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Posted By Nan

Verse 4
"For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild".
(newer versions replace this line with: "Pleasures pure and undefiled".)
This verse is in every version of the hymn I have been able to find. The last line however has changed. Originally it was as written but later 20th century versions have replaced this line with "Pleasures pure and undefiled". I wonder why?
When I look at “for all gentle thoughts and mild” I think of Galatians 5:22-23 which talks about the fruit of the Spirit being, amongst other things, love, joy and gentleness. Pierpoint appears to be writing of the divine gift of love, which fills us with the divine gift of joy and also has its outpouring in gentleness. God’s gift to all mankind, even those who do not believe in him, is love. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us about love, which comes from God. We are all capable of feeling love, but allowing the Holy Spirit to pour into us allows us to experience the joy of divine love. All love is a gift from God, but divine love is greater than fallen human love. God made us for relationships (Genesis 2:18) and He gave us love so that we could develop those relationships. He gave us parents, siblings, children and friends. This love is as divine as the joy we feel at being loved and the joy of gentleness that accompanies that love. So why change what is an activity, a way of living, and replace it with a line that speaks of experience?
Feeling Godly pleasure is not wrong, but we cannot truly feel it unless we spend time in personal worship with God. Unless we are humbling worshipping at the throne, being prepared to give up all self-interest, we are not worshipping God in a pure and undefiled way. So although the line is not intrinsically wrong, replacing a line speaking of true worship of God, an act of worship to God, with one emphasising pleasure, an act for self, concerns me.
I have become wary of worship in churches involving carefully planned songs designed to lift people up into a frenzy of praise so that everyone can experience the buzz it gives. The sad thing in these services is there is never stillness to truly come near to God. People are so busy being drawn into the vortex of praise that they do not necessarily truly praise God. Things have changed from being a sacrifice of praise and a time for reflection to a pleasurable experience for the participants so they can leave feeling charged up by the rousing music program. The trouble is, you can get that same buzz from watching an Anzac Day march with the rousing military music being played as the servicemen march past. You can get it from a beautifully planned pop concert, from an amazing musical. This buzz does not necessarily come from God. It does come from our pleasure centres in our brains but that is not where true Godly worship comes from. It concerns me that a line that speaks of an active choice to follow God and put self aside, or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes it “costly grace”, is replaced with something that focuses instead on experience. It comes back to the carefully choreographed worship experience that leaves God out of it and focuses instead on the buzz.
What do you think?

 

 
Posted By Nan

Verse 3
“For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and brain’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight,”
This verse is missing from some hymn books. From my research it disappeared from the Anglican hymnbooks fairly quickly but remained for at least 100 years in the hymnbooks of the Presbyterian Church. I have found no reason for this. Perhaps this is a reflection of church politics regarding tractarians or differences in doctrine. The Presbyterian hymnbooks also tend to turn the refrain into “Christ our God, to thee we raise, this our sacrifice of praise”, again suggesting a difference in doctrine. I am not getting into an argument about different doctrines. I think we all have an individual relationship with God that reflects our personality. For this reason, one person will relate to God differently to another yet both are involved in a personal relationship with God.
It is all very well to delight in the beauty of the earth, but if we do not have the senses to take in such beauty, and here Pierpoint describes seeing and hearing, then it is hard to appreciate the beauty. He also describes a reaction of the heart and the brain. These two often symbolise emotions and logic. We must respond to beauty both emotionally and logically. Then Pierpoint suggests something that is quite revolutionary. He suggests that the link between our senses and the sights and sounds that surround us is spiritual. Given that this line runs directly into the refrain the link is made to the source of this spiritual link as Jesus.
I wonder if this verse was left out of some hymn books because of a need to reduce the length of the hymns and this verse being considered extremely weird. Its removal occurred at a time when the spiritual side of our lives was being denied. For many decades in the middle of the 20th century Science and Logic were considered to be the only acceptable way to be. It has only been in the latter decades of that century and into this one that there has been a recognition of the importance of Spirituality in our lives. This verse is very spiritual.
If we look at the Psalms, we see Psalm 19 declare the glory of God, so great that even the skies proclaim the work of God’s hands. This declaration is constant, appearing day after day and night after night. The declaration is universal so that all in the world can see God’s glory (v1-4). These theme is repeated in Psalm 104 where we read that God, our Lord, is clothed with majesty, splendour and greatness (v1). The entire psalm records how He spreads that greatness through all the earth. In Psalm 90 we are reminded that God has been our dwelling place throughout all generations, even before the earth came into being. We long for God, to be with Him. (v1-2). Finally in 2 Corinthians 5:7 we read “We live by faith, not by sight” NIV. The context of this verse is that we are longing for our heavenly dwelling with God.
This represents the meaning of verse 3. We can only recognise God because He enables us to (John 6:65, Matthew 6:16-17). We can only understand God’s glory in His creation because He enables us to. For that gift we offer up a grateful sacrifice of praise.

 

 
Posted By Nan

2nd verse

“For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night, hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and starts of light.”

In this verse Pierpoint thanks God for the beauty of each hour, for the day, night, hill, vale, tree, flower, sun, moon and stars.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecc 3:1) “The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down” (Psalm 104:19). So the moon and sun mark off time as each hour does. The times are appointed by God (Dt 11:14, Ps 145:15, Is 49:8, Je 18:23). The Biblical view of time is linear. God’s purpose moves on to consummation and doesn’t repeat. At times God advances His purposes in the world and at others he allows things to play out. When Jesus was on earth Mary asked Him to perform a miracle at a wedding. “My time has not yet come” (John 2:4). Later we read that “no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come” (7:30). Then in 17:1 we read Jesus’ prayer “Father, the time has come.” God is sovereign in appointing times. Jesus told the disciples about the end of the Age “No one knows about what day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32) God’s sovereignty over time extends to the life of the individual as well. “My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.” (Psalm 31:15) Unlike us, God is not limited by time. God is the “King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Timothy 1:17). We also must not forget “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8)

Part of understanding God’s greatness and the awesomeness of time is understanding how God transcends time. Time is part of His creation but He is not governed by it.

