Returning from our final holiday walk in Northern Ireland, I had a text from a friend. It devastated me. I missed out on singing Shine Jesus Shine at church this morning. This is one of my all time favourite hymns and yet, so many people hate it (particularly, it would seem, my generation. I think, though, that even after 30 years we should all still be singing this song today.
For me, I fell in love with this song as a child. Though I was young, I longed to sing and worship God and this song allowed me to do that. Partly because of its easy to sing, catchy melody, and partly because I understood the words. Too many other hymns used language I couldn’t comprehend. Even today, I find that too many songs that are sung in church are either difficult to understand at face value, or use vocabulary which is fluffy and ambiguous.
So, why should we all be singing Shine Jesus Shine?
“Lord the light of your love is shining, in the midst of the darkness shining.”
As we open our mouths to sing, we begin this song with a proclamation of the power of God’s love. This isn’t just the warm hug and cuppa with your best friend after a hard day kind of love. This love, God’s love, is so powerful that it is light itself. It stands out in the darkness alone, and shines brightly as a beacon of hope for all to see.
Last night I went to bed with the news of another terror attack in England. Less than 24 hours ago, mourners were attacked by suicide bombers at a funeral in Kabul, Afghanistan. Meanwhile, innocent children, women and men were gunned down by Islamic State (IS) as they fled the streets of Mosul. Throughout history, humans have hunted and killed each other. This period of history, our time, is no different. We live in a dark world. This song reminds us that God’s love shines brighter than the darkest times we may encounter.
“By the blood I may enter your brightness. Search me, try me, consume all my darkness.”
After we are finished proclaiming God’s awesome, powerful love, we move on to the second verse where we sing the above words. These serve as a reminder that Jesus died for us. His blood was poured out so that we, that is you and I, and every human throughout history, may come closer to him. It is a reminder that we are permitted to draw near and be made more like Jesus. God gives us an opportunity here, for us to be less like the dark world we inhabit, and more like his son: bright, brilliant, whole.
“Ever changing from glory to glory, mirrored here may our lives tell your story.”
Here we have, in the final verse, the outcome of us becoming more like Jesus. In the previous paragraph I wrote of how we have this amazing opportunity to become less like the darkness, and more like the light. If we do that, the end result can only be one thing: that we shine God’s light out to the world for them to see. We are able to, with God’s help, be reliable witnesses for him. Our lives can, if we let God’s light shine out of us, reflect the beauty of Jesus’ story.
Finally, the big one: the reason Christians around the globe will be singing this song today, particularly.
“Blaze, Spirit, Blaze.”
It’s Pentecost! Today we celebrate the fulfilment of a prophesy. We celebrate God sending his Holy Spirit down so that we can be witnesses for him in this dark and fallen world. Without this, we are nothing. This is God’s living spirit, empowering us and emboldening us to share God’s light wherever we go.
The chorus of this song is so rich and wonderful. In it, we proclaim God’s glory and ask for him to bless us and our lands. We ask God to set our hearts on fire, so that we may ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly’ with him. Finally, we ask for his truthful word so that there may be light in the darkness.