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HYMN 60 When Apple Branches White with Flow'rs

Danish: Når æbletræets hvide gren

Acts 1:6-11


Text: Lisbeth Smedegaard Andersen (1934- ) René Arvid Jensen (19--)



Lisbeth Smedegaard Andersen

1. When apple branches white with flow’rs

Strew petals on my walk and stairs,

The air is filled with lovely hints

Of newly blossomed beech tree scents,

I know that once again it’s May

And summer’s on the way,

I know that once again it’s May

And summers on the way.

2. It’s May, and Christ's Ascension time,

Behind the clouds our vision climbs

And sees a blessed shining sun

That’s streaming from a royal throne

Which opens up the heav’nly way

For Pentecost’s new day.

And opens up the heavenly way

For Pentecost’s new day.

3. The Holy Spirit’s rushing wings

Are loos’ning up our speechless tongues

Our mouths are running over with

The fullness in our hearts’ new breath

The Good News blossoms as we say

God’s kingdom’s on its way!

The good news blossoms as we say

God’s kingdom’s on its way!

4. It’s like the smallest seed that grows

Beneath the ice, the frost, the snows,

But grows to be a mighty tree

With birdsongs in its flowing leaves

The best that can be thought today

This early day in May

The best that can be thought today

This early day in May.

Tr, Gracia Grindal 2016


MEDITATION Recently I attended a memorial service where there was no mention of anything beyond us except nature’s beauty of which we were a part. It distressed me. Nature is a capricious god—its cycles can be violent—eternal life is not like the seasons or living forever in the memory of the living.They will die too. All that talk of creation, but no praise of the creator, or the one who has conquered death.

Apple blossoms

Jesus used nature to give us parables about the kingdom. As he was speaking, people could look around them and see in a seed what the kingdom was like. Many preachers since have done the same.


Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872) used the images of nature around him to preach the Gospel. Danes, especially, do write hymns about the seasons and times of day in ways that are surprising. We no longer have morning school exercises or evening services, and not many families have home devotions so there is not much call for such hymns. English hymnody in the past half century has been almost exclusively focused on hymns for Sunday morning and the liturgy, especially baptism and communion.


As a follower of Luther and his efforts to bring religious vocations into the daily life of every Christian, I think that is unfortunate. To be sure, Luther's hymns tended to be for the morning service because he was intent on reforming the theology of the past so it would be evangelical. The generation after him, however, like Paul Gerhardt, wrote hymns that occasionally fit with the church year, but fewer for the liturgy, one for baptism, and none on communion. Gerhardt wrote on many topics for home devotions: problems of daily life, patience, sorrow, morning and evening hymns. That means, unfortunately, that we have lost many of his hymns since they don’t always fit into the texts for the Sunday service. (More on that tomorrow.)



Løgumkloster church

The hymn for today is by my good friend Lisbeth Smedegaard Andersen a Danish pastor and hymn writer. I first heard of her from a Danish theologian visiting Luther Seminary. During our talk, he said, you must meet my friend Lisbeth. In 1994, at the 300th anniversary of Hans Adolph Brorson we met and spent a week at Løgumkloster, enjoying the high midsummer light and weather, listening to lectures and concerts and talking. We became good friends. At the time she was pastor at Holmen church in Copenhagen. (If you go back to Hymn 47 "Op! al den ting" and see the royal baptisms, you will see where she served as pastor.)


Lisbeth knows that she is writing to a secular audience—and like many hymns on nature that we have seen and will see—singers often discard the stanzas that are directly theological. In this May hymn she uses pictures of nature as parables of the Christian faith. Like Grundtvig she sees in the spring breezes signs of the wind of Pentecost and its power to bring life to the dead winters of our souls.


At Jesus' Ascension, he promised the Spirit as he gave the Great Commission to go forth and breathe his good news into the whole world. When the spring weather fills our hearts with joy it is the Spirit’s breath in us. Something we long to share, especially in our confinement. In the same way, the Holy Spirit fills us when we hear the Gospel, it enlivens the Word in us. The Spirit gives us joy as we announce God’s kingdom is on the way!


HYMN INFO

Lisbeth, now retired, is actively lecturing and writing hymns and books on faith and the arts, plus fascinating books about her family as they interacted with Danish life and history. The May hymn is one of twelve hymns on the months she did with René . She and her husband Jens are living in Hellerup, a neighborhood in north Copenhagen. The CD cover is done by Maja Lisa Engelhardt, a Danish artist whose works Lisbeth has written about several times. René is a composer, arranger, producer, at the Royal Danish Music Conservatory in Copenhagen.


LINKS Girl's choir singing the hymn https://youtu.be/KaZu1jloBHI


Solo with piano https://youtu.be/TQgVBgLYDvA


Ympehaven/Mads Mouritz and Jacob Funch

https://youtu.be/TI89Q853uqw


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