Happy Birthday, Lina Sandell!
Swedish: Jesus för världen, givet sitt liv
Text: Lina Sandell (1832-1903) Tune: Fredrik August Ekström (1819-1901)
Christ for the world—he gave his own life
He helped me see it, opened my eyes.
Offering himself so I could be free
When on the cross he died to save me.
Oh, for the love, so wonderful, true,
Never has any loved as he did
Freed by his love, happy and free,
He will be mine, eternally.
Take me, O Savior, as thine own child,
Loose me from all the tempter’s great wiles
Teach me to live, live only for thee
Glad in the love, thou spent just for me.
Tr. Gracia Grindal
Happy Birthday, Lina Sandell! For her birthday I have translated this text which has not been translated into English recently.
Sandell was born in 1832 in a small little parsonage across from the village church in Fröderyd, in the middle of Småland, Sweden. It was from that lovely region of lakes and woods that many of the Swedish emigrants came—if you remember the movies The Emigrants and The New Land with Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow. Life was difficult. They lived close to the land which, though beautiful, was rocky and hard to till. People came to Minnesota because they could not eke a living out of the ground in their homeland
Lina and her father, Jonas Sandell, the pastor, knew many of the immigrant pastors and they knew her. They gladly brought her songs with them to America and sang them both at home and in church. The leaders of the Swedish Lutherans, especially Nils Tufve Hasselquist, published many of these songs in his paper Hemlandet with fingerings for the salmodikon, the dulcimer like instrument with one string played with a bow. This was so the leaders of the congregation could learn the new tunes that were being composed for Lina’s songs, especially those by Oscar Ahnfelt. It had been that one could write a series of hymn texts and simply indicate which old tune to sing it to, but in the Swedish revival there were many new tunes, tunes that the Swedes came to love immediately.
Remarkably most of Sandell’s best loved hymns came from her very early life, but this one came from much later, 1888, when she was working in the publishing house and really toward the end of her productive life. One might hear in it echoes of the first world missionary conference in Edinburgh that year. Sandell was keen on the mission movement. She and her husband, Carl Oskar Berg, had prayed seriously about going to Ethiopia as missionaries. They decided not to after considering her health which was never robust. The Swedish people had supported the mission there and they kept a lively interest in the work, especially after several missionaries were martyred there.
Once again this text is filled with the wonder at the love of Christ for the world. For Lina that love is never abstract or impersonal, like an electronic transaction in a foreign bank. For her the wonder always is that Jesus came to die for everyone, but especially for her. She did not mean that to say she was specially deserving, quite the opposite. She was chief of sinners in her mind, and she wondered how it was possible that Christ would have cared for her enough to die for her. The hymn points always to that wonder—he loved me.
Some people complain about songs and worship services that are too much about me and say they should be about God. They are probably thinking of songs that talk about how much I love Jesus. There is no reason not to sing of our love for Jesus. On the other hand, the entire gospel is about how much Jesus loves me. "Jesus loves me, this I know." Our love and praise is rooted in what God has done for us, for you and me. You and I are at the heart of God’s love for the world, even Christ’s death on the cross. The reason I am filled with praise is what Christ did for me, not what I do for him. It is his love for us that causes every knee to bow. Who could imagine a God like that? But there you have it. Our names, each one, are written on the palm of his hand. Praise him!
Ekström had written this tune in the early 1860s. Sandell wrote this hymn for Lent and Easter where it still can be found in hymnals suggesting this tune. It first appeared in the Hemlandssånger of 1892, Swedish Augustana's song book. Compiled by the Swedish Augustana pastors, it contained 500 spiritual songs, over 100 by Lina Sandell. Since then this hymn has regularly appeared in the top Sandell songs. Ekström was an organist in Sweden, a teacher and a small farmer.