A Gracious Place

Monday, July 31, 2006

Let There Be Light

When I was in Nigeria, I had several opportunities to worship in various local churches. Since we were consistently visiting churches within the ECWA denomination (Evangelical Church of West Africa), there was some degree of continuity between these corporate worship experiences. For example, we sang from a songbook entitled, Sacred Songs and Solos, published by Marshall Morgan & Scott Ltd., London & Edinburgh. This songbook contains 1200 pieces. The lyrics are printed without the music, in small print. Many of the songs we sang out of this book I did not recognize. As I flipped through the pages, however, I saw that most of the old hymns I grew up singing were included.

One morning, during the second week of class, I noticed that one my students (James) had brought a copy of this book to class. We had been discussing the role of music in Christian contemplation as a spiritual discipline. I shared what some of my favorites are, and how I will purposefully sing them to myself when I need to stop thinking of earthly things and be more heavenly minded. During the break, I remarked to James that I liked that little songbook because it had so many old songs I had never heard, and so many that were my favorites. The conversation moved along, and my attention moved to other students who had questions, and wanted to talk.

After the break, James came back into the classroom sweating and a bit out of breath. He presented me with a brand new copy of Sacred Songs and Solos and had inscribed the title page thus: “A Gift for You Sir, Brother James Marama, 14/6/06. My Favorite Song, #237.”

Needless to say, I was touched and humbled by this generous gesture. These students all testified to the financial difficulties they face in order to be able to attend school at JETS (Jos Evangelical Theological Seminary). To be given a gift from someone who is very much in need is powerful. It turns on its ear our funny wage-oriented ways of giving wherein we try so hard to make sure everything is even. Grace is displayed, and the music is beautiful. The class, on the last day presented me with a beautiful shirt, along with a matching dress (for Diedra) that they had tailored, paid for by a collection they had taken up during the week. So needy, yet so generous. My stingy heart, convicted, my soul encouraged to be a better giver.

I picked up this book today, and I came across this song. I have no idea what the tune is, but I really like the Trinitarian emphasis of the lyrics.

Thou whose almighty word
Chaos and darkness heard,
And took their flight,
Hear us we humbly pray;
And, where the Gospel day
Sheds not its glorious ray,
“Let there be light!”

Thou, who didst come to bring,
On thy redeeming wing,
Healing and sight-
Health to the sick in mind,
Sight to the inly blind-
Oh, now to all mankind
“Let there be light!”

Spirit of truth and love,
Life-giving, holy Dove,
Speed forth Thy flight!
Move on the waters’ face
By Thine almighty grace,
And in earth’s darkest place
“Let there be light!”

Blessed and Holy Three,
Glorious Trinity,
Wisdom, love and might;
Boundless as ocean’s tide
Rolling in fullest pride
O’er the world far and wide
“Let there be light!”