HYMN FOR EASTER 7 That they may be one/Top of the World
English: Think how wonderful to know
Swedish: Högt på ett berg
Text: Kurt and Roland (Swedish country gospel) Tune: Richard Carpenter "Top of the World"
1. Think how wonderful to know
To be free to do all we would like to do
Think of walking safely out, in the sun, on a beach
Hearing breezes softly whispering your name.
I cannot stop thinking all about
All you give me summer, sun and skies of blue
I hear music and I see how we laugh and we smile
And we sing about the beauty that you give.
R/I’m sitting high upon a mountain top
Far across creation, I see forest, I see meadows and the sea
I see people down below and begin to understand
We all need you here with us, especially me.
2. Many do not think that you exist
But I know you both can feel and always know
When we see all you've done both the small and the great
I am thankful that you really think of me.
Think if everyone knew what I know.
It's no secret what you give to me
All the freedom and the joy you give to every one
Tr. Gracia Grindal--rough, it cannot be sung to the tune yet
Just now I am planting flowers and rejoicing in God's creation. This song is running through my mind as I do, not as grand or deep as some, but it matches the spring in my step. This Sunday’s lesson is from Jesus' long prayer in John 17. It ends with what I call, cynically, Jesus’ great merger prayer. Merging churches have used his phrase “that they may be one” on banners, stationery and slogans and sermon themes, as though Jesus was praying that American Lutherans would finally merge. What a misuse of Scripture!
Jesus was talking about a unity that is beyond our imagination, not achieved by long and arduous theological debates, but something that is already a reality. Jesus was not talking about bureaucratic unity. He is describing the entire work of God to bring us into his life. Really, about love, his love for us and our love for him and each other. As he is in the Father, so Jesus prays, we may be one as he is with his Father. He came down out of the side of God, one scholar says, to bring us God’s Word, God’s very self, to give us everything he has—all that is mine is yours, he says to God and to us, as the Father of the Prodigal Son says to the jealous elder son. What joy!
How this happens is miraculous, but we have tangible evidence of his unity with us—when we hear his Word, when we taste his body and blood, when we look into the eyes of those suffering, when we look at ones we love and are drawn out of ourselves!
The song the Carpenters wrote was thought to be a love song to a beloved here on earth, but on hearing it is can easily be taken for a love song to God. To be sure, it doesn't name the name, but neither does Amazing Grace. In Sweden it is clearly a praise song, praising the creator for his works and friendship, for all he gives us. And it typically glories in God's creation--something the glorious spring days we are having now cause us to do. The Wesley hymn Jesus, Lover of my Soul is much more intimate in its imagery than this and more specific to Jesus. But its idea is the same. When we are in love with another human being, and someone loves us back, everything is changed. One’s whole life and being is moved by something outside of ourselves for once! That is what is so wonderful and refreshing about falling in love. For once someone besides me is more important than I am. Even then it is a feeble image for the love of Jesus, but maybe one we might udnerstand best.
Many who have come to know Jesus suddenly in a conversion experience like Charles Wesley and millions of others like him, have felt their lives turn around and the center of their universe shift away from themselves to God, their creator, redeemer and comforter. That is freedom! The Greek word for conversion is metanoia, meaning a complete turning around. A friend of mine said that when she met Jesus for the first time, it was as though the world, which had been an old sepia photo, suddenly turned into technicolor. Everything was changed!
Because we are one in Christ, with God, and as we take our place beside others in whom he also lives, we are recentered. We have to lose our lives to find them, Jesus says. And when we do, we sing love songs--hymns of praise--because now we are centered in the truth. The Son has set us free, so we are free indeed. And we can enjoy all his gifts to us--from our salvation to the marvelous creation around us--in technicolor. We all need him here with us today. It is for this reason he came! Peace and Joy to all!
Karen and Richard Carpenter
The story of this song is fascinating. "Top of the World" was written in the early 1970s by the Carpenters. Karen sang it with her velvety contralto. Like many love songs it can be used for a love song to Jesus. In the 1970s a Swedish gospel duo Kurt and Roland went to Nashville, where all gospel and country singers end up one day or another. They wrote Swedish words to the Carpenter hit, “Top of the World” “Högt på ett berg.” It became a hit among Swedish gospel singers and has been sung by a variety of the most well-known singers as you will see below. Recently, scholars have begun to reevaluate Richard Carpenter's compositions and see they are sophisticated and richly done.
Carina, Jard and Magnus Samuelson
Kurt and Roland
Swedish Minns du Sången--like the Gaither Homecoming gatherings
The Carpenters/you can read the English text on this site
NB: A hymn text on John 17.