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HYMN 353 Torches Flicker, Darkness Looms

Lent IV

John 3:1-17

Nicodemus and Jesus. by William Brassey Hole

Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: Amanda Husberg

1. Torches flicker, darkness looms

Where the fragrant summer blooms

As I wander toward the light,

Stepping softly through the night

To the garden where our Lord

Waits to open up his Word.

2. Come, unlock your mystery,

Show me what I cannot see.

If I must be born again,

Must I then when I am grown

Enter in my mother’s womb?

Answer me, the darkness looms.

3. I have come because your light

Draws me through the fragrant night.

Life is beautiful, but brief,

Flesh cannot withstand its grief.

You have shown me I need more,

Open up bright heaven’s door.

4. So your life will bloom in me,

Breathe on me so I can be

Born again, alive in you,

Fresh as early morning dew.

Born of heaven, born to live,

Rich with gifts you freely give.

Text © Copyright 2008 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.

My Way Led to Death

Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: Iteke Prins

1. My way led to death,

In the wilderness.

Dry as desert all the way,

Nothing cool to drink,

Not a pool or spring;

Darkness looming over me.

2. Walking in the dark

With a fearful heart,

Jesus, come, I fear the night

From the court of heav’n

Let your love be giv’n,

So I see your path of light.

3. Lord, turn me around

From the death I’ve found,

Darkness filling every place,

Change my stubborn will,

Lead me t’ward the hill

Where your blood flowed down with grace.

4. Lord, transfigure me,

Let me come to see

You created me to do

Works of love for those

Weary of life’s woes,

All of whom you would make new.

Text © Copyright 2015 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.


Christ and Nicodemus Fritz von Uhde 1886

John 3: 16. The Gospel in nutshell. One can go on and on, as I have. Christ speaks with Nicodemus and tells him he must be born again. Or as a different translation has it, born from heaven. In either case, the old has to be gone so the new can live.

This is bad news for the old Adam and Eve who want to live on their own at all costs, which is death. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we now have life, life eternal. In other words, our citizenship papers are from another world, another existence, and our life is now hid in Christ, and his death and resurrection is ours. The old has passed away.

I have spent considerable time doing genealogy. Given all the resources that are now on line, it is possible to find all kinds of data about our ancestors. Chief among the resources for my family are the baptismal records of Norway. One can find out several things from the records: the full name and birthday, the names of the parents, the names of the sponsors and the place of the baptism. Since the church was the state church, these were the official birth records for citizenship, even if by Lutheran theology they were records of another kind of citizenship: a heavenly one.

One’s baptism, or experience of being born again, gave one heavenly citizenship. Having a passport to the heavenly city was an idea that many pietists used. There is a small songbook, Vægteren, published by a Norwegian American, Christian Brohaugh, a pastor and leader of the Hauge Synod, that has in its frontispiece a passport that assures the bearer that they are citizens of heaven and can show it at the gates of heaven. Those at the pass control can be assured that this person is a rightful citizen of heaven. Their identity is vouched for by the blood of Jesus.

Along with discovering baptismal records, there are myriads of others. One of my favorites is the citizenship paper of my great grandfather Haakon. His history is there, briefly, as being born in Norway, a citizen. In order to become a citizen of the United States he has to swear that it is “his bone fide his intention to become a citizen of the United State and to renounce all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign Prince, Potentate, State or Sovereignty whatever, and particularly to the King of Sweden and Norway whereof he is a subject.”

This is a helpful picture of what it means to be a citizen of a country. Loyalty. We have on earth no abiding city, Hebrews says. Loyalty to the earth is loyalty to death. being born of heaven makes heaven our home. While the immigrants may well have had nostalgic longings to be home in their native land, they were now in the new land and their loyalties were to the new country.

So it is with us. While our place of birth is the earth and we may long for the fleshpots of Egypt now and then, to use that image, our native place is now the new Jerusalem. And even though we are still living in the old country, we are now newly born citizens of the new. It is a new world out there. And it is ours.


These hymns are all written around the idea of the new birth, or being born from above. The different translation has given me a richer sense for the new life and how it means in our daily lives today. Dix or Ratisbon work as tunes for Torches Flicker.


Torches Flicker can be sung to Ratisbon


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.

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