Updated: Feb 8
Swedish: Kom, du tröstlöse
Text: Thomas Moore (1779-1852) Third Stanza: Thomas Hastings Tune: Samuel Webb, Sr. (1740-1816)
1. Come, you disconsolate, where'er you languish; Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel. Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; Earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.
2. Joy of the desolate, light of the straying, Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure! Here speaks the Comforter, in mercy saying, "Earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot cure."
3. Here see the bread of life; see waters flowing Forth from the throne of God, pure from above. Come to the feast prepared; come, ever knowing Earth has no sorrows but heaven can remove.
MEDITATION This feels like the right hymn for today: Jesus as the healer, the one bringing wholeness and joy to the sick and sorrowing, the sinner. It fits with the lesson nicely. And brings tears to many who remember it being sung at sorrowful times in their lives. It also fits my mood. I am feeling disconsolate just now.
I got upset last night hearing about a high school girl weeping that she could not be in school. She saw no future for herself, she couldn't be with her friends, do music or sports with them, or just hang out, to say nothing of not being in a classroom learning. Her distress distressed me. While the hymn might comfort me, I could not comfort her with it. I had no idea who she was or where she lived. The last line of this hymn seemed to run over and over in my mind. "Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal." The author gives us words we might not be able to think up on our own that say exactly what we need to say, only much more succinctly and to the point. But my being comforted is not the point just now. I am okay, but burdened about kids like this one, but cannot do anything. Increased suicide rates are being reported among kids around the country. Many are despairing. All I can do is pray for them. I wish I could give them these words to sing.
During the course of this pandemic, I have been listening to many books on pandemics through history, especially the Black Death and the 1918 Influenza. There are odd similarities in people's reactions and fears. The same controversies about masks, government policies, and personal behaviors in public have erupted during each one. The historians agree on a couple of things, the most significant is the public generally loses some respect for authority after such times. In the Black Death it was the church that lost authority, resulting, many think, in the Reformation. In the 1918-1919 flu, there was increasing cynicism about the old order. The estimate of those who died continues to rise as more scholarship appears. Some are now thinking as many as 100 million may have perished in the space of a year, most of them during a twelve weeks in the fall and winter of 1918. One scholar suggests that because people lost confidence in medical science, alternate medicine became popular as people began looking for other ways to treat their illness.
It raises the question of now. Will our institutions be strong enough to survive? For sure they will be changed. It will be a bumpy ride. Many people are disconsolate, that is certain. As a Christian I want to help, but how can I given my own isolation and old age? All of us need to pray that we can give witness to the Lord to those who need to hear it. I think that is what I am fretting most about. How to do this?
Ultimately this hymn is true and a comfort. There is no heaven on earth. Sometimes things seem to work better than other times. Sometimes we can think everything is all right, and then discover it is not. We don't really know what it all means. As another good old hymn has it, We’ll understand it better by and by. Until then we have to trust that the Lord will be with us. He sees how this turmoil will end, but however it ends, that will not be the last word. The last word is his. We can have confidence that in him we will always receive peace and joy, even now as we, in a disconsolate time, look to him for help.
Pray for the kids. Fortunately they are not as vulnerable to this virus as the young were in 1918. No matter. Many of them are disconsolate. Their lives have been terribly disrupted. No wonder this hymn seems to have been downloaded by many over this past year. It still is speaking to thousands. Pray that those who need to hear it do hear it, and find comfort and consolation in its words and music. We can pray, for sure, that they will bring their wounded hearts to the master and hear his comforting word. It is our calling.
HYMN INFO Thomas Moore, who wrote the first two stanzas to the current tune, was Irish. He attended Trinity College in Dublin and became a lawyer, working as a civil servant for most of his life. He wrote many hymns. This is one of his keepers. It appeared in a collection in 1816 called Sacred Songs. Moore continued writing hymns and other books, among them his autobiography. Thomas Hastings (1784-1872) a musician and choir director for many years in New York, wrote the last stanza which connects the singer to the congregation and the life that is there in word and sacrament.
Scholars suggest that the tune may have folk song origins in Germany. Webbe was a baby when his father died, leaving him without much support for his schooling, although he was an accomplished student especially of languages and made a name for himself In school. Roman Catholic, he found it difficult to get positions in the Church of England, but made a way for himself as a prolific composer and musician
This was among his more successful hymns. It remains popular with many different kinds of traditions around the world, as you can see on Youtube. Terre Johnson set it for a choral anthem to remember the 2007 tornado in Alabama. That has renewed its popularity
Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway https://youtu.be/VmnnMHGvVJc
Baylor Men’s Choir the Johnson arrangement https://youtu.be/mNqzhfB4y1I
Georgia Boy Choir the Johnson arrangement https://youtu.be/ZhckAyO-OM8
Wartburg Choir https://youtu.be/QNNqp2EkDxU
NB: Just for fun, Will Farrell is doing a SuperBowl commercial that has been shot in Kragerø, Norway, where my grandmother was born and where I have spent many wonderful times over the past fifty years!