Danish: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus sigter
German: Jesu, Jesu, als nicht Jesu
Norwegian: Jesus, Jesus, ham alene
Text: Ludämelia Elizabeth (1640-1672) Tune: Ludvig Lindemann (1812-1887)
1 Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus Can my heartfelt longing still. Lo, I pledge myself to Jesus, What He wills alone to will, For my heart, which He hath filled, Ever cries, "Lord, as Thou wilt."
2 One there is for whom I'm living, Whom I love most tenderly; Unto Jesus I am giving What in love He gave to me. Jesus' blood hides all my guilt-- Lord, O lead me as Thou wilt.
3 What to me may seem a treasure, But displeasing is to Thee-- O remove such harmful pleasure; Give instead what profits me. Let my heart by Thee be stilled; Make me Thine, Lord, as Thou wilt.
4 Let me earnestly endeavor Thy good pleasure to fulfil; In me, through me, with me, ever, Lord, accomplish Thou Thy will. In Thy holy image built, Let me die, Lord, as Thou wilt.
5 Jesus, constant be my praises, For Thou unto me didst bring Thine own self and all Thy graces That I joyfully may sing: Be it unto me, my Shield, As Thou wilt, Lord, as Thou wilt.
Tr. August Crull 1845-1923
I wouldn’t be here without this hymn. If I have the story right, my father heard my mother singing it at an evening service at Olivet Lutheran Free Church on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis and he was done for. This was the woman he would marry.
They both loved Jesus. And this song. Mother, who from her teen years spent time with her Lord in prayer every morning, describes in her diary how, on their dates, they frequented evening services around the city. Often she sang for them.
Afterwards they would walk home and speak of the sermon, the Bible lessons, and pray, stopping at Brodahl’s, a restaurant on Cedar Avenue, for coffee. A match made in heaven.
My father also loved Jesus and he loved my mother. Jesus and Jonette. In that order and this hymn brings to mind both his loves.
The German version of the hymn was an acrostic that spelled out Jesus when one put the first letter of each stanza together. it came from what one might call a Jesus movement. Many of the cherished hymns we sing from that period are focused on Jesus as friend, lover, guide, shepherd, brother. How better to think of one’s relationship with Jesus than to think of one’s most intimate relationships in earthly life?
So when I sing this--and it is seldom these days since it has lost its place in recent hymnals—I think of Jesus and mom and dad. It remains in the Norwegian and Danish hymnals. The Norwegian especially loved it for its tune by Lindemann—which had been written for Brorson’s “Når mit Øie“—but since abandoned for a folk tune that has become a favorite in Norway.
In the same way that every couple has their song—usually a love song—my parents had theirs, but I never heard my mother talk about it. And I never asked her. She might well have had another version. It would have been very funny, I am confident.
Our memories are keenest when accompanied by song. One remembers in one's flesh the first time one heard it alongside memorable times in one’s life. It makes the mere hearing of it overwhelming.
As leaders of worship, then, we should look to pick songs people can sing, ones that connect with their lives, if not with the texts or sermon topics. As Linda Clarke, a scholar of the way people experienced hymns, argued, we should remember that making things fit intellectually in a service may be satisfying to the planners of worship, but if one does not think of how things fit emotionally we have missed a chance to engage people at their deepest.
I remember once when I was at a huge college baccalaureate service—there must have been 5000 people there—most of them graduates of the college-- who could have raised the rafters. The preacher, a good friend of mine and one who loved the hymnody of the church, had picked the perfect hymn for after the sermon if one were thinking theologically. But few knew it. It made me crazy. Here we had a chance to sing together in a way that would never be forgotten, that would lift us out of the mundane, toward the gates of heaven, and he had missed the opportunity.
What a waste! God has made us flesh and blood; we are more than brains on a stick. Hymnody engages every part of our beings. Those who plan worship should pray that the hymns they choose connect emotionally as well as intellectually with the congregation--so they may joyfully sing!
Ludämilia, one of the first signifiant women hymn writers of Germany, was countess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Baroness of Hohenstein. A brilliant student who excelled in Latin, she was well read in theological classics and knew Scripture thoroughly. She wrote hymns for her own edification, encouraged by her aunt and Ahasuer Fritsch. She and her sister both died after attending one of their sisters sick with measles who also died. This hymn was first printed in 1673 after her death. A friend, Ahasuer Fritsch, chancellor of the university and president of the Consistory of Rudolstadt, compiled a collection of her works, Die Stimme der Freundin,/The voice of a friend, i.e. spiritual songs in memory of the Honourable Ludämilia Elizabeth, Countess of Schwarzburg and Baroness of Hohenstein, who fervently and persistently loved Jesus, her Saviour." Rudolstadt, 1687.
Hans Adolph Brorson found the hymn in the German hymnal compiled by the head pastor in Tønder, Denmark, where he served. Brorson included it in his Troens Rare Klenodie of 1739. His friend Pontoppidan used it in his Hymnal 1740. That brought it to Norway. Lindemann's tune became the standard and was brought to America.
It was in The Concordia translated by the Missouri Synod’s August Crull, a rival to Catherine Winkworth in translating the German treasury of Kernlieder. Many of his translations still endure in Missouri’s hymnals.
Salmaboka Minutt for minutt/Lindemann tune https://youtu.be/2FrfYBnuoyM
Elisabeth Seland, organ/Lindemann tune
Jesus, Jesus als nicht Jesu/Organ prelude
Johann Bernhard Bach’s Prelude on the German melody
Norwegian version with another tune https://youtu.be/1KCAJCfoNQo
Next month, April 6, my book of sonnets, Jesus The Harmony, will be released by Augsburg Fortress. One can pre-order it on Amazon now.