It was fascinating to delve into the history of ‘How great thou art’ last week. Several people have commented on that part of Sunday’s sermon.
It’s amazing that a hymn that looks so seamless took nearly 70 years to craft into its current form! (Carl Boberg wrote the original Swedish hymn in 1885 and Stuart Hine finalised his English version in 1949.)
And I know one or two people who have continued to add to ‘How great thou art!’ Here’s a verse that Cecelia (who’s creativity will be greatly missed!) contributed a few years ago!
When through the bush, on walking tracks I wander,
and see the ridge, of mountains guarding me.
When I look down, ‘neath gumtrees full of grandeur,
And find each leaf, so different and unique.
Did you know, that Stuart Hine’s version was not the earliest English version of this hymn? In 1925, E. Gustav Johnson, an American professor, published a very faithful translation of the Swedish original in the Covenant Hymnal as ‘O Mighty God’.
Stuart Hine’s version was criticised by some people more familiar with Johnson’s version. Although it uses “fresher language and striking metaphors,” they wrote, it “seems uneven and incomplete”. Not surprising when Hine was adding verses throughout his and his wife, Mercy’s, period of ministry. (I should correct an error in the sermon. I mentioned he was a ‘Baptist’ missionary. I meant to say ‘British’ missionary. He was, in fact, Plymouth Brethren through he was influenced greatly by British Baptist evangelist Charles Spurgeon.)
There is an extra verse Stuart Hine wrote (not included in the published version) that I think helps to hold together the story of our faith – tying together our experience of God’s presence to our experience of God’s saving love to the promise of, one day, being fully united with God and all that God loves. This is it:
When burdens press, and seem beyond endurance,
bowed down with grief, to him I lift my face;
and then in love he brings me sweet assurance:
‘My child! for thee sufficient is my grace’.
God’s grace – the undeserved favour of God and God’s powerful, practical help in our daily lives where we most need it – is the thread that holds our story of faith together. That holds us together! Grace is the thread that enables us to find our way through life – through suffering and joys – to come to know God more and know God better. ‘Grace will lead us home’ – as another well-loved hymn proclaims!
So, although our lives don’t look seamless (I know my life doesn’t!) we are held together, woven and knitted together by bright threads of God’s grace.
Grace and peace to you all,
PS Speaking of knitting – tonight (Wed 17 Jan) the Kingston Knitters (our new craft and community group) are meeting at the manse at 7:30pm. Bring a craft or come and learn one. All are welcome!