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HYMN FOR EASTER 5 Amid the World's Bleak Wilderness

Updated: Apr 23

Stained glass windows in MIndekirken. Notice the vine and grapes running down from the Word at the very top

Jaroslov Vajda (1919-2008)                                                Richard Hillert (1923-2010)


(For copyright reasons I cannot print the text here).



Blockage. We all know that word. If there is a blockage in our arteries or veins, we will suffer and maybe die. When we look at models of our veins, they look like trees or vines and branches. If the blockage is not removed or dissolved, paralysis or death ensues. We live our lives unaware of this system until something happens to it and then we need to do something drastic to clean out the blockage or die.


The vine, however, can be cut away and pruned. This surprisingly brings new life. While physically we cannot be pruned—maybe some procedures can be like that—but spiritually we can be. The metaphor works there.


Almost everyone who thinks of their Christian pilgrimage can remember a time when they encountered a difficulty and felt they were being disciplined by being pruned. It looked irreparable then. Years later they would look back at what had seemed like a wound, but now, a gracious pruning that brought more life than they had expected. The pruning had reconnected or invigorated them with the vine of life.


It never fails that when I am walking into a hospital room or facing my own difficulties, and am sending up new petitions of woe to the Lord, that I remember, of course, this is what our faith is all about. It is easy to become complacent and think one is sufficient unto oneself. In fact, some theologians argue that God sends trials so that we flee to him again. In any case, when we realize we are helpless, we realize we need a higher power.

Christians have a Lord with whom we want to be connected always, but especially then. As one Norwegian preacher reminded us in his sermon, prayer is almost always Akk or Takk, ouch or thanks! And in some regards that is all we can say most of the time. People can spend many hours in prayer, or just a few seconds frequently through the day, but what is important is how clear the lines are. We do not clear the lines, God does that, like a good farmer. We pray for the pruning. It is healing and life giving.

Jaroslav Vajda

I remember my great uncle looking at a stand of woods near his farm that had been bought by people who loved trees but didn’t know how to take care of them. They just let them grow naturally and without pruning. While in a great forest nature does the pruning, in this small acreage, the woods needed tending. It needed pruning care to flourish, otherwise it was a mess and a fire hazard. In the olden days before Smoky Bear arrived, fire and wind did the pruning and cutting in our great national forests. (One of the surprises after a terrible forest fire is the regrowth which many foresters argue is necessary for the health of the woods.)  For that small acreage my uncle thought it was the farmer’s work to tend it and help it flourish, lest there be a conflagration that would burn out of control through the neighboring fields.


Jesus here sounds like my uncle. He wants growth and life surging through our lives. He can provide it richly and fully. Even in our most dire circumstances, we can be surprised by that life. All we need to do is pray as the hymn writer does, “Vine, keep what I was meant be: a branch with your rich life in me.”



Richard Hillert

Jaroslav Vajda grew up in a Slovakian pastors family in the US. He learned the language as a child and was able to translate many treasures for the early Lutheran writer, Tranovsky. He served as pastor in the Slovak Lutheran Church and worked as editor of Concordia Press in St. Louis. He was on the Lutheran Book of Worship committee and the Lutheran Worship committee where he contributed much with his gentle character and goofy sense of humor. After his retirement he became one of the most active Lutheran hymn text writers. This tune is by the late Richard Hillert, a professor and composer at Concordia College, River Forest. Hillert was an important composer of church music. He wrote the first setting of the liturgy in the LBW "This is the Feast."

This poetic form is unique to hymnody—a Dantean Sonnet—fourteen lines, only the stanzas are tercets rather than quatrains, but do end with a couplet. The tercets create a vine of rhymes in the text, that match the meaning of the vine as it winds through the text. A singular accomplishment. While the hymn has not achieved the kind of popularity it deserves, it has been picked up by Koiné who has made it into a folk rock hymn. Below I add my hymn text on the passage.





Schola Cantorum of St. Peter’s in Chicago


Koiné with a bit of sermon, reading of biblical text


Westminster Choir Tune by Scott

NB: (a tune for this can be found on Wayne Leupold Editions, website)




1.  The spring blooms richly from the rain,

The earth grows green and bright

And in each branch life comes again

To flower in the light.

Life surges through the budding trees

And sends its fragrance on the breeze,

The water feeds the branch and gives

The life it needs to live.


2.  Like fruit trees in the springtime bloom

With freshness and new life,

We blossom for the Lord who prunes

Old branches with his knife,

He cuts away the dead and dry

And throws them in the raging fire

So we may bear good fruit for him

On every branch he trims.


3.  Come, gardener, cleanse us to the root,

So we may grow and thrive,

Prune back the dead, help us bear fruit

So we may truly live.

Let flow the juices from your vine

Into us now like vintage wine,

Lord, let your life course through our veins

So nothing dead remains.



Text: Gracia Grindal

Topic:  Easter, Resurrection, Communion

Source:  John 15:1-8

Possible tune:  Hvor salig er den lille flok, or Barino  by Amanda Husberg

Text: Copyright 2008 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.





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