The City Part 1: When In the Streets (How Great Thou Art)

When in the streets and city light I wander,

And see the throngs of people rushing by,

I then survey their desperate hearts asunder,

And trust my God to know He hears their cry,

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee

How great thou art,

How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee

How great thou art,

How great thou art!

-N.R. 2/20/2019

I took this picture from my dorm building the day I moved in to study cities and how God works in them!

While the songs of the Bible are replete with urban imagery (Isaiah 26, Psalm 46, Psalm 107:1-9, to name just a few), I’ve noticed that your typical hymn or Christian lyric focuses primarily on idyllic scenes. You’re more likely to hear melodies concerning peace like a river or burning suns with golden beams than anything regarding skyscrapers or the concrete jungle. To be sure, these songs are beautiful and most certainly meaningful. I believe, however, that this small detail of our musical expression hints at a subtle but present reality within our cultural expression of the faith: Christians in our context don’t fully believe that they can see God’s glory or creativity through cities. Though the biblical authors saw them as provision, safety, and the place where God’s people share life together, we tend to only see them for all their negative qualities. That is why I’ve written this additional verse to a long familiar hymn, to express that God cares for cities (Jonah 4:11), knows their brokenness, and we can worship God in them–even because of them!

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