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HYMN FOR PENTECOST 11 How Blessed is the Little Flock/Hvor Salig er den lille Flock

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Coptic-Arab Manuscript by Patriarch of Alexandria, from around 1250

Text: Nils Johannes Holm (1778-1845) Tune: Ludvig Lindemann (1812-1887)

1. How blessed is the little flock

Whom Jesus calls his own.

He is their Savior and their Rock

They trust in him alone.

They walk by faith and hope and love,

And they shall dwell with him above

When hope and faith shall pass away

But love will never fail.

2. My Jesus, am I in that band

And am I yours alone?

Do I among the chosen stand

Whose lamps so brightly glow?

Oh, let me not lie down to rest

Till this I know, my Savior blest;

And I can say, by grace restored,

That I am yours, O Lord.

3. And though I speak through bitter tears,

Hear all my prayers I pray.

I know you’ll calm my anxious fears

And wipe my tears away.

Of those whom you have loved and known,

In whom your love has brightly shone,

Come show me that I am among

The blest for whom I long.

Tr. Carl Døving (1867-1937)


Miracles have no logic to them. They happen out of the blue. God works and we stand astonished, stunned into gratitude. In this account from Luke 13:10-17, we see Jesus touching the woman (not allowed at the time) bent over double and healing her. She stands up straight and glorifies God. Luke leaves her there. What interests Luke is the reaction of the ruler of the synagogue. He pays no attention to the miracle and berates Jesus for breaking the Sabbath law to say nothing of his touching the woman.

Jesus healing the woman bent over double. James Tissot

If you want to be healed, he tells the people, come during business hours, not the Sabbath.

There is something hilarious about that--confining God's miracles to a nine to five schedule. Jesus’ answer goes right to the point: Should not "a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” When Jesus says that he has loosed her from the bonds of Satan, he is telling us that this is an important skirmish in his battle to the death with Satan. Jesus puts his adversaries to shame in this encounter and the people “rejoice in all the glorious things that were done by him.”

The Gospel accounts do not spend much time examining the life of the person Jesus has healed. Mostly what we see after a miracle is the reaction of the people, especially the religious, around him. They usually appeal to the Sabbatarian laws as a way to trap Jesus. A red herring, pointing people to a side issue, to the letter of the Law, while the very incarnation of the Law stands before them. They resort to pious talk about the miracle, rather than beholding the miracle. A common ploy.

A version of that happens today. Often when a person is healed, others around him or her wonder why they weren’t healed. They do not rejoice that it happened, but think of their own suffering. Pastors are asked that all the time and they simply cannot answer, nor should they. It is just the way God works. He doesn’t love anyone more or less. His dread purposes are beyond our ability to divine. Anyone who tries to explain those purposes and say why or why not God has performed a miracle will be wrong. Maybe in hindsight we can, but not at the moment.

Once, I heard about an Army chaplain who had broken his back during the Battle of the Bulge as he tried to avoid a savage bombardment. He dived into a dump, and was saved, but another soldier also dived in behind him and hit his back, breaking it. He was told he would never walk again. When the doctor told him this, he asked the chaplain if he were a praying man. When he said yes, the doctor knelt down beside his wheelchair and prayed that he would be healed. He was.

He never told anyone but his family until he was dying. Then he told the student nurse taking care of him. When some of us heard it, we wondered why he had remained mum on the miracle. Then it came clear to us. If he had spoken of it, he would have had to explain why they had not been healed. Instead, he simply rejoiced in his healing and worked to bring the Gospel to his students and parishioners around the world, expecting miracles as he worked.

His student nurse could tell the story to the glory of God and wonderment that her teacher had remained quiet about this great work of God in his life. We are to bear witness to the acts of God, pray and intercede. And then wait. My mother taught me, after we had prayed for something, to expect a miracle. But where or when, that was not for us to say. We were to trust our God to do what was best.

We continue to pray that Christ will minister to us, a little flock of believers. We are to wait for him to show us who he is, the hymn says. But, take courage! We are, after all, the followers of a Lord who rose from the dead, the greatest miracle of all. It changes everything!

Sonnet 195


We see her bent over double and want to say,

“Be free, stand up straight, you have been healed.”

Would all hell break loose if one day

It happened here? Would it be taken for real?

A miracle confounds logic. We jump

To explain it, but the scandal remains:

A chaplain, under fire, dove into a dump,

Broke his back. “You’ll never walk again,”

The doctor, a full bird colonel, said. He knelt

Beside him. “Are you a praying man?” he asked.

“God, heal him.” The reverend walked but did not tell

A soul. He never talked about his past.

As he lay dying, he told his student nurse,

Who preaches every chapter, every verse.

Luke 13:10-17; Psalm 116:16-17; Ezekiel 46:1-4

…from Jesus the Harmony, Fortress Press, 2021;


Nils Holm was a Moravian pastor from Denmark serving in Oslo during the mid-19th century. It is said he wrote this once very popular hymn to comfort his little flock who sometimes felt outnumbered and alone. Holm suffered many troubles, both in his work as pastor and his own illness. The hymn appeared first in Der Norse Missions-bad in 1827. Ludvig Lindemann, who served as organist at the Oslo Cathedral for many years, was the greatest church musician and composer in Norway during the 19th century. The Malagasy sing a version of it to one of their tunes.


Johan Muren

Fantasi on the tune by Lindemann played by Sven-Ingvart Middekelsn

Hymn to folk tune

Vocal Art

Malagasy version



For those planning for Bible study through the next year, you might consider the book Jesus the Harmony. It has a poem for every day of the year and Bible references on each poem that put Jesus in what has been called "the red thread of salvation." Many have been using it for daily devotions; others in group Bible studies.

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