There’s a light upon the mountains


My blog of October 3rd 2011, from Madagascar, had the first line of a hymn: “There’s a light upon the mountain…”, the words of it come at the end of this blog.  The lines “The eastern skies are glowing, With the light of hidden fire…” were real enough just now, as the dawn came up this mid-summer day.  As I was watching it, I was listening to the news of yet another tragedy in Nigeria, a bomb-blast in Abuja killing many people and maiming many others.  “And the travail of our spirit, is the travail of Christ’s own…”

In my last blog, I referred to a more peaceful Nigeria.  Here, a picture I took in 1964, looking down from the foothills, over Gwoza town and what is locally called ‘the plain of Noah.’  In one corner, the hospital, run by the Sudan United Mission (as it was called, now Action Partners)

Today I am reading Jeremiah 26, over the last few days I was meditating on earlier chapters of ‘the weeping prophet.’  The cult of Molech, replacing worship of the true God, and its burning of live children – perhaps not so much worse than today’s cult of adult human rights which trump the right of children to be brought up within the security and love of the parents who conceive them?  Christians in the West, who do not pervert God’s word as given in the Bible, weep for our children.  Was FGM practised in Nigeria in 1964?  I don’t think to any great degree, moderate Muslims do not read in the Quran such child abuse, nor the training of young boys in the atrocities of war.  Children  burned to death, on the arms of Molech.

Enough for now. Back in 1910 – the same year as the great Edinburgh World Mission conference, Henry Burton wrote this great hymn.  the music is on:

There’s a light upon the mountains,

And the day is at the spring,
When our eyes shall see the beauty
And the glory of the King:
Weary was our heart with waiting,
And the night watch seemed so long,
But His triumph day is breaking
And we hail it with a song.

In the fading of the starlight
We may see the coming morn;
And the lights of men are paling
In the splendors of the dawn;
For the eastern skies are glowing
As with light of hidden fire,
And the hearts of men are stirring
With the throbs of deep desire.

There’s a hush of expectation
And a quiet in the air
And the breath of God is moving
In the fervent breath of prayer;
For the suffering, dying Jesus
Is the Christ upon the throne,
And the travail of our spirit
Is the travail of His own.

He is breaking down the barriers,
He is casting up the way;
He is calling for His angels
To build up the gates of day:
But His angels here are human,
Not the shining hosts above;
For the drum beats of His army
Are the heartbeats of our love.

Hark! we hear a distant music
And it comes with fuller swell;
’Tis the triumph song of Jesus,
Of our King, Immanuel!
Go ye forth with joy to meet Him!
And, my soul, be swift to bring
All thy sweetest and thy dearest
For the triumph of our King!

Pentecost Sunday 2014

A few days ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called on Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and Archbishop of Nigeria Daniel Okoh, to pray for the girls abducted six weeks ago and many other victims of Boko Haram.

Image  Fifty years ago, I was hitch-hiking in the area where Boko Haram now have their stronghold.  A student teacher at Gindiri near Jos, I took advantage of a school holiday to visit Bornu province.  I waited three hours on a dusty road outside Bama for a lift to Gwoza.  I stayed there a few days with Dr Laurie and Mrs Chandler. On Sunday, we climbed up into the hills behind the hospital, to a little round stone church.  As we made our way back down after the service, the plain of Noah was spread out before us, a peaceful vista with the town and its hospital, and stretching into the far distance, smallholdings and trees.  With the President and Archbishops, pray for the peace (shalom/salaam) of Nigeria.

It was in Nigeria that I came to realise that the Holy Spirit of God coming upon the first century church is at work today through the world church, and available to me.  Up to then, my Christian faith had been like that of UK prime minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson, fading in and out like the reception of a weak radio station.  I have the Nigerian church, missionaries and local Christians together, to thank, for the example of Christians living their lives guided by the Holy Spirit, drawing us into an ever deeper relationship with God in Christ. Today, my memory is of worship in a little stone church in the Gwoza hills, and the knowledge of how the Holy Spirit has worked in the world these last fifty years.  Look confidently for the Holy Spirit of God in Christ, to work in the days ahead.

and… added a day later… as the Birmingham schools scandal deepens, of OFSTED not knowing what it is doing with the education of young Muslims, revealing our government’s ignorance of the situation, together with the news of ever more children in Britain in households below the poverty line.  Poverty of course should not be measured only in money terms, many children in the world, as long as they have food enough, education and health, and parents who love them, are infinitely happier than many children of the West – while not diminishing the struggle that low income families live with, including the consequence of getting into the hands of loan-sharks.  Pray for the peace of the U.K. – peace that enables all our children to grow to the fullness of life that Jesus offers, as Christians live their lives guided by the Holy Spirit.