Hymns, Psalms and Poetry

I was at a friends funeral recently and we sang the song “How Great Thou Art”. Whilst singing the second verse I was reminded of how brilliant it is to worship out of doors.

“When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.

When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur

And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.”

 

The story of the song from it’s first appearance as a poem written in Swedish by Carl Boberg, tells how it was inspired by Psalm 8 alongside a walk home through a thunderstorm and the following calm.

Psalm 8

1 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.

2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

5 You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels and crowned them[f] with glory and honour. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;  you put everything under their[g] feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, 8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

The author, Carl Boberg himself gave the following information about the inspiration behind his poem which he wrote in 1885:

“It was that time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon there was thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared.

When I came home I opened my window toward the sea. There evidently had been a funeral and the bells were playing the tune of “When eternity’s clock calls my saved soul to its Sabbath rest”. That evening, I wrote the song, “O Store Gud”. (O Great God) 

The poem was translated into German, then Russian and from the Russian into English by a Methodist Missionary called Stuart K. Hine

He wrote, adapted and paraphrased, adding to the original poem to produce the hymn which is such a big favourite today.

In true Hine tradition we were tasked in:

  • Writing a poem about how great God is
  • Adapting a verse to make it fit with our experience of worship out of doors
  • Writing a new psalm

I was amazed at what people could write given no notice in the short time of the ten minutes allowed.

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A little Wordsworthian rendering 

“Thoughts composed in Hall Leys Park on 21st July 2019 on the first anniversary of being diagnosed with a high grade prostate cancer. 

Here. Now. In this moment

Bird song blesses and delights my heart. 

The silent river weaves it’s endless journey to the sea

And I am canopied neath ancient trees,

life’s form is echoed in each branch and leaf and hyphae hid. 

Then I who know life’s precious gift 

With joy and gratitude am filled. 

Then only silence fills the void 

As I contemplate the One, whom time and space cannot contain.”

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A new verse                                                                                 

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,

consider all the works your hand has made.

Eyes raised to the hills, trees that proclaim their maker,

Your love throughout this space, this time displayed

 

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A little plagiarism noted in this one 

                  O Lord my God                  

I give you all my thanks and praise

for moments of blessing I recall

The autumn leaves falling on us as if they were raindrops

                               The singing sun rising above Riber

For the life that encompasses us in the park, above, below, behind, in front on our left and on our right. 

For the birds that sing and the trees that speak. 

Their tangled branches over our heads and their roots spreading beneath us, hugged by fungus. 

O Lord, Our Lord how majestic is your name.

When I look at my friends, how blessed can I be. 

Sharing the love of Jesus, receiving the love of Jesus and having companions to walk the way of Jesus. 

How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art. 

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Enigma

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the wordsmiths among us 

“Oh Splendofigorously emineatiae 

Our words are not enough 

Oh our rootengroundedness imminence 

Our wonder, full 

To say nothing is to say something

To say something is to pretend we know 

And yet we yearn and that

Yearning is your child-like gift 

Take delight in our nonsense 

You are our end and our beginning 

Our breath in and our breath out 

Yahweh!”

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Hine had to leave the Ukraine after the genocides of Stalin and then return to the UK from Eastern Europe due to the outbreak of the Second World War.

One man told Hine this story: he had been separated from his wife at the very end of the war, and had not seen her since. At the time they were separated, his wife was a Christian, but he was not, but he had since been converted. His deep desire was to find his wife so they could at last share their faith together. But he told the Hines that he did not think he would ever see his wife on earth again. Instead he was longing for the day when they would meet in heaven, and could share in the Life Eternal there. These words again inspired Hine, and they became the basis for his fourth and final verse to ‘How Great Thou Art’: “When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation to take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then we shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim, My God How Great Thou Art!”

We prayed for all those who were separated by death, war, illness, accident, relationship breakdown and disaster.

Again in Hine tradition we used words adapted from the hymn for sharing bread and wine

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;

Allowed  Him to die, I scarce can take it in;

That on a Cross, my burdens gladly bearing,

He bled and died so that love would win.

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