Oh the life of the world

Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is “Oh the life of the world is a joy and a treasure” by Kathryn and Ian Galloway. The theme of the words is, as John has pointed out, one that can be interpreted in different ways. The “life of the world” can be the whole created order, as I have discussed in the last several posts on the general theme of “God and the World”, or God’s life breathed into humanity according to the Genesis story.   But although there is only a brief reference in the last verse to the Son (i.e. Jesus the Son of God), it also calls to mind his own description of himself as “the way, the truth and the life” and St John’s statement that “whoever has the Son has life”.

With that in mind, each of the first three verses starts with “Oh the life of the world”, which in turn is equated to “a joy and a treasure” followed by a list of some of the beauties of the natural world; “a fountain of goodness” in our common life both in the “sound of the city and the silence of wisdom”, and “the source of our healing” where there is “care for the poor and the broken and where justice is strong”.  The last verse gives thanks for this life in God as Maker, Son and Spirit.

The tune was presumably written for this hymn, and has been arranged by fellow Scot, John Bell, but is in the tradition of Scottish folk melodies. Not surprisingly it is easy to pick up and one that stays in one’s head long after singing.

1 thought on “Oh the life of the world”

  1. I used this hymn on Saturday (yesterday) instead of Sunday (today), and in my message to Stephen about it I said I thought the phrase “the life of the world” had a double meaning: it means “life” in general, but it also means Jesus who is the “life of the world”. I feel this ambiguity is intentional and aimed at affirming the value of life which everyone can agree on, but I find it difficult myself as I’m not sure that it isn’t just pantheism.

    I find verse 3 “Oh, the life of the world is the source of our healing” quite difficult in this respect: yes, healing is a facet of life; and yes, healing is rooted in Jesus; but no, the life of the world isn’t in itself healing. I felt the phrase needed to be nailed down before one reached this verse, and I would like to have another verse added before it – a verse that makes the prologue of John’s Gospel explicit: that life originates in God, but in Jesus the life of God has come into the world and dwelt among us.

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