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Posted By Nan

This is a beautiful hymn that I have never sung in a church but have heard on recordings. I have been privileged to learn it through the very beautiful arrangement by John Rutter. What first drew me to this hymn was its beautiful music, but when I searched the internet for the words I discovered their beauty. This is a beautiful song of praise to God. As an environmentalist and nature lover who has chafed during a lifetime of living in suburban Australia, preferring instead to live in the bush, the first verse of this hymn beautifully expresses my love of this beautiful world that God has created.
Today I am briefly exploring the writer and his relationship with God. Later in the series the words, where they echo the Bible, what they say to me and what they say about God, will be explored. This song is a song of praise. In the original form it is a “sacrifice of praise”. In the modern version it is a “grateful hymn of praise”. Both express thanks with different emphasis. The original also uses “Christ our Lord” whereas the modern version uses “Lord of all”. These differences and more are what I intend to reflect on over the course of the blog series. I look forward to where God leads me with this.
This hymn was written by Folliott S. Pierpoint (1835-1917), a poet and hymnist. He was only 29 when he wrote the hymn in 1864. Perhaps it expressed his youthful enthusiasm for the beautiful world God had blessed him to live in. He was certainly overjoyed with the beauty of the countryside that surrounded him and wanted to thank God for that. He wrote it as a Eucharistic Hymn, a hymn to be sung in preparation for Holy Communion. This is thought to be why he included the words “Christ, our Lord, to Thee we raise this our sacrifice of praise” in the refrain. Over the years the hymn has been changed to make it a more general hymn as used today.
Born in Bath, England, he was educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge. He became a classics schoolmaster and a devout Tractarian. Upon completion of his studies, he returned to the south-west of England and taught there.
The Tractarians, also known as the Oxford Movement were a group of High Church Anglicans, mostly associated with Oxford University. The movement believed that many Christian Traditions removed from Protestant worship should be included in Anglican worship. According to the movement, the Anglican Church was one of three branches in the true Christian church. The other branches being the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The movement were alarmed by perceived creeping liberalism in the Anglican Church which moved it away from that ideal. Followers were particularly concerned about the simplification and plainness of worship by Protestants. Despite criticism the movement merely sought to bring the Catholic Church back to dominance in Britain, they did have an influence on the worship and theology of the Anglican Church. As a result of this movement, the Eucharist became central to worship, the wearing of robes and many other Catholic Practices were introduced. The members however were largely excluded from earning a living in service of the Church so many took to working in the slums of Britain where other Anglican ministers did not want to go. Eventually the Oxford Movement established the Christian Social Union which became a movement fighting for a just wage, a regulated property rental market, a reduction in infant mortality and improvement in workers conditions.
Much of this information is not vital to understanding the hymn, but it does explain why Pierpoint wrote such a beautiful hymn for the Eucharist and also why it has been altered to fit into general worship. And it must never be forgotten that this is a beautiful hymn of praise to God.

 
Posted By Nan

3 John 13-15
These three verses conclude the letter. As with the second letter, John closes by saying he had so much more he wanted to say but is choosing to save the rest for when he can speak face to face. He closes with the greeting of Peace to you. This is not just a standard goodbye but a prayer for peace for Gaius. This must have seemed particularly necessary, given the reported trouble making of Diotrephes. This is not just a prayer for the absence of conflict but a spiritual blessing of God. John also passes on greetings from the friend who were with him at the time of writing the letter and asks Gaius to greet the friends who presumably were there with Gaius. John was writing to Gaius but wanted to say hello personally to each of his friends by name. Gaius must have known who the3y were and John wanted to make his greeting personal by asking Gaius to thank them by name. A much nicer hello than just a “give my love to everyone” general statement.
This concludes my study of the Letters of John. Over the past weeks I have been giving much prayerful consideration to what I would study next. I really want to look at the Psalms termed “Songs of Ascent” but before starting on that I want to study a beautiful Hymn that has become a favourite one start each morning with. I want to look at each verse and the references in the Bible and talk about what it means to me. Over the centuries there have been many beautiful hymns/songs written, which carry a deep and beautiful meaning. So often we can forget the beautiful words and forget what it is that drew the writer to pen those words. I am looking forward to looking at one of those beautiful sets of words.

