SO today was Pentecost. Happy birthday, church, and all that jazz (we had a birthday card today. I can’t work out whether this is more or less mad than singing happy birthday to the church last year, but notably instigated by the same person!)
Was having a think (no, it didn’t hurt, before anyone asks) today we sung the divine “Be Thou My Vision”. Whether it’s a result of returning to my Anglo-Catholic roots or not, I’m not sure, but I did love the fact that the lyrics hadn’t been modernised in todays version. So we sang the beautiful..
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Over the years, I’ve sung some slightly different versions of that – usually “I thy true child” Despite being as feminist as it gets (does it tell?) that version has always rankled with me. I’ve been trying to work out why, and I think I might have got it today.
I think it’s to do with the idea of the son being the heir. As modern as we make it, we can’t divorce the bible from its original context. And in context, being the son is much more than being a child. Being a son meant being an inheritor. Being a son meant sharing in the glory of the Father. The word often used for son in the New Testament is huios – which refers to the legal adoption of a son – as OPPOSED to a child. Birth made a child a child, adoption – huios – makes the child a son. It recognises his maturity as a member of the family. The child subject to huios can legally represent the father.
It also refers to likeness – like Father, like Son. By calling us sons, we’re not denigrating women, but elevating them as co-members of God’s inheritance and co-bearers of God’s likeness. It makes the New Testament quite radical when you think about it!
And that, incredibly, is what we get to do with God. We get to be a part of his glory, and all he did with Christ – even though we don’t deserve it. And yes, I know that gender doesn’t matter. I’m as much a child of GOd as my son and husband are, for example. But todays language doesn’t convey the sheer – specialness, I guess, for want of a real word – of being God’s son. Of being adopted and invited to share in his inheritance.
Clumsy words, I guess. Just a plea not to mess with my hymns!