Hymns: Fairest Lord Jesus

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.” – Isaiah 40:8

I have moments sometimes, when I look at the stars, or at nature, or something beautiful, and wonder how it is that God is just so good.

This morning I was walking to a prayer meeting, and saw the stream near my home, with a lovely church in the background. It looked so serene and idyllic, and I was reminded of God’s beauty, glory and goodness. In fact, it made me so joyous I was singing all the way to the prayer meeting…

Anyway. Fairest Lord Jesus is simply beautiful. It speaks about beauty in the natural world, and in us. It finally talks about how unchanging and unfading Jesus is, which is a wonderful reminder in this ever-changing world.

“Fair are the meadows
Fairer still the woodlands
Robed in the verdure and bloom of spring!
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer,
He makes the saddest heart to sing!”

This is the second verse, reminding us that no matter how good and beautiful nature is, Jesus is even better. That’s super encouraging – nature is so beautiful and yet Jesus can offer more!

But perhaps my favourite verse is the final one, which ends like this:

“Yet is their beauty fading and fleeting,
My Jesus, thine will never fade.”

It’s an important reminder that our only constant hope and joy is to be found in Jesus – beautiful things will eventually fade away, die or otherwise lose their beauty, but Jesus is eternal.

The verse I chose at the top talks about God’s everlasting Word. The chapter compares people to grass, and their faithfulness to flowers: They die, they wither, but God is ever-present and endures forever. What a blessing it is to have such a God!

Purpose, Post-Assessment

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

This bit of Ecclesiastes is a beautiful piece of poetry. Although much of Ecclesiastes is pretty depressing. It looks for some sort of fulfilment, some sort of hope. That’s partly why, after studying Ecclesiastes in our Church Bible study, we then moved on to Matthew’s Gospel.

Anyway. I guess you could also say that there’s a time for 3 deadlines in 2 days, and a time for rest afterwards. Let’s just say that Wednesday was productive. I enjoy being productive – it seems to give a sense of purpose to the day. But where does that purpose come from?

I could spell it out step-by-step, but I may as well cut to my answer: Jesus.

In our recent Events Week, a group of us did some dramas. One of those was called Lady Penelope, which is a fairly short and light-hearted drama. But it had an impact. The idea was that Lady Penelope lived a perfect, privileged life – she had all she could ever want, and was super intelligent to boot. But then, one day, she just… died.

And that was the end of the drama. And I think it sums up the book of Ecclesiastes quite well. You can be poor or rich, good or bad, but we all end up dead.

But then see how the Gospels show that fulfilment, that hope, that purpose, which seems so lacking in Ecclesiastes. What’s different? Jesus is there.

“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.”

Potentially the most famous verse in the Bible summing up why Jesus came.

And I think this verse from Colossians summing up the purpose of everything we do: giving glory to God.

 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Assessments are not fun. Sometimes stressful, often difficult. It’s so easy to become self-absorbed, and forget about God whilst struggling to find another 50 words to write. Perhaps remembering the purpose of doing it would make it a little more bearable…

Hymn: Cantique de Jean Racine

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

OK, so this isn’t strictly a hymn. More a piece of choral music. But it ranks high amongst my favourites.

The Cantique de Jean Racine is a setting by Fauré of an earlier text by (you guessed it) Jean Racine. The music is wonderful – I love the constant triplets in the accompaniment, and the rich harmonies.

The words speak of God’s grace, presence, glory and peace. One of my favourite lines translates roughly as “That hell may flee at the sound of [His] voice!” – this really helps remind me of just how glorious God is. And yet, after this climax, it dies down gradually to the end of the third verse, where the text talks of God’s faithful people going in peace.

This is an important reminder to me at the moment. I’ve got a fair number of assessments to work on and a busy day with the Brass Band on Saturday. I find it all too easy to get stressed out and worked up about things like this – having a calming piece of music that speaks of God’s peace, grace and glory is a great reminder to stay grounded!

Events Week!

“All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.” – Psalm 145:10-12

This is probably going to be quite a short post, because burnout is real and I don’t want it to happen!

Anyway, this is a very exciting week of events that the CU is running and… I may have volunteered to help for a fair amount of it, and may have somehow got involved with some of the dramas we’re doing, and I may have helped to lead a prayer meeting on Tuesday morning, and I may have actually stood up and invited a whole seminar group to the event today…

As you can tell, it’s a pretty mad week. So many people have come along to events; it’s been such an encouragement, and such a blessing, to see that people are coming along and engaging and hearing the Gospel. God is so good!

It’s been a great week so far, and my prayers at the moment are that it would continue to be a great week. There are so many people on campus to reach, and all of them should know of God’s might, glory and love.

In short: I am excited. I am tired. I am stupidly busy. But God is great!

Legalese… And the Christian Version

One of my modules this year is about Law and Language, and one of the first things we’ve looked at is Legalese. One of the most confusing dialects of English I’ve ever seen.

And yes, I do call it a dialect. Because to those who are unable to speak it, it’s basically incomprehensible. Full of jargon, full of weird phrasing, with everything ending up sounding very posh and clunky.

But that got me thinking. How much of what I say as a Christian is incomprehensible?

One of the funnier examples we had in the Law seminar went as follows:

‘Judge: Are you the defendant?
Defendant: No, I’m the guy who did it…’

How far should we go in making things understandable?

The topic of ‘Christianese’ has come up several times in the past year, but it’s particularly pertinent for me now, as we’re looking at just how important language use is.

Looking at examples of terrible legal sentences, a few things have become clear.

Be clear and concise. A long sentence whose main clause does not have a verb within a short period from the beginning of the sentence and whose subject and verb are separated by several subordinate clauses and which is so long that by the time you get to the end of the sentence you’ve forgotten the beginning of that sentence because of so many unnecessary repetitions of a word which represents the concept you are talking about, is hard to understand.

Use simple language. If that’s unavoidable, try to explain it. So I could be talking about sin. To make things clear and concise it’s probably best that I just use the word “sin”. But it’s probably worth explaining that “sin” is something that we think, say or do which is not pleasing to God. Something that separates us from a perfect relationship with God.

Of course there are others. Unnecessary wordiness, dodgy phrasing, binomials (where the two words mean exactly the same thing but both are deemed necessary…)…

Language is a powerful tool that, used well, can really help people understand what we believe and why we believe it. But we have to take care; we can start to alienate people just by the words we say, and that’s not very helpful when we’re aiming to spread God’s affection, tenderness and devotion. Sorry, I meant “love”…