Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Norwegian: Er det sant at Jesus er min broder?
Swedish: Är det sant att Jesus är min broder?
Text: Lina Sandell (1832-1903). Tune: Oscar Ahnfelt (1813-1882) or Norwegian folk tune
1. Is it true that Jesus is my brother?
Is it true his bounty is my own?
Then, be gone, my tears and pain and suffering.
I am free, my fearfulness is gone!
2. Oh, how wonderful to know Christ loved me
When he died for me upon the cross!
So much grace for this poor sinner given
From my Lord who did not count the cost.
3. Jesus said, “My Father is your Father,”
Jesus said, “My God will be your God!”
Oh, my soul, rejoice with songs of gladness
We are one with Christ, oh, glorious thought!
4. We are heirs with Christ and all his riches,
Heirs of grace and heirs of God’s own might.
Open, Lord, my eyes to see your treasure,
See it gleaming from the throne on high!
Tr. Gracia Grindal 1993
Lina Sandell could not get over the how much Jesus loved her. Carl Rosenius, her colleague at the publishing house, Evangeliska Fosterlandsstiftelsen (EFS), said there was no one who could sing of God’s grace better than Lina.
She studied with her father as she sat beside him in his office reading and writing while still a little girl. From him and the pietist movement, she learned to think of Jesus in familiar terms: a bridegroom, a friend, a shepherd, a kind father, brother or a motherly presence. Here she meditates on Romans 8, one of her favorite passages, especially the part where Paul explains how we have been made one by adoption into Christ.
We hear it outside the empty tomb in John 20:17 when Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, “I am ascending to my Father and YOUR Father, to my God and YOUR God.” In these words, which are like those of the father in the Prodigal son story, Jesus makes us joint heirs with him. Sandell uses that phrase in her third stanza.
The idea that if we are children of God, then we are fellow heirs with Christ, really bowled her over. This hymn, not quite on the top four of her hymns, expresses that wonder. In it she is using one of her favorite biblical themes, what Luther called the “joyful exchange” where Christ takes on our sin and gives us all of his benefits. We are rich in grace. All we have to do is say yes and accept our inheritance.
Martin Luther told a parable once of a beggar sitting outside a castle. He had been invited in for a sumptuous banquet, but insisted on staying outside, eating stale crusts of bread, proud to be on his own. He would not take the gift. Maybe it was humiliating for him to do, thus he missed all the delicacies inside the castle.
In the old hospitality codes of the Vikings, and other heroic cultures, to receive a gift you could not repay in some way was regarded as an insult. It put you in a bad relationship with the giver, in fact, it made you subservient. It could not be endured. Murder and mayhem followed such a thing. I often think of that when I hear Luther's story and how people sometimes respond to the gospel story. They don't like it because it means their submission.
Some of us know a piece of that from our heritage. My mother was clear that if we were invited some place for dinner, we owed them a dinner. And could not accept an invitation from them again until we had invited them back.
To accept the grace of Christ is to give our lives over to him. His unconditional love simply cannot be repaid. Those who refuse the gifts of grace purchased on the cross miss these glories, theirs through the death of Christ on the cross.
I have noted several times in these blogs that my father was adopted. Once he received an inheritance from his foster father’s family in Norway. He could never get over how a legal transaction when he was ten made him a full and rightful heir of the small legacy from his adopted family. “Likewise,” he would marvel “I have been made a full heir of grace with my Lord!” Jesus invites us into his home to enjoy fully all the riches and delights he died to give us. Walk in and marvel at the treasures gleaming there for you!
Sandell wrote this early in her career, in 1863. She had been working at the Evangeliska Fosterlandsstiftelsen (EFS) publishing house for a few years by then. It was published in Sionstoner in 1889, a collection of spiritual songs from the Rosenius revival. Oskar Ahnfelt wrote the tune. It continued to be popular in Sweden among the people who left the Church of Sweden to found the Svenska Missionsförbundet, like the Swedish Covenant in America, but it was not included in the official Swedish Lutheran church hymnal until 1986.
In 1993, Sondre Bratland and Iver Kleive came to Luther Seminary for a concert during the Reformation Festival. At the closing, they performed this song to a Norwegian folk tune that Bratland sings here. The performance left us speechless for a bit. Once again both tunes work; it depends, probably, on your druthers. One is thoroughly Swedish; the other deeply Norwegian. Kleive accompanies both.
Sondre Bratland/ Norwegian folktune
Carola with Kleive/Ahnfelt tune
Swedish tune/Norwegian text