Swedish: Med Gud och hans vänskap
Text: Carl Olof Rosenius (1816-1868) Tune: Oskar Ahnfelt (1813-1882)
1. With God as our friend, with his Spirit and Word,
And loving communion at altar and board,
We meet with assurance the dawn of each day:
The Shepherd is with us, The Shepherd is with us,
To lead and protect us and teach us the way.
2. In perilous times, amid tempests and night,
A band presses on through the gloom toward the light;
Though humble and meek, and disowned by the world,
They follow the Savior, They follow the Savior,
And march on to glory, with banners unfurled.
3. While groveling worldlings with dross are content,
And ever on sin and transgression are bent,
I follow, victorious hosts, at your word,
And march on to glory, and march on to glory
We march on to glory, our captain the Lord.
4. The sign of the cross I triumphantly bear,
Though none of my kindred that emblem may wear;
I joyfully follow the champions of right,
Who march on to glory, who march on to glory,
Who march on to glory, with weapons of might.
5. O Shepherd, abide with us, care for us still,
And feed us and lead us and teach us thy will;
And when in thy heavenly fold we shall be,
Our thanks and our praises, our thanks and our praises,
Our thanks and our praises we’ll render to thee.
Tr. Ernst Olson, (1870-1958)
Stockholm, Storkyrkan, the cathedral, January 1980. It was a bright winter day, I was standing in the church, awaiting the service. A special day, the ordination of several candidates into the ministry. The organ started playing and the processional began. Clergy in all their finery began marching in. The hymn seemed familiar. Suddenly I realized it was “With God as our Friend/Med Gud och hans vänskap,” the hymn my father had said was essential as a representative of Rosenius' pietism. I had fought for it on the Lutheran Book of Worship Text committee. Although it was grudgingly accepted, a Swede on the committee scoffed. No one sings that anymore in Sweden.
Here I was now, in Sweden, some five years later. The students had chosen it as their hymn and now with all the impressive pomp and circumstance the Swedes could muster, they and the congregation were singing it with all their hearts. He had been wrong; my dad had been right.
Some years later at a Hymn Society Annual Conference a woman was giving a speech on her research into the hymns congregations in New England treasured, what and why—especially after all the revisions of the time. She had compiled a research team of several experts and they had visited many churches in New England. She reported they were met by angry people who wanted to know, What have you done to my song?
When she finished speaking, a leading official of a main line church rushed to the microphone in a fury. "You want to move people only from A to B," she charged. "I want to move them from A to Z." The lecturer observed calmly, "Many people in our business seem to have a bad relationship with their past and want to abandon it."
After that sentence I didn’t hear much else. Getting rid of a beloved hymn because you disliked your past was a way to attack the past and change the present (and future) for everyone who loved the hymn.
It was a moment. I had been providentially right about the hymn, but I had not been about others. Thinking about those moments today raises a larger, more pressing question: how do we plan for the future? Our committee was confident we were preparing a hymnal that would serve the needs of a future church. But we did not predict the future very well, even as we tried to shape it. It takes prescience to know what people will want in their hymnals in the future, for example. No human being has much of that.
In matters of faith, the relationship between the past, present and future has to be worked carefully. Remembering the faith of our mothers and fathers is important. We need to sing hymns we know and love to find strength to meet the future, even as the Spirit draws us forward into a future we cannot predict. As the hymn reminds us, it is the Lord who leads us "in perilous times, amid tempests and night."
Who, putting together a hymnal ten years ago, could ever have imagined the corona virus shutting everything down today? Or the hymns we would need? Michael Joncas of St. Paul Seminary has written a new hymn for the shutdown and it may work, but some hymns written by people from the past who were facing trials and tempests we cannot imagine—plague, famine, dreadful wars—have endured. They speak especially well and with great comfort today.
No matter what we think will happen in the future, each step we take is a step into the dark. None of us can say what is going to happen after society starts to open up. For good reason we are fearful. We need to be in constant prayer. The hymn tells us God is our friend, leading and guiding us forward through the unknown. A great comfort. We pray we will be led into a future rich in God's blessings. We can trust it will be, because we are walking with our Friend, trusting him for guidance.
Carl Olof Rosenius, the leader of the Swedish revival, wrote several hymns that remain popular in Sweden. (See Hymn 39) He spent much of his writing time on the Gospel of John and Romans. This hymn was in the Augustana Hymnal 1925, The Concordia, 1932 and the Lutheran Book of Worship 1978, and of course Covenant hymnals. Set by Oskar Ahnfelt, the tune "Ack, Saliga Stundar," in 1851, has remained somewhat popular in Sweden and the Covenant Church where the Swedish treasury of spiritual song is preserved. Today in Sweden it is the signature song of the Church Union, which you will see below.
Congregation singing in Umeå cathedral
Recession in Uppsala cathedral/after Swedish Church Union service--the high church Catholic renewal movement within the Church of Sweden
Lutherska Missionskyrkans Kör jazz version
Swedish country style