Updated: Jun 10
Danish: I går var hveden moden
Text: Lisbeth Smedegaard Andersen (1934-) Tune: Swedish Folk 1693
1. Just yesterday was harvest,
Today the woods are white,
And soon the lark will warble
Of sun and springtime’s light.
While calling from the graveyard
The present never ends,
And outside dust is flying,
Who knows where it will land?
2. Our days, we learn to number
And pray we will endure.
Our work increases daily,
For what we are not sure.
The greatest words lose meaning,
Our plans, they fail the light,
We fly the stars of morning
To drowsy evening night.
3. And so on Sunday morning
We come inside again;
The church door gladly opens
To welcome an old friend.
We thought the words were worn out,
But now as they are said
We are surprised to hear them
Speak hope and love instead.
4. And so we baptize babies
And hear the wedding vows
And pray that all our loved ones
Are safe in God’s hands now.
They taught us to be faithful
And left their legacy
Which gladly we inherit
For all eternity.
5. For when our dreams have failed us
Or fallen by the way,
The shadows seem to lengthen
And darkness rules the day,
The church will still be preaching
The faith that still endures
And holds our days together
In heav’n’s eternal year.
Tr. Gracia Grindal 1994/2020
October 1994, Luther Seminary campus. It was the 150th anniversary of the Muskego church which had been moved from its original spot near Wind Lake, Wisconsin in 1904, to the seminary grounds. Members of the Wind Lake congregation had spent considerable time restoring the log building that needed work. In the place of an old altar painting of the Lord’s Supper, which had deteriorated beyond recognition, the women of the church had sewn a beautiful Hardangersøm piece to replace it. The men had chinked the holes in the logs with oakum and the building stood ready for a rededication service.
The Scripture for the event was Psalm 90. Because the first pastor was Danish: Claus Clausen (1820-1892) born at Borgnæs on the island of Ærø; and Martha Clausen (1815-1846), a teacher, born on Langeland island, the service focused on the Danish connection of the congregation. The Seminary Reformation Festival that year was remembering the Danish hymn writer, Hans Adolph Brorson’s three-hundredth anniversary. Present at the celebration were Danish pastor and hymn writer Lisbeth Smedegaard Andersen and her husband, Jens. We had met that June in Denmark at Brorson’s birthday. Since they had come to Washington D. C. for her sabbatical, they found it possible to be with us for the event. (See Hymn 60 for more on her and her work.)
Muskego congregation is iconic in the history of the seminary and the Norwegian-American Lutheran church. Its image has been used on many pins, plates, vases, etc. as a way to mark the cradle of the church. Clausen had gone to Norway to recover from TB. While there he began teaching in Drammen where he became acquainted with Tollef O. Bache whose son, Søren, lived in Muskego. He recommended Clausen to his son.
At the call of the congregation, the young couple traveled to Muskego to serve as teachers. Almost immediately Clausen recognized they needed a pastor. So on October 18, 1843, after an examination, he was ordained in a barn near Milwaukee by a German American pastor, Lebrecht Friedrich Ehregott Krause (1804-1885). The congregation built its log church the next year. Clausen and his wife were beloved. Martha wrote, we think, what is no doubt the first hymn by a Lutheran woman in America, “Og nu vil vi sige hverandre farvel/And now we must bid one another farewell.” She died in 1846, and was buried in the graveyard of Jefferson Prairie congregation, further south in Rock County, Wisconsin where they had moved. Muskego congregation continued to honor her memory by naming a circle after her.
Lisbeth heard these stories and the sermon on Psalm 90 and was moved to write the hymn for today, using the images of Psalm 90 and the event. The hymn caught on and is now in the current Danish hymnal as was Martha Clausen’s until 2002.
It is a moving testimony to the faith of those early pioneers who established this congregation in the wilds of Wisconsin 177 years ago. From it came many leaders of the Norwegian American churches. Hans Gerhard Stub (1849-1931) was born there in 1849 to the next pastor, Hans A. Stub. Stub would serve as president of Luther Seminary for many years, then president of the Norwegian Synod (1911-1917) and then the newly formed Evangelical Lutheran Church from 1917-1925.
Now the building is something of a museum and testimony to the faith of the pioneers, for, as Lisbeth writes, even as “The shadows seem to lengthen/And darkness rules the day,/The church will still be preaching/The faith that still endures.” Thanks be to God!
Lisbeth wrote the first version of the hymn in 1994 and then revised it for the Danish hymnal 2002. The tune she used comes from the Swedish hymnal of 1697 and is one of the most beloved tunes in the North, Den Blomstertid nu kommer. It is the tune for a favorite Swedish summer hymn, used in Norway, Denmark and Finland, as a spring and graduation hymn. The LBW includes the tune with an Icelandic text by Valdimar Briem, "How Marvelous God's Greatness."The tune for Lisbeth's hymn acts like a palimpsest, reminding
the singers of the summer hymn even as Lisbeth's text recounts all our seasons over against the Gospel which we preach, into eternity.
Danish Congregation singing
Danish String Quartet/plays the melody/they are a wonderful quartet! Enjoy!
Klarup Girl's Choir singing the summer hymn