Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: Amanda Husberg
1. Fresh palms and lilies grew along the way
As Jesus entered town.
And springtime with its gentle breezes played
Across the fragrant ground.
Life blossomed all around us,
But then the Savior said
That he would have to suffer,
And very soon be dead.
2. He told us he was like a grain of wheat
That falls into the earth
It has to die before it can bear fruit
For life there must be death.
To love life is to lose it,
To hate it is to live;
To live the seed must perish
And wait for life to thrive.
3. We set our verdant palms aside and wept
To hear the Savior’s words.
We did not understand them, but he kept
The promises he made.
We saw him go to suffer,
To die upon the cross.
Now in the spring we see that
We gained the life he lost.
The Winter Winds are Gusting
Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: Iteke Prins
1. The winter winds are gusting;
The landscape sere and brown.
No green is here, there’s nothing;
No sign of spring around.
Still there beneath the earth,
A death and then a birth,
As seeds begin to grow,
And soon their leaves will show.
2. For out of death there rises
A new life, young and green,
With sparkling bright surprises
In springtime’s velvet sheen.
The prophets promised spring
That God will do new things,
Will fashion something true
And living, fresh and new.
3. God’s Son, like seeds that flower,
At first must suffer death;
Then raised by God’s great power
Will give us life and faith
To flourish where we live
With all the life he gives.
God’s will to do new things
Is Christ, who rose in spring.
We, in the northern hemisphere, are in a time of death and life. Springtime, the end of winter. All around us we see the power of the snow and cold dying and giving way to new life. But in this life, death still surrounds us and has not lost its temporary grip. I was saddened to hear that Amanda Husberg, who set many of my hymns, had died recently. She was 80 and had lived a long and very productive life, playing the organ in her congregation in Brooklyn, teaching, composing, and thoroughly engaged in life. As I write I can see the stained glass she made for me and gave to me on her trip to the Midwest to see friends and family. It is filled with life, as she was, but now she is gone from us. But as Christians we do not think that is the end of her story. Her death was, as Bonhoeffer is reported to have said as he faced his own death, the beginning of life for him.
And Friday was the funeral for my cousin’s wife, Torveig. We were able to watch it and weep. Friends and family gathered together in the Kragerø church to remember her and hear the Gospel. She was praised for her love of God, her love of people and the light she brought into the lives of everyone she met. We wept to see and hear it, not so much for our loss, but in joy to hear once again how privileged we had been to know and love her and be known and loved by her. As she began her time as a missionary in Japan, she had prayed that she could truly love the Japanese, and her prayer had been answered with a love that overflowed into all of her life and work. And to us. All of the good times we remember that her love had given us. It caused tears of gratitude to flow. As Per, her husband, said, standing by her casket, without her by his side as she had been for nearly 80 years, he had one word to say and that was Thanks! Takk! And he spoke for us all. Thanks.
At the end of the John lesson, Jesus says “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” That love he spent for us simply flows out of him into his friends, those who trust him. And it lights them up with his love so people are attracted to it. For Christians it isn’t just seeing Christ on the cross that changes them, and fills them with thanksgiving, but seeing that love made incarnate in his followers. Those who love him.
And in their deeds of love for others, they plant the seed of faith, like the sower in Jesus‘ parables, with no regard for the quality of the soil. They, like Torveig and her ilk, simply spread the seed around wherever they go and wait with prayer, seasoned with hope, to see how the seed will grow and flourish. God gives the increase, but without our sowing, there’s nothing to increase.
All of us have seen how a rock or a sidewalk has been cracked open or raised up by the power of a small seed. I have seen that in life too. Someone with a hardened heart heard the gospel and something in them broke open to life. We needed to sow the seed by telling this person about Jesus and keep flinging the seeds over the stony ground that was their heart, hoping and praying that some little spire would take root, grow up and break the concrete there, raising it up to life. Amanda with her lovely hymn tunes that have and will sing the gospel into thousands of hearts and Torveig, whose entire life was lived in the joy of that love, have had and will continue to have, rich harvests of seeds they sowed. All for the love of the Savior. For all their life, and love, I give thanks!
Both of the hymns I have chosen for this coming Sunday deal with the themes that have been the focus of many of my meditations over the past days. The seed, its life and death. The two texts can be sung to two venerable German tunes from the orthodox period of hymnody.
Works by Amanda
Tune for Fresh Palms and Lilies
Jerusalem, du hochgebaute stadt/German congregation singing
Organ Performance of Max Reger’s prelude
Auf, Auf Mein Herz--tune for The Winter Winds are Gusting
Trumpet and organ
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