HYMN 332 Have Mercy on Me, Lord/Miskunne deg, O Gud
Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: Amanda Husberg
1. Have mercy on me, Lord;
Come, speak your Living Word.
I long to hear
That you are near
So you can heal my pain and fear.
Be merciful to me,
Lord, heal me, set me free.
2. Lord, heal me, make me whole
In body, mind, and soul.
Here as I kneel
Lord, let me feel
Your gracious hand reach out to heal
My broken heart, O Lord;
Come heal me, with your Word.
Text © Copyright 2008 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.
1. Miskunne deg, O Gud,
Kom si til meg, din brud,
At du er nær
Og altid her
Og gjør meg frisk og hel igjen
O Gud, miskunne deg
O Herre gjør meg fri.
2. O Herre gjør meg hel
I kropp og syn og sjel
Mitt rop til deg
O kom til meg
O gjør meg frisk og hel igjen
Helbred min krop og ånd
Rekk ut til meg din hånd.
Tr. Inger Stenseth
Like Winter Drifts that still Remain
Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: Amanda Husberg
Like winter drifts that still remain
Grown sooty on the frozen ground,
My heart is soiled, in need of rain
To wash my faults and burdens down
Away into the rushing flood
Descending from the heart of God.
My winter life was cold and hard,
No life could flourish in its earth.
I needed springtime in my heart,
Christ’s sun to give me life, new birth.
And then he came like April rain
And gave me a new heart again.
Christ died for me one April day
And then the world began again.
His dying washed my sin away,
And now my heart is springing green,
Rich, fallow fields where Christ can grow,
Where his new mercies rush and flow.
Text: © Copyright 2008 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.
Ash Wednesday, with communion, but no ashes, began the Lenten series of meetings that we had every Wednesday evening during Lent in the churches when I was growing up. That is a practice that has endured, now with Lenten soup suppers and services, sometimes teaching events.
The services were much more penitential than they are today. The sermons would usually be a series, like on the Seven Last Words, or the Commandments. I remember the small country churches best. The wool coats people had to wear since the central heating was not very promising were dotted with snow flakes beading into bright drops of water on them. The smell of the wet wool, the rich odors of the people who had probably done their chores before dressing up for the service—this was back before deodorant when people smelled like themselves--are strong memories.
We sang slow, deeply penitential hymns that filled the heart with melancholy. That seemed right then and now in my memory. February and March were not yet spring, although one could catch a glimpse of it now and then in the afternoons.
Walking out into the February evening after the service could be invigorating—the prairie wind sweeping over the land and buffeting the little church building. One had to be careful then too of ground blizzards—which I remember best in the late afternoon when the sun was beginning to set and the bright sun and blue sky with clouds of snow dazzling pink, blinding one’s eyes and drifting over the highway. It would be there through the evening. One had to be careful.
After the services, the fathers would go out and start their cars so they could run a bit before the family got in—probably as much to make sure it started as to make it warm. Then we would pile into the car and make our way home over the straight Highway 2.
My father had an old sheepskin coat that he always put in the trunk in case we had trouble while we were making our way through the snow and cold. He would always put it in the trunk whenever we were going out in the family car.
Life was dangerous, despite our growing conveniences after WWII. It took effort and foresight to be ready for the elements, to have a warm place to live, food enough for the year. We would spend the summer and fall growing and preserving the food that would get us through the winter. The grocery stores did not have the variety they have now. One had to rely on what one had preserved, and the root vegetables which were stored in a cool place, sometimes a root cellar, in the basement so they would survive the winter. One looked forward to the spring for reasons of life.
We knew that life was fragile and many things could happen that could kill us. Accidents, disease, liquor, not enough money. Most everything we did was to guarantee survival.
Thus, the seriousness of the penitential services. People knew that they needed to be ready. In the same way that they had to work to prepare for the harsh winter, they knew that they had to prepare their souls for the end, in a way, have an old sheepskin in their lives. As farmers, they knew death well. Most of the people I knew in these congregations in the forties and fifties had survived both world wars and the great influenza as well as the depression. For them nothing was certain and so they were constantly preparing.
As life grew easier and conveniences gave us many options that we had not had before, making sure one’s soul was ready grew less and less urgent. Who needs heaven when one has a hot tub?
Maybe this time of being shut in and alone, fearing illness and death again has focused us on the real necessities of life. In the same way we had to prepare to live during the winter, to find refuge, we need to find eternal refuge in Jesus. Whether or not one feels an overwhelming guilt for sin, or not, what many may feel is separation from God and a need for healing. From the first of Jesus' ministry, healing and forgiveness went together. Today many people feel the need for healing more than guilt for sinning. Jesus heals when he forgives and forgives when he heals.
Our hearts grow wintry and unfruitful. We need the rains of forgiveness and healing so that life can flourish. Jesus promised us he is like a spring of water that feeds the souls of those who love him. Those healing springs are always flowing.
I wrote these texts for Series B in the Gospel lectionary. Both are songs of repentance and healing. They pretty much speak for themselves. Amanda's tunes fit the texts very well. The descant is nice.