Let all creation dance

The Horsehead Nebula
Image Credit: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope/Coelum

Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is “Let all creation dance”, by Brian Wren.  Full words and music here. It’s set to the tune better known to the words “Ye holy angels bright”, and has vaguely the same theme of all creation praising God, although the emphasis here is on the non-human aspects of creation. 

The ancient concept of the stars being mere pinpricks of light in the dome separating us from heaven has of course been replaced by an ever-changing understanding of a vast universe of unceasing action and awesome energy. That is reflected in Brian’s words: “let all creation dance in energies sublime, as order turns with chance unfolding space and time” and later “expanding starry swirls, with whirlpools dense and dark”. 

The balance of “order turning with chance” is important: neither a deterministic God who ordained every movement in precise detail, nor one who leaves everything to random forces, is a satisfactory concept of the creator whom we worship. There are indeed ‘rules’ or ‘laws of nature’ (though every time we think we have them wrapped up, some new discovery seems to force scientists to rethink their models) but to deny God the power to direct the course of events as we go along is to belittle him.

Verse three focuses on “our own amazing earth” with “life’s abundant growth in lovely shapes and forms”, but also described as “a fragile whole”, which is another growing understanding we have of how we are disturbing the delicate balance of ecosystems.  Verse four turns back on us, the singers, urging us to “lift heart and soul and voice” in praise of Christ and his re-creation of all things.  The more that we find the universe to be infinite, complex and “queerer than we can suppose” (JBS Haldane), the less outrageous the claim seems to be that Jesus not only rose alive from the dead and then vanished into thin air, but will come back to intervene in a much bigger way when “nature shall rejoice as all is made complete”.

1 thought on “Let all creation dance”

  1. I think Brian Wren has a very engaging way with these words about creation and its intricacies, and I appreciated his thoughts on the big bang (v2) and the complexity and beauty of life (v3) – a great modern update of Genesis 1&2, well expressed by Stephen in his post. I particularly liked the frank admission that the sun and moon are mindless, yet the way that physical objects obey the laws of mechanics (whether this be Newtonian or Einsteinian, or indeed quantum) shows that behind the creation there is a divine mind and heart.

    I was reminded of the argument in C S Lewis’ book “Miracles” that without admitting the existence of God there is no explanation of the universe’s adherence to physical laws, and no guarantee that it will behave in an orderly manner tomorrow – but given this admission, science has a basis on which to proceed to make predictions which can be verified or falsified. Well done, Brian, for touching on this in a hymn.

    I think I was less convinced that this hymn was paired with the right tune. Darwall’s 148th deliberately heightens the “C”s in the rhyme scheme ABABCDDC, but it does so by putting a long pause at the end of line 5 – OK for verses 1 and 4, but much less so for verse 2. Perhaps a tune like Harewood or “Marlborough Gate” (262 in this book) would work better? Perhaps more importantly, the lyric’s first line asks for a dance tune, whereas Darwall’s 148th is a straight-laced tune. I haven’t solved this problem in my own mind.

Comments are closed.