HYMN 315 Your Kingdom come O Father/Thomas Mass/Finnish gospel
Text: Kauko-Veikko Tamminen (1882-1946). Tune: Finnish folk/Lead on O King Eternal
1. Your kingdom come, O Father,
To earth’s remotest shore,
Your holy fire enkindle
And let it flame the more.
Your servants send to labor
Where living harvests grow
That all, your truth receiving,
Your saving grace may know.
2. On all who lift your banner,
Your blessing, Lord, bestow,
Let all, your cross beholding,
In humble faith bend low,
Oh, make your Church, dear Savior,
A witness true and clear,
Your saving death proclaiming,
That all the world may hear.
3. Your love within us quicken:
Increase it day by day,
That we, ourselves denying,
May find in you the way,
You once left all, O Savior,
A thorny path to tread,
Help us to follow gladly,
Wherever you may lead.
4. The desert, as you promised,
Shall blossom far and near;
And through earth’s mists and shadows
The sun’s mild rays appear.
For that blest day we wait, Lord,
When, doubts and darkness gone,
We witness earth’s redemption,
And summer morn shall dawn.
Tr. Ernest E. Ryden
One dark winter night in Helsinki, we walked through the snowy streets toward a church into which people were streaming. I had been invited to a popular service called the Thomas Mass in the Mikael Agricola Church in the middle of the city. Named for Thomas the Doubter, the service was meant to attract all sorts. The church was packed, with a contemporary band playing, stations with icons on the sides of the church where people were standing and praying. Then the service began: eighteen leaders of the service processing down the aisle to the singing of the congregation.
It was the Prayer Service, a time of Holy Chaos. People could come to the altar to be blessed and prayed for by one of the worship leaders. They could light candles before an icon or simply stand quietly before it. The prayers of the people might be read aloud. This would be followed by Scripture reading and a sermon, the Word service, and then communion.. During the prayer section, people were invited to write down prayers to be collected and prayed before they went to receive communion. The music was Finnish—the tunes are modal and go deep. It reminded me of Russian orthodox chant with an American evangelical beat.
The service had begun in 1988 when a group of Finnish religious leaders gathered together to wonder how to invite secular Finns for worship. Because they were from many different traditions such as the Finnish Lutheran—pietists and high church, Finnish Orthodox, Taize, evangelicals, the service contained bits of all of those traditions.
It was a holy moment and bewildering all at the same time. Holy chaos was right, but the emphasis was on the holy. When they read out some of the prayers, one could feel the agony in them. People were hurting, they had been victims of abuse, victims of their own bad decisions, or their parents, family or friends--all their prosperity could not hide their emptiness and hurt. The designers of this service were led by the Spirit to create it and speak to those heart rending cries. It was something else.
Because the Finnish language is not connected with any other we know, except some think Hungarian which Hungarians I know can’t see, we do not know the riches of that hymn tradition. Since Finland was ruled by Sweden until 1809, when it went to Russia. The elite spoke Swedish. One can find many Finnish hymns in Swedish, still an official language. Most programs for the public are required to be in Swedish as well as Finnish so it is possible to access much Finnish information about hymnody if you can read Swedish.
There has been a strong contemporary movement of hymns and spiritual songs in Finland as there has been everywhere else. Many of the contemporary Finnish musicians popular today grew up on mission fields in Africa, especially Numibia, where the Finns had a strong mission presence for a long time. Kari Tikka, the composer, wrote an opera for the anniversary of the founding of the Finnish mission there called Frieda. (See https://youtu.be/V6xaYL9MmdE)
So one can find Finnish African liturgies that have spoken to the Finns, some of whom have wanted more contemporary music for worship. Several composers have been active, but the main text writer is Anna-Mari Kaskinen whose many hymns and song texts are the backbone of the new Finnish hymnal.
When we celebrated the Finnish tradition of hymnody at Luther Seminary in 1996, she and her husband, Pekka, came and taught us about this service and the one they had designed for children, the Mukula Mass, which we celebrated at the seminary. Later they came to Mount Carmel Bible Camp where they taught us the way to do it again. it followed the same order as the Thomas Mass. Singing, praying and walking around to tables where the children and their parents could talk together about some image or issue the child had. And then leave a prayer.
Finnish interest in and support of missions has a storied history. The hymn above was certainly among their mission hymns. But so is the Thomas Mass part of that same urge--to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. That movement has been around for a generation, and continues even through the corona time. Follow the links to see some of it and enjoy it. And pray that the church in its wisdom, being led by the Spirit, can find ways, when we are all released from the quarantines and shut downs, to bring people the good news of Jesus Christ. People are lonely and anxious. There will be a yearning for the gospel and fellowship. All of us need to hear from those who can witness to and remind us of Jesus and his mercies.
The hymn above is from a Finnish pastor Veikko Tamminen who was deeply involved in mission efforts, especially after a year in Japan in 1925-1926. The tune is a Finnish folk tune, but I cannot find it on Youtube. It was included in the SBH and LBW with a fine translation by E. E. Ryden. It can also be sung to Henry Smart's Lead on O King Eternal.
Tune for the text/Lead on O King Eternal/Choir
A song from the mass/Hallelelujah
English explanation of service
Full service on TV, just click around on the site for music, etc.
Thomas Mass last year 2020
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.