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HYMN 42 Savior, Like a Shepherd, Lead Us

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Psalm 23; John 10

Text: Dorothy Thrupp (1779-1847) Tune: William Bradbury (1816-1868)

1. Savior, like a shepherd lead us,

Much we need Thy tender care;

In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,

For our use Thy folds prepare:

Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,

Thou hast bought us, Thine we are;

Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,

Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.

2. We are Thine, do Thou befriend us,

Be the guardian of our way;

Keep Thy flock, from sin defend us,

Seek us when we go astray:

Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,

Hear, O hear us when we pray;

Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,

Hear, O hear us when we pray.

3. Thou hast promised to receive us,

Poor and sinful though we be;

Thou hast mercy to relieve us,

Grace to cleanse, and pow'r to free:

Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,

Early let us turn to Thee;

Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,

Early let us turn to Thee.

4. Early let us seek Thy favor,

Early let us do Thy will;

Blessed Lord and only Savior,

With Thy love our bosoms fill:

Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,

Thou hast loved us, love us still;

Blessèd Jesus, blessèd Jesus,

Thou hast loved us, love us still.

Earliest drawing of Jesus as shepherd from the St, Calisto Catacomb in Rome


Sunday evenings, my father always made a light supper. My mother needed rest

after the big Sunday noon meal of roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes and dessert.

We would then go our separate ways--studying, letter writing, reading the Sunday

paper, especially in the summers when there were no evening services. Midway, my

mother would begin playing the piano. She would start with the old piano bench

songs of her mother: “Forgotten,” “Mighty Lak’ a Rose,” and “The Holy City.” Then

the old gospel hymns, like this one. If my great aunt and uncle, who had helped raise her,

were there we had a choir: bass, tenor, altos, sopranos. My great-uncle Freddie

remembered the bass notes even after he had drifted away into mild dementia. I can

still hear his strong bass, and the high soprano of my aunt, a bit quavery as she got


The barbershop harmonies were what we loved, not the tunes. They matched the

sweetness of the text—the picture of Jesus as a gentle Shepherd, our friend and

guide, caring for his flock and leading us into green pastures, as per Psalm 23.

When I started working on the Text Committee for the Lutheran Book of Worship in

1973, I was not surprised to find that the committee, all men at least twenty years

my senior, preferred the strong tunes of the Reformation, like “A Mighty Fortress,”

to be sung in unison as recommended by Dietrich Bonheoffer. The Bradbury setting

was out of fashion, it reminded them of an era they thought passé, so they looked for

another. They found a Lindeman tune many of you know, “Her vil ties, her vil bies.”

The tune was fine, but it was not what people associated with this text. I disagreed

with the choice, but was outvoted, 7 to 2. They argued it was our job to raise the

aesthetic level of music in the church. Arguments about taste in church

music are treacherous. They are cultural or generational clashes. What one

generation loathes, another loves. One monkeys with these traditions at their peril.

A couple of decades later, while planning a Songfest with the Augustana, Sioux Falls

college choir and community, I discovered that one of their founders, Andreas

Wright (1835-1917), had included this hymn with some other American gospel

songs in his little song book, Turtleduen/The Turtle Dove (1877), spiritual songs from both Norway and Sweden. We sang it. There were many hundreds present at Central Lutheran

Church that evening. For the middle stanzas the organ dropped out. The

congregation sang this prayer for Jesus to lead them like it was singing around a piano on Sunday evening, melting into the sweet harmonies of the night.

My father would say when we finished our singing, it was like standing at the portals

of heaven. Looking out at the congregation singing to the Savior, asking him to lead

them into green pastures, I had to agree.


Dorothy Ann Thrupp, like many women writers of her era, frequently wrote under a pseudonym, Iota. Scholars think she wrote this. Bradbury always looking for

Sunday school texts found this in a book of hers. As a young man, Bradbury studied

with Lowell Mason in Boston. He traveled to Europe, especially Leipzig, where he

learned composition from the great teachers there. When he returned, he moved to

William Bradbury

Brooklyn where he continued composing and compiling hymnals for Sunday

schools. By the end of his life he had edited over fifty such books. The Bradbury tune remains popular—one can find grand organ settings, along with jazz and country western on the web. This tune will be sung in many churches this Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday. Stand around the computer and sing along!


Kaoma Chenda Quartet—for some barbershop and by one singer!

Martin Nystrom

The Haven of Rest Quartet

The Discover Singers/kind of Swingle Singers style

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