I’ll never forget one of the first times I heard that magnificent hymn “How Great Thou Art” I was attending the funeral of a member of my extended family who had spent the majority of his adult life as a Minister in the Presbyterian Church of Wales, serving in a number of parishes in South Wales and also having been Moderator, the equivalent of a Bishop. The church was primarily Welsh speaking and had thrived alongside the revival of the Welsh language in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Alun was a wise and godly man who died unexpectedly following a routine operation, leaving his family and his church devastated. The Chapel was packed to capacity with many more people outside. The service was conducted in Welsh, so I have to confess I found it difficult to engage with, as I couldn’t understand much of what was being said! But the singing was spine chillingly wonderful! Imagine this building crammed with people, the majority of whom were men. When we stood to sing How Great Thou Art the sound reverberated at their wonderful voices. In common with the majority of Welsh Chapels, this one had an upstairs balcony that went round three of the four walls. Standing downstairs I felt I was though I was drowning in the sound as the words literally rose heavenwards. “The sings my soul my Saviour God to Thee, How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art”
The thrill of hearing those words on that first occasion has never left me, even now as I write them I feel my heart flip over. Our God is truly awesome – He has made this beautiful world and in His generosity He has given it to us to care for. And what is even more amazing – He sacrificed His Son that we might live!
Yet how do those words speak into our hearts in this season? Why does our great God not stretch His healing hand over our suffering world and eradicate this devastating virus that is turning our lives upside down? If as the words say, Jesus gladly bore our burdens, why will He not bear this one and release us from the strictures under which we are now living?
There are some who say that Covid19 is God’s judgement on a disobedient people who have failed to keep His commandments and have neglected the beautiful creation with which He has entrusted. There are others who believe that this is God’s way of teaching us a different way of life, a new way that focusses on being rather than doing, that encourages kindness and compassion, rather than acquisition and ambition.
I can’t claim any understanding of why this is happening at this time but the reality is that it is happening and God gives all of us the free will to respond to it in whatever way we choose. By sending His Son to suffer death that we might live He also gave us a choice – a choice to believe that we have been redeemed and to live as disciples of Christ or a choice to continue to pursue a life lived for own ends. That choice remains and is perhaps ever more relevant in this season.
It feels that every day we are given more advice about the live in this world dominated by this all encroaching situation. We each have a choice on how we take that advice and how we adapt to the “new normal”
But through it all our God remains great and it is only through our faith in Him that our souls can ever truly sing
( There are many versions of How Great Thou Art. I have chosen one that reminds me of that first time of hearing this life giving hymn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YSIAzur0iw )