In Sweden while walking home from church Carl Boberg was listening to the church bells ringing when a sudden storm appeared and then just as quickly disappeared and he remained still looking over a bay that was peaceful and calm. Boberg apparently paraphrased Psalm 8 into a poem called ‘O Store Gud’ (O Great God). The year was 1885, and the poem was used in the underground church when the Baptists and Mission Friends were persecuted.
From that beginning it was set to music, a popular folk song, and first performed in 1888. In 1907 it was translated into German, in 1912 into Russian, and into English in 1925. Over the years there have been various translations of verses and timing from ¾ time to 4/4 time.
Later in the 1950’s the hymn was popularised by George Beverly Shea and Cliff Burrows during the Billy Graham crusades. It has been sung by many famous performers including Elvis Presley. Many other translations have been completed including into Spanish in 1958, Italian, Afrikaans, Mandarin, Japanese, Slovak and of course Maori.
Canon Wi Te Tau Huata, a chaplain during WWII for the 28th New Zealand (Maori) Battalion originated the translation of Whakaaria Mai. In 1981 Queen Elizabeth visited New Zealand, at the Royal Command Performance Sir Howard Morrison performed this song. In 1982 he released it as a single, where it spent six months in the national charts – 5 weeks at number one.
Prince Tui Teka also sang Whakaari Mai regularly at his concerts, and Lizzie Marvelly sang it at the memorial service for Jonah Lomu. Early in 2019 the Salvation Army created The Offering Project where 12 gospel hymns were performed by some of New Zealand’s top musicians. They also engaged New Zealand artists (including Darryn George) to create original artwork inspired by each track.
Hollie Smith and Teeks re-imagined Whakaaria Mai performing it publically earlier than intended after the March 15 shootings. You can listen to their version here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqoG-znXf7I
As you listen, remember the many many people who have been moved by a sudden storm which battered their lives, whether it is a storm in the sky, a storm in their hearts, a storm in their home, a storm in their employment, a storm of war, a storm of grief and the subsequent stillness after every storm. When you consider all the works and worlds His hands have made – the power throughout the universe displayed. Then what happens? Will you turn back to Him in praise and say, ‘You are great! You are beyond me yet you are here with me.’ With me in the storm or the silence, in the thunder or the peace – you’re there – you are great – so great I can only express it as a question and sometimes as a statement.
This poem began 135 years ago in a dangerous time to be a certain type of believer, but in the middle of that storm a poem came expressing trust sometimes with a question, sometimes as a statement. Always focused on God, not the storm. When this COVID19 storm is over, will there be silence or frenetic activity to catch up on lost time? Maybe now is the time to upskill in listening in silence and meditating on some of the words we have been blessed with in old hymns re-imagined.
Stay in peace.
15th April 2020
Previous BlogsThe News... : Warren, 1st July 2020
Shhh - Listen : Warren, 19th June 2020
Relief? : Warren, 11th June 2020
On the Cusp : Warren, 4th June 2020
In the Beginning... : Warren, 28th May 2020
Seasons : Warren, 21st May 2020
Aroha|Love : Warren, 14th May 2020
How is your mind? : Warren, 7th May 2020
On the Level : Warren, 1st May 2020
Signs : Warren, 24th April 2020
Whakaaria Mai : Warren, 15th April 2020
Essential Worker or Not? : Warren, 8th April 2020
Rumours : Warren, 1st April March 2020
What Would Jesus Do? : Warren, 25 March 2020