STLT#23, Bring Many Names

Bring many names, beautiful and good;
celebrate in parable and story,
holiness in glory, living, loving God:
hail and hosanna, bring many names.

Strong mother God, working night and day,
planning all the wonders of creation,
setting each equation, genius at play:
hail and hosanna, strong mother God!

Warm father God, hugging ev’ry child,
feeling all the strains of human living,
caring and forgiving till we’re reconciled:
hail and hosanna, warm father God!

Old, aching God, grey with endless care,
calmly piercing evil’s new disguises,
glad of new surprises, wiser than despair:
hail and hosanna, old, aching God!

Young, growing God, eager still to know,
willing to be changed by what you’ve started,
quick to be delighted, singing as you go:
hail and hosanna, young, growing God!

Great, living God, never fully known,
joyful darkness far beyond our seeing,
closer yet than breathing, everlasting home:
hail and hosanna, great, living God!

In my opinion, this hymn needs to be retired.

To be honest, I groaned when I turned to the page and saw which hymn it was.

First, it is a fairly annoying tune to repeat seven times – and it’s hard to omit a verse because then you’re omitting an aspect of god. But ugh – it’s such an annoying tune I stopped after three and then just sang the last line to end on a resolved chord.

Second, it’s got some troubling stereotypes: “Strong mother God, working night and day.” Really? The father God is warm, “hugging ev’ry child” – Dad’s being loving and kissing the hurts away while Mom is toiling away at creation? Are you kidding me? No. Just no.

I’m not that thrilled with how the lyrics paint young and old, either, as though only the old ache and only the young learn?

There are admittedly a few lovely moments – the last verse is terrific – “joyful darkness far beyond our seeing” is a nice turn of phrase. But I am not going to praise an entire hymn because it stumbles into poetic once or twice.

And yes… I get why this might be important for some people coming in to this faith from others who painted a vengeful, controlling image of a strong male God. But there are so many other hymns that explore the ways Unitarian Universalists understand the Divine, without using stereotypes and an annoying, kill-me-now tune.

I don’t want to talk about aching Gods and overworked housewife Gods, I want to talk about a God that can’t be described in trite stereotypes but needs expansive and gorgeous language to give a hint of what God might be.

I want to talk about all that might be God even if we can’t or won’t name it as God because of all the damage that word has done.

I want to talk about what God means to how we live with and among one another.

I want to talk about how we live on this amazing planet in this amazing time of the creative humans and see what we can do together to be together, work together, love together because that is God.

I want to take hikes in the woods and sit on beaches and picnic by streams and gaze out at changing leaves and talk about the emanating from the rocks and lakes and trees and birds God.

I want to talk about inspiring, creative, love beyond all measure, bigger than us but seen constantly in us and among us, present whether we notice or not God.

I want to talk about God without needing to believe in God.

I want to see God in you, and I want to see God in me.

I don’t want to categorize God. I want to experience God.

 

6 Comments

  1. I also groan (inwardly) when I see this hymn on the order of service, for pretty much the reasons you outline. I know the point is supposed to be to expand the traditional Christian image of God, but to me it feels like we’re tracing new boundaries that are just as inadequate as the old ones — “circumscribing the infinite”, to use Channing’s phrase.

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