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HYMN 312 Jesus Came with Simple Things

Norwegian: Kristus kom med vann og blod

Text: Petter Dass (1647-1707) Tune: Norwegian folk tune from Mo I Rana

Seven Sisters Mountains in Helgeland on the North Sea

1. Jesus came with simple things,

Simple gifts from heaven.

Blood and water, living springs,

To his church were given

So his name and presence

Never would be absent

From his friends’ own hearts and minds

Or in their own remembrance.

2. Though we are beset by sin,

Jesus heals our sorrow.

Judgment for all we have been

Fades before the morrow.

Christ has now prepared us

For the gift he bears us

He defeats the devil’s power

So sin and death won’t snare us.

3. This the Holy Spirit does

By the Word and water;

Opens up all heaven’s doors

For his sons and daughters.

Babes within their mothers

Need a heavenly Father,

So in baptism we are made

As one with Christ our brother.

4. How the Spirit makes us one

With baptism’s treasure

Passes all that we have known,

All our minds can measure.

As our Father wills it,

And how he fulfills it,

None of us can understand

But cherish it and tell it.

5. Bring them gladly to the font

Newborn sons and daughter.

Jesus wants to bless each one

Give them crowns of water.

Brightest gems he gives them,

Makes them heirs of heaven,

Gives them what is best for them

As in his house he greets them.

Tr. Gracia Grindal



1996. A brilliant August day. We are on our way to Trollfjorden, sailing toward the emerald green fjord near Svolvær in Lofoten. My ten year old nephew , whom I have brought here to teach him about our family connection to Nordland, holds his hand out over the water for a few minutes. When he takes it back in, it is covered with salt flakes that gleam like diamonds in the sunshine. Salt. The fishermen used it to make the salt cod that had fed millions in Catholic Europe during Lent.

This is Petter Dass' territory. He was the poet of Nordland, Nordland's Trumpet, in which he described the territory, like the Seven Sisters mountains in Helgeland. Many in my mother's maternal family were fishermen from Helgeland and knew of Dass and these waters. In 1825, almost 200 years ago, Johannes Rasmussen Tenfjord, my great grandmother’s grandfather, drowned at sea while fishing. It was a common kind of death. Men perishing at sea while working to support their families, leaving behind wives and children who had to manage on their own. It was a hard life. Tradition has it that the women in the region were especially tough, coast women, they called them, for doing the work of both father and mother while their men were away fishing or had drowned. (I cherish this lithograph, The Widow, by Kaare Espolin Johnson--1907-1994--which I look at on my wall as I write every day.)

The Widow by Espolin Johnson His museum is in Kabelvåg, Lofoten

They would dry the cod and salt it in the salt air and then pack it up and ship it to the old Hanseatic city of Bergen where it would be shipped throughout the world. This had gone on since some Italian sailors, blown off course, landed on nearby islands and discovered the salted fish, dried and easily exported, perfect for the Lenten fast.

Salt used to be part of the baptismal service. It was put in the baby's mouth to give it wisdom. The devil also hated salt as well as water so it was part of the exorcism that the baptismal service included until Luther took it out of his service.

Alstahaug Parsonage

The entire hymn by Dass is a journey through Scripture about how God has used water to wash us clean, not unlike the Flood Prayer Luther used in his service. The main thing baptism does is save us from death, sin and the devil, and gives us over into the arms of our Lord, our new brother, the family that really counts, one that gives us life eternal. Dass also shows us the joys of a family bringing its children to the font to become jewels in the hands of Jesus. The best are the last two stanzas where Dass describes the newly baptized baby as a diamond that Jesus wears like a bracelet. In the last original stanza, baptism is their wedding day. “Jesus, take your youthful bride, she is your heart’s sweet jewel.” His hands are filled with such jewels.

Just like the flakes of salt gleaming on my nephew’s hand that brilliant August day so long ago.

Nordland boats


Petter Dass is one of the first great hymn writers from Norway—alongside Dorothe Engelbretsdatter. Born in the North, he lost his father when he was six. He lived with his mother's sister and husband, and then went to Copenhagen for school. He served as pastor in Alstahaug and the Helgeland region until his death. He bought ships to carry the salt cod of the region to Bergen, and became a wealthy man. He holds a large place in the folk traditions of the north. A character, something like Martin Luther, he taught the Lutheran faith through his hymns which many think were like his sermons, poetic and filled with insight and bluster. The original of this hymn had 35 stanzas and pretty much exhausts the teachings on baptism. Still in a time when people were not gorging on TV series that took all week, a compelling hymn of this length was just fine. It was not included in hymnals before the 19th century when it was considerably cut down to five stanzas, and then edited a bit too much so that the lovely images of the last stanza are a bit blurred.


Åsne Sunniva Søreide

Organ version/Elisabeth Seland

5. Bring them gladly to the font

Newborn sons and daughter.

Jesus wants to bless each one

Give them crowns of water.

Brightest gems he gives them,

Makes them heirs of heaven,

Gives them what is best for them

As in his house he greets them.

NB: Lent is less than a month away. A wonderful Lenten discipline is reading the Passion hymns, one for every day of Lent. Follow the link to buy it and receive it in time.

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