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HYMN 223 In Heav'n is Joy and Gladness

Norwegian: Hos Gud er evig glede

Psalm 126

Text: Johan Nordahl Brun (1745-1816). Tune: Norwegian folktune from Nordmøre

Peasant woman binding sheaves, Vincent Van Gogh

1. In heav’n is joy and gladness,

But while I linger here

I must endure the brambles

And suffer through my tears.

For though there are great trials

That worry me below,

I will live through this darkness,

Then heaven’s joy I’ll know.

2. Though some prefer this desert,

And find their joy on earth,

I’ll gladly bear my sorrow

And sow in bitter tears.

Then I will reap in gladness;

My sheaves I’ll gather in

For though the fool may taunt me

I would not change with him.

3. For I shall soon see Jesus,

My hope, my joy, my stay.

The crosses I have suffered

He then will take away.

Then nothing more shall grieve me,

And no adversity

Shall take away my gladness

When Jesus’ face I see.

Tr. Oluf Hansen Smeby (1851-1929)


Coming up on All Saints’ Day, a hymn about the longing for heaven. The controlling image in the hymn is the imagery from Psalm 126. “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”

If you have grown up around farmers, as I did, you know the crazy optimism of the spring. No matter how bad the harvest of the last year, farmers go out into the fields to sow the next crop with hope of a good year. They bank on it usually, even borrowing money for seed, expecting, hope against hope, that this year their ship will come in. I suppose it is the only way to think when one is in the business of farming. If you had no hope, you would not be able to overcome your despair enough to go out into the fields to sow the seeds.

October 14, 1865, Dedication of Main, Luther College

As in this psalm. The farmer goes out weeping, but still sows, and comes home with shouts of joy because the harvest yielded many sheaves.

This psalm was a favorite of the immigrants. At the dedication service of the Main building at Luther College, October 14, 1865, this psalm was read. Of the six to eight thousand who attended, many had learned the truth of the psalm. Many times they had gone to some duty that was necessary for life with very little hope, and then discovered to their joy, it had borne fruit, a hundredfold.

My great-grandparents, Ole and Jonette, homesteaded in Chippewa County, Minnesota, in 1868. I think of their tears and their shining hopes as they left their homes in Nordland for the New World; the tears they shed as they built a primitive sod dugout on their homestead. How did they manage when in 1876 thick clouds of grasshoppers swarmed out of the skies and left hardly a green blade on their farm, so thick that not even the train could gain traction on the rails because they were so slippery with grasshoppers. My great-

Ole and Jonette in their late 70s

grandfather had to go to eastern Minnesota to earn money on the railroad to support the family. By then they had five children running around their new log cabin. How to feed and clothe them?

One of their sons remembered these times as almost unbearable; the work backbreaking and terrible; blizzards, drought, too much rain, they had to face it all. And yet, my great-grandmother Jonette would say she never once longed to return to Norway. They had to endure brambles, as the hymn says, knowing heaven's joys awaited. The first days, she said, were filled with loss and sorrow, but also rich in experiences and hope for a better future. She dreamt of better days ahead, hoping that one day they would return with full grained sheaves, rejoicing. And they did. They became substantial farmers by the end of the century.

During these hard times, she and her husband actively supported the work of their congregation and supported its mission around the world. Once a month, she would host the ladies aid and young people's society meetings in her home, and the church services when a pastor could not be there to lead. From Scripture and their conversations, the couple lived in hope, not only for a better crop, which they always hoped and prayed for, but in hope of heaven where they would see Jesus face to face. As she died on All Saints' Day, 1922, her son-in-law wrote that she gave herself over to God's will and rejoiced to see the hour of her salvation approaching. That ultimate hope gave them courage to fight the fool, the devil, because they knew they had another home, an imperishable one, where joy would be theirs forever.


Bishop Johan Nordahl Brun

Johan Nordahl Brun stood against the rationalism of the church leadership at the end of the 18th century in the Dano-Norwegian church. Born near Trondheim, Brun studied in Copenhagen for the ministry and returned home to teach, but moved to Bergen where he lived for the rest of his life, serving as pastor in Korskirken, then dean, then bishop from 1803. He was known for his concern for the poor and needy in his diocese and did much to help them. He was one of the few church leaders who did not oppose the work of Hans Nielsen Hauge and thought good could come of it. An admired preacher, he published several books of sermons. Today he is remembered for his hymns, five of which are in the current Norwegian hymnal.

Most people who hear the tune think it is going to be Thy Holy Wings, but it does not finish that way. It is very likely a version of the same folk tune.


I Himmerik ei Berg/Henning Sommerro, Arne Domnérus

Engelskyts Anne-Lise Berntsen and Nils Henrik Asheim a great-grandson of Bishop Brun

Audun Flaaen/folk instruments

Bjørn Løken, Saxophone + Michael Merkel, Organ

Organ and jazz saxophone in Løgumkloster church, Denmark

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1 Comment

What a wonderful post. I love the picture of Ole and Jonette, as well as the picture of Old Main at Luther College. Farmers of whom you write sacrificed in order to provide for the construction of that building. The foundations remain.

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