Seed that in earth is dying/Såkorn som Dør i Jorden
Text: Svein Ellingsen (1929-2020) Tune: Harald Herresthal (19-
For copyright reasons, I can't print the text out, but you can find it here
English version from ELW
Text: John M. C. Crum (1872-1958). Tune: French Carol
1 Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain, Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
2 In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain, Thinking that He never would awake again, Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
3 Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain, Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain; Quick from the dead the risen One is seen: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
4 When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain, Jesus' touch can call us back to life again, Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
MEDITATION The notion of Jesus as a seed, from John 12: 24, having to die and then rise again is one of the strongest images of his life and death that Jesus uses to describe what he must go through in order to save us. Without that death the seed will not grow. Without life and death we could just as well be wax images in Madam Tussaud’s museum, standing in a static pose trapped in the moment like an ancient bee in amber.
Svein Ellingsen’s hymn on the text marks an important place in his development as a hymn writer. It was 1976 and Aftenposten, a major newspaper in Oslo, sponsored a contest for a hymn. Svein wanted to enter it but needed an idea. He was in Hernes in Elverum that spring and saw a painting by Kai Fjell of Jesus on the cross in a field of grain. While he was meditating on the picture, this hymn came to him and it won first prize. It was a confirmation of Svein’s increasing sense that he was called to be a writer of hymns.
As the grain of wheat must be crushed to make bread, so must the grape be crushed to make wine. Suffering for the sake of others, to sustain them with life. The seeds must die to grow again; then their growth has to be crushed to make them edible and life giving. Certainly Jesus knows this in his flesh as he speaks of his life with us in his body and blood.
Trying not to hurt the grain or grape will not bring life. Only that which is milled, sifted and changed into flour can feed us; only the grape that is crushed can make wine.
It is a parable of life, not just Jesus life, although he shows us every day how that is true and necessary for us to receive his life. The seed has no future if it is not set in the soil. There it rots and dies. From its death comes life. Then when it is grown and ripened, it must be ground and sifted. A parable of suffering, a mark of the Christian life. Jesus says to Peter, Satan will sift you like wheat, but I have prayed that during that time your faith will not fail.
Our flight from suffering, and I say this with fear and trembling, can really be an attempt to escape living life to the full. I am not talking about taking careless and stupid risks, but about throwing oneself into life fully and freely without fearing a potential loss.
The way Jesus did. While we cannot imitate his loss—which was cosmic--he does show us that to live is to die and to die is to live. Those who would gain their lives will lose them, those that will lose their lives for his sake will live.
The English hymn “Now the Green Blade Rises“ works with the imagery in John as well, but is more of an Easter hymn than Holy Thursday which is where Svein’s hymn appears in the Norwegian hymnal and in the ELW.
Crum shows how Jesus’ being raised from the tomb, like a seed from the earth—in other words planted in the tomb—is our fate as well. He alone can raise us up from our own sorrow and death.
The Christian life is always a story that goes from death to life. Whether that death is physical or spiritual, Christ has come to raise us up into eternal life. Wheat that springeth green.
HYMN INFO One of the judges in Aftenposten's hymn contest was Harald Herresthal, an important teacher of music at the Norwegian Music school in Oslo. After Svein’s hymn won the contest, Harald wrote this tune for it. He is a teacher, scholar and composer. His work has affected many Norwegian organists like Iver Kleive, Henning Sommerro and Mons Takle to name a very few . He taught them to bring contemporary sounds to the old folk hymns, causing a revival of interest in them. Herresthal has written a significant number of hymn tunes in the latest Norwegian hymnals.
Crum’s hymn became popular in the hymnals of the 1970s. The old fashioned language of “riseth” has been changed to rises. There are many settings of the text, choral groups love it. His last line, repeated in every stanza, was the title of a novel by the novelist J. F. Powers. Crum served several English churches through the last quarter of the 19th century and first half of the twentieth and ended as Canon at Canterbury Cathedral. He was also a prolific writer. This hymn written in the last part of his life has been very popular and included in most hymnals of the past fifty years. The tune is an old French Christmas carol that helps make it popular.
LINKS Såkorn som dør i Jorden Nordstrand Church Choir https://youtu.be/QqrgWwLK8R8
English version from ELW
Now the Green Blade riseth
Songs of Praise https://youtu.be/UVduV0ustWw
Laura Wright https://youtu.be/UVduV0ustWw
Ripon Cathedral Songs of Praise
Steve Winwood on guitar https://youtu.be/vpU01KQIUJM