The earthly features mentioned in this verse are all visible aspects of God’s work. Look up to the sky. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1). “God made two great lights the great light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night and to separate light from darkness” (Genesis 1:16-18). Yet the Sun and moon are not as great or as enduring as God’s glory. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Revelation 21:23)

We look to the Hills and we see the glory of God. We can ask with the writer of Psalm 121 “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Yet even the Hills in their lofty heights and the valleys in their calm depths are under God’s control. In Isaiah 40:4-5 we read “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.”

God’s kingdom is one. Every Tree and Flower is under His control and is one with Him. They will even sing for joy before the Lord (Psalm 96:11-12). Do not forget Jesus’ words of encouragement to his disciples not to worry as even the flowers in the field grow and burst into beautiful flower because God watches over them (Matthew 6:28-30)

This verse recognises God’s transcendence over all things including time. It acknowledges that all time is under God’s control. It also acknowledges God’s creation as being everything we see around us in the sky and on the earth and thanks Him for them.

 
Posted By Nan

Refrain
Original Refrain Christ Our Lord, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise.
Modern Refrain Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
In converting this hymn from a liturgical hymn to a general hymn the refrain was changed from the original to the modern wording. I don’t understand why that is necessary but then I also don’t understand a lot of the ritual in church services. I find the ritual and the strange little rules to be a hindrance to my relationship with God. I do wonder if there was a certain amount of politics behind the word change. In 1916 when the wording was changed the memories of the tractarians may well have been fresh in the memory of the people who edited the words. Still, I wonder how much time was spent consulting God on the wording.
I do not understand why “Christ Our Lord” was changed to “Lord of all” but I love both phrases. Jesus Christ is Our Lord and He is Lord of all.
I love the idea of offering up a sacrifice of praise. I am certainly grateful to Jesus Christ for all He has done but I prefer the stronger wording of Sacrifice of Praise. For me, words cannot express the response I feel when faced with all the beauty of creation and all that God has done for me. My response is one of such joy and reverence that “grateful” seems a poor description.
In Psalm 51:17 the psalmist writes “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (NIV). When I am faced with all that God has done I feel that broken spirit and broken and contrite heart is the proper response. A response that is stronger than grateful.
In Mark 12:33 we read “To love Him (God) with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (NIV). God calls us to respond to Him with all our hearts, understanding and strength. He values that response and willingness to act out that response more than any sacrifice or offering. This response is far stronger than grateful.
In Romans 12:1 we are called to “… in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship” (NIV). To offer ourselves as a living sacrifice is far stronger than grateful.
Hebrews 7:27 reminds us that Jesus “sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (NIV). “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:15-16 NIV).
Certainly being grateful is a proper response to all God does but I believe Pierpoint intended it to go further than just gratitude. The verses I have quoted above talk of response that include actions. Our gratitude requires a response. Although we are offering a grateful hymn of praise the proper response to this is a sacrifice of praise. This is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, loving God with all my heart, my understanding and my strength and demonstrating that love in the way I relate to others. My gratitude should take a form that costs me something. I should be giving up something to praise God and act out that praise. I would rather sing this hymn and profess a willingness to raise to Christ our Lord or Lord of all my sacrifice of praise.

 
Posted By Nan

1st Verse
“For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,”
 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.
We live in a beautiful earth and we delight in it. The number of beautiful photos that are shared around on social media is testimony to that. The number of photos that adorn coffee table books and calendars is testimony to that. God created great beauty and He gave us the ability to appreciate that beauty. We look at trees, we look at oceans, we look at waterfalls, we look at a small child or a baby animal and we feel delight at the beauty we see. We look at the sky, at beautiful sunsets, the myriad stars in the Milky Way, the full moon and we delight at the beauty we see. How many people love to be out on bushwalks, delighting in the beauty of nature? How many people dream of a trip through beautiful tropical waters on a yacht? How much does a beautiful view or location add to the value of a house or holiday destination? How many people rushed to view the full moon eclipse last night? We hunger and thirst for the beauty of this earth. How many people will say they are grateful for a beautiful tree, or flower or view. How many people will thank God for the beauty of a day? When we are looking for something to praise God about, the beauty of the earth and sky is one of the first places we look. This world God has placed us in is the first evidence we have that God loves us and that He is our Creator God.
So we praise God for the beauty around us. But deep in that beauty is the fact that God loves us and that is the greatest beauty of all. That love is all around us, in all of creation.
“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” Psalm 36:5
“The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.” Psalm 119:64
“You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. Psalm 65:11
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
I grew up an unwanted child at the end of a family of four. I was hated and physically and emotionally abused. I never heard words of love, only words of hate. One of the greatest moments of my life was the time God showed me how Jesus held me as a child and loved me. How angry He was at the way my parents treated me. It was wonderful to know that through all those horrible years I was loved by the one whose love matters. My parents may have never loved me and my siblings may echo my parents and wage a campaign of hatred against me, but it doesn’t matter. God loves me and that is sufficient. For me, to know I am surrounded by love and have been since my birth has been so wonderful. There may not have been rejoicing on earth when I was born but there sure was rejoicing in heaven. I wonder how many other people need to hear that beautiful message. How many need to know that God loves them and always has. That no matter how horrible their childhoods were or how isolated they feel even now from their family, they are surrounded by God’s love and always have been.
Thank you Father God.

 


 
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Nan
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