Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Icelandic: Vist ertu Jesú, Kongúr klár
Norwegian: Ja, du er konge, Jesus Krist
John 19: 13-15
Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674) Tune: Icelandic folk, or Conditor Alme siterum
9. Yes, Jesus you are king, most clear
The King of glory through the years
The King of angels, mankind’s King,
The King of all created things.
10. You stood to wait your judge in bonds
While howls of torture clamored round,
Forsaken, mobbed by enemies.
Oh what a wonder here I see!
11. Lord, Jesus, hear me, hear me
One day you shall be my delight
When I will see your glory, Lord,
Your judgment seat beyond the clouds!
12. Fearless I’ll face your final word
Redeemed to hear your judgment, Lord
When in your name all chosen ones
Will call me chosen with your Son.
13. King I can call you, Lord, and King:
Call me your thrall, your underling;
There is no dignity on earth
Compared to what God’s slave is worth.
14. The paved high street has proved a snare,
Often my footsteps stumbled there.
But you were led there willingly
So grace came washing over me
15. Your church elects you, hear it sing
For you, her one and only King
Now may your Lordship guide her ways
To heaven’s light and shining peace. Amen.
Tr. Gracia Grindal 2019 Hymns of the Passion
Although this Passion hymn is usually sung in Lent, this hymn by Iceland’s greatest hymn writer can well be used for Christ the King Sunday. A collection of 50 hymns, about one for each day in Lent, one of its major themes is Jesus, the suffering king. The highest expression of that theme is Psalm 27 from which the hymn for today is taken. John 19:13-15 and Luke 23:23 are the texts he meditates upon in the hymn. Jesus becomes king by his obedience to his father and his willingness to suffer the passion.
That Christ becomes king by suffering the most vile punishments, abuse and scorn, goes against worldly wisdom, but when we see it in the klieg lights of eternity, what he has done is truly royal.
The phrase, character is king flashes into my mind as these words appear. Because Jesus suffered these terrible things, and did not flinch, we know his true character—only a God could do such a thing. Hallgrímur fully understood the scandal of the gospel. It is when Jesus is most cruelly abused that the poet sees his true kingly character emerge. “When I will see your glory, Lord, Your judgment seat beyond the clouds!”
We know that simply being called a king is no proof of great character, in fact the pampering and privileges given royal children is not destined to produce great character, which is probably why the British royal family sends its sons into the military where they actually serve, as did Prince Harry in Afghanistan. Soldiers learn quickly whom to trust among their comrades. This explains the fierce attachments of veterans to each other. Character is revealed under fire.
Aristotle taught in his Poetics that we do not know another’s character until we see them make a choice. In making their choice, we see the inner being of a person come forth. Some might remember when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain came home from his conversation with Hitler on September 30, 1938, with a document that he said “Insured peace in our time.” Eleven months later Germany invaded Poland and England declared war on Germany. The world was engulfed in the most terrible war of all time. His appeasement and unwillingness to stand against Hitler at the time is considered one of the greatest failures of character in the annals of twentieth century history.
As we have seen just now, running for office in a democracy can be awful, mostly because it is how the public tests the characters of the candidate. One's life, family, work and associations are all fair game in this brutal work. Very few people whom we need as leaders are willing to suffer that kind of abuse. Who can blame them? So as some say we have the kind of leadership we deserve. Ultimately, only the decisions leaders make show us their characters.
We know we can trust in Jesus because he chose to suffer and die on the cross for us. It gives us the faith to trust him with our lives. How could he take the abuse, the shaming, the violent and deadly rejection of the entire establishment and leadership class? He did it for love of us. Today we need to look more closely and see how easy it is to domesticate Jesus and miss how we as leaders of the establishment would have looked on him.
The other day I heard a preacher say that none of the martyrs ever said as they faced the flames that they were doing so in order to go to heaven. What they always said was something to the effect that because Christ loved them enough to suffer all this humiliation for them, they could face suffering as well for his truth. Christ’s suffering showed us his kingly character when he went to the cross for us. What he says can be trusted!
HYMN INFO This is a central text in the collection of Passion Hymns by Hallgrímur. As I have written elsewhere, Hallgrímur was a brilliant young boy whose antics got him sent off to Denmark where he worked as an apprentice to a blacksmith. He was discovered by an Icelandic scholar in Copenhagen and sent to the cathedral school where he distinguished himself as a scholar and poet. When he returned to Iceland, under a cloud, he suffered more. Because of the understanding of his bishop, he was finally given a living in Hvalsnes, a remote parish near Keflavik. There he and his wife suffered the death of their young daughter (for whom he wrote a great hymn) and lived in penury. The bishop took pity on him and sent him to a much richer parish in Saurbær where he wrote these hymns, making a name for himself as a scholar, preacher and poet. He died from leprosy. He is remembered throughout Iceland today as not only a great poet, preacher and pastor, but also a character with a fascinating life story. The church in the middle of Reykjavik is named in his honor. (For more see HYMN 19.)
Schola Cantorum https://youtu.be/l022Tv98vBs
Mótettukór Hallgrímskirkju https://youtu.be/8wGbAcCuu30
Jazz version, Sigaður Flosason Petur Grétasson SPeter iSigurður Flosason · Pétur https://youtu.be/cMVKi6YnCkw
link to my translation of the Passion Hymns