 
Posted By Nan

3 John 9-12
These verses are about two men, Diotrephes and Demetrius. Diotrephes is a man who has authority in the congregation and appears to be ambitious and keen to acquire greater authority. Unlike Gaius, he does not welcome the travelling preachers but does everything he can to hinder them by refusing them hospitality. In the past, John had written to the congregation but Diotrephes had prevented the church from getting the letter. He does not appear to like John and refuses to receive him or have anything to do with him. It is also apparent that Diotrephes has slandered John by spreading malicious lies about him and his companions. He instead continues to refuse to welcome the traveling preachers and also preventing others from welcoming them. In fact, when people went against him and welcomed these travellers into their homes, he had them cast out of the congregation. This man appears more interested in his position in the hierarchy of the congregation than in God. Something we all need to be wary of, in observing others and in our own behaviour.
In verse eleven, it appears John is using Diotrephes as an example to Gaius of those who do what is evil. He exhorts Gaius to instead do what is good. He uses the word imitate. It is an interesting fact of life that we tend to imitate those around us. Here John is reminding Gaius of the importance of choosing good role models. Gaius should imitate what is good because that is from God, the source of all good. Anyone who does evil has not seen God, Is it possible John is suggesting Diotrephes is one of these who do evil? It would appear so.
An interesting thing about Diotrephes is that he was wanting to control what was happening in the congregation. We all use controlling behaviours when we want something very much. We can without realising seek to control what others do. Some people are very manipulative and use controlling behaviours in most aspects of their lives. Diotrephes was using controlling behaviour to control what was happening in the congregation. It may well be because he did not like the travelling preachers. Perhaps he felt threatened by them. Perhaps he had something against the elders in the church. Whatever it was he did not want to accept these people. But he wanted to prevent them coming to the congregation, so he punished anyone who accepted them and he had the power to do it. He also spread malicious lies about John and the other elders. We may not seek to prevent someone coming to talk to congregations, but we do use these behaviours in our lives. Have you ever had anything against another person and sought to prevent them being included in activities in which you have been involved? Have you ever spread stories about someone you have something against to put others off liking them? It is an easy trap to fall into. In Diotrephes case, he was using his behaviour to cause evil in the church. He may have been doing that deliberately to cause harm (which John suggests he was trying to do by saying he was ambitious for more power), or may have been doing it because he had been hurt by someone. Be very wary that when you are hurt or desperate for something to happen a particular way that you do not behave like Diotrephes.
By contrast, Demetrius is a good man. John introduces him without any explanation, presumably because he was well known. He appears to be the example of the good person who is worth imitating. Demetrius is so famous for his goodness that all speak well of him. Presumably this is amongst the body of believers, not just the individual congregations. Whereas Diotrephes is more concerned with his own advancement, which is evil, Demetrius is concerned with the truth and living life according to the gospel so that it shines in his life. He was a good man.
I wonder if John was to write about us, whether he would consider us evil or good?

 
Posted By Nan

3 John 5-8
These four verses mark the beginning of the subject matter of John’s letter. John talks about the custom of the early church, which was to support those of faith who were travelling in order to share the gospel message. As these men travelled they looked for hospitality from the local faithful in the community which they were visiting. Very few of these preachers would have had the money to pay for lodgings. So there was a need for them to be able to find accommodation in the various locations so that they could share the gospel and encourage their fellow believers. So the subject of the letter is hospitality, but not just general hospitality, hospitality to fellow believers.
John commends Gaius for his hospitality. He tells Gaius that he is faithful and shows a fine loyalty. He is loyal to his fellow believers and his actions also accord well with the Christian faith. Gaius has provided for the needs of visiting believers who are neither friends nor relatives and that is truly great hospitality.
John knows about Gaius’s hospitality because those he was hospitable to have reported back to John. He has a reputation amongst the travelling believers of hospitality. John commends him for this and encourages him to continue. The preachers were travelling for the sake of the Name. Whose name? The name above all names (Philippians 2:9). These preachers received help only from Christians in order not to compromise their message. This made them even more dependent on people like Gaius who were willing to support them. Serving these travelling preachers was part of God’s divine purpose and involved believers working together to further the truth.
So how does this apply to our lives today? Does this mean we should be supporting those who work to spread the good news about Jesus Christ? That is something we all need to seek guidance from God for. I have been prompted in the past and now to support Missionaries by praying for them, but God has never asked me to provide accommodation support. That doesn’t mean He may not at some time in the future ask me to do that. I believe we are called on to support one another and to support those who are spreading the good news. I believe God expects us to be willing to be hospitable. But I also believe that some of us may never be asked to provide accommodation to a fellow believer. However, we should always have that willingness should God ask.

 


 
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Nan
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