Song: O Praise The Name (Anástasis)

This choice might be surprising. My general preference for hymns and songs is that they are traditional. And most usually don’t have choruses. And most aren’t written by Hillsong.

To be fair, this song has a lot of what makes a good hymn or song. Words that speak of the Gospel. A song through which we can praise and worship God. A strong tune and harmony that is more interesting than many modern worship songs (*ducks*)

There are four verses. The first tells of Jesus’ death. The second of the dark days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The third is perhaps my favourite; after the darkness and pain of Jesus’ death, it tells of His glorious resurrection. It probably helps that the tune is transposed up in this verse, which just helps to add to the joy. The final verse hopes for Jesus’ return. And in between, a chorus of praise.

On reflection, I think this is a worship song I prefer to listen to. And I don’t mean to say I don’t enjoy singing it; I just think that whilst it’s an excellent song, I prefer singing other things. But I could listen to it on repeat for days, using it as a tool to worship God.

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!

Hymns: Like a Mighty River Flowing

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

Like a mighty river flowing
Like a flower in beauty growing
Far beyond all human knowing
Is the perfect peace of God.”

Music often reminds me of certain situations. So it is with this music. I love the tune, and the harmonies. I love the words. But it takes me back to a point last year where I wasn’t in the best of places. When I just felt a deep longing and melancholy. When I was counting down the weeks until my parents came to visit. When I was going on walks at night just to feel some of God’s peace and presence. So it should really be no surprise that, when this piece came to mind earlier today, I started to feel just a little homesick.

When my parents came up to visit, I stayed with them for a night in the Yorkshire Dales.

Like the hills serene and even
Like the coursing clouds of heaven
Like a heart that’s been forgiven
Is the perfect peace of God.”

This piece is so evocative of the beauty I found there, and often crave. If I start to feel homesick, sad, lonely, or isolated, I look to where I experience God the most. In creation, and in tradition. I love worshipping in the same building as people from hundreds of years ago. Singing the same hymns as people from hundreds of years ago. And knowing that I worship the same, unchanging God as them.

But I also experience God in creation. And that’s something I don’t see too much of during term time. So weirdly I’m currently a little bit “homesick” for that.

The hymn is so evocative of everything that I crave so much. Yet it has the answer as well. I know I’m at uni and don’t have the chance to experience everything it suggests. But everything it suggests is in comparison to the amazing presence and peace of God. The peace that passes all understanding. I guess this means a little re-evaluation. What do I really want?

It’s all pointing to my need of God. His peace, His love, His compassion. Something so vast, so valuable, and so unimaginable.

Like the azure ocean swelling
Like the jewel all-excelling
Far beyond our human telling
Is the perfect peace of God”

Hymns: Praise God for the Harvest

I love the tune for this hymn, although I previously associated it with Christmas for some reason.

Praise God for the Harvest is a beautiful hymn that reminds us that everything comes from God, and it is through God’s love that we receive so many blessings. Even though it’s so tempting to see everything as coming from ourselves. Our labour. Our inventions. The things that we grow and create.

But as well as reminding us of God’s great love and grace, it is also prayerful, particularly in the last verse:

“Praise God for the harvest of mercy and love
for leaders and peoples who struggle and serve
with patience and kindness, that all may be led
to freedom and justice, and all may be fed.”

This is a prayer for those for whom God’s love is not so evident. For those who are hungry, either for food or for freedom and justice.

Harvest for us is a time of celebration and thankfulness. And it’s mostly about food. But harvest, for me, also speaks about sharing. Sharing food. Sharing time. And maybe even sharing the Gospel.

Hymns: The Day Thou Gavest

It’s been a very long and hectic few days. I’ve packed and unpacked and packed again, and now I’m in Shropshire at Forum, having moved into my house for the next year two days ago. Being back at my uni church was really good, and seeing how much God has blessed my friends there over the holidays has been really encouraging.

Another thing that’s encouraged me recently is this hymn. The day thou gavest is often used in the evening or in remembrance. But I also find it pretty encouraging during the day.

It reminds us that everything is God’s gift to us. But that’s not all. It speaks of constant praise to God, both our own, and of brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. Knowing that there are so many people across the world living and breathing God’s love all the time is just so encouraging and inspiring.

Hymns: Thou, whose almighty word

In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” – John 1:4-5

The tune for the following hymn has been going round in my head for a while now. And it was really frustrating me because I could barely remember any of the words. As it turns out, the words are just as good as the tune.

This hymn seems so full of hope – with each verse ending with “Let there be light”. In the third verse, we are reminded that God can work anywhere, even in the darkest places and situations. The final verse prays for God’s light and love across the whole world – something that often feels sorely needed.

But it’s the first verse that I particularly like, in this case.

Thou, whose almighty word
Chaos and darkness heard,
And took their flight;
Hear us, we humbly pray,
and where the gospel-day
Shines not its glorious ray,
Let there be light.”

As well as asking for God’s love to manifest itself everywhere, to me it also highlights why I’m part of CU. A large part of what CU does is evangelism, and this verse is a brilliant reminder of why we do it. The gospel is there – it is such a fundamental part of our faith and it gives such hope and joy.

It’s also a reminder that so many people don’t know the gospel. And given as how I was brought up in a Christian household, going to Church every Sunday, and never knowing a time when I didn’t know Jesus, I think I’ve probably taken it for granted a little too much. But that’s why it’s so important to let others know about Jesus. So that they too can have the privilege of knowing God and His everlasting love.

Hymns: May the Mind of Christ, My Saviour

Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.” – Joshua 1:9

May the Mind of Christ, My Saviour is another of my favourite hymns. As with many of my favourite hymns, it is prayerful. It asks for God’s help so we can help others, as well as asking for God’s love, peace and power. It reminds me of God’s importance; “so that all may see I triumph only through His power.” This phrase, for me, underlines how important God is, and how easy it is to forget that. How easy it is for others to see my achievements as my own, rather than God’s. And, indeed, just how much God has given me.

Whilst I love the whole hymn, I particularly like the final verse:

May we run the race before us,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only unto Jesus
as we onward go.

For me, it serves as a reminder that we should not be afraid of anything that we will face; we should instead be focussed on Jesus. We know that God will be with us; and that’s quite easy for me to forget.

And as always, the music is just as important to me as the words. A simple yet beautiful tune and harmony make this hymn one of my favourites.