your names, Love reigns over all; with you we can claim our life-giving call. Cast out all our fear so with you we can soar, creating a world never dreamed of before. O Spirit of Love, compassionate Friend, within and above, your strength knows no end. Your rivers of healing revive thirsty land; all goodness and nourishment flow from your hand. O Spirit of Power, O Love beyond thought, our gifts with you flower; what wonders are wrought. Creator, Redeemer, and Comforting Guide, illumine our lives as with you we abide.
Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton Music © Larry E. Schultz SOARING SONG
from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006). Recording © Jann Aldredge-Clanton & Larry E. Schultz, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians CD (Eakin Press, 2007)
Performed by: Chancel Choir of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina (http://www.pullen.org/). Conductor: Rev. Larry E. Schultz
Pam Allen: collage of divine images © Pam Allen. Used with permission.
Lucy A. Synk: “Ruach” painting © Lucy A. Synk. Used with permission. http://lucysynkfantasyart.com/print_gallery
Recorded by: Ward Productions, Pinehurst, North Carolina