HYMN FOR THE REIGN OF CHRIST Jesus Christ our King
Jesus Christ, our King/Konge er du visst, Herre Jesu Krist
Text: Gustav Margerth Jensen (1845-1922) Tune: Per Steenberg (1870-1947)
1. Jesus Christ, our King,
Lord of everything,
Crown of thorns is what you’re given,
Then a gleaming crown in heaven.
Jesus Christ, our King,
Lord of everything.
2. You are King of kings.
Not by sword you win your vict’ry
Not by chains you have our fealty
Not with worldly things
Are you King of kings.
3. Truth is how you reign
In your glorious train,
All your people bow before you;
Beating hearts in joy adore you.
Freely truth sustains
You, and how you reign.
4. King, come clear our minds
Of the lies that bind.
Let your cross now truly teach us
As your truth now comes to reach us.
King, come clear our minds,
Of the lies that bind.
5. In your truthful Word
Dwell with us, O Lord.
Help us, Jesus, like no other,
Help us bring the world together
In your truthful Word
All the world, O Lord!
Tr. Gracia Grindal: Copyright © 2012 Gracia Grindal
Today the word "king" may bring up images of a royal like King Harald of Norway, a kindly old man whose actual powers are few, except he is revered by his people. His reign has been fairly long, and so what he says is listened to. He is considered the head of state, but he does not rule the country.
Still, when he comes around, there are strict protocols to be followed. People who receive invitations to an event where he is must wear formal clothes or bunads, the folk costume of Norway. If you are not so attired, you will not be allowed into the party. You must arrive before he comes and cannot leave until after he and his party have left.
Some people, however, grow uneasy even about constitutional monarchies. There have long been vocal opponents of royalty in Great Britain and the Nordic countries, despite the amiable characters of their current royals. Their critics do not like any notion of kingly unrepresentative powers. For many, to speak of Jesus as King brings up two kinds of problems—one, the brutal and unrestrained powers of a king such as King Herod of Judea, a ruthless tyrant, or the ceremonial power of King Harald. Neither really apply to Jesus, so many were happy to change the name of the day to Reign of Christ Sunday, thus getting rid of the image entirely, substituting his reign for his person. (It used to be Called Judgment Sunday.) I don't think much was gained in either of these changes. Jesus is showing us a new world, a new kind of kingdom and king in contrast to what people knew of kings.
In Jesus’ time, people were well acquainted with the former kind of king. In fact, it was the only kind they knew. The idea that Jesus was a king was laughable. Thus the soldiers mocked him with a crown of thorns, and a reed scepter. Pilate hears in the word king a threat to his own rule. Jesus and he parry on the definition during Jesus' trial. And in their conversation, we see two worlds colliding, one that Pilate understands very well, and another he does not at all. Jesus sounds crazy to him—A king of a kingdom not of this world? Jesus does remind him that if he had intentions toward an earthly throne, his disciples would have been in open rebellion against the authorities of the day. But soldiers don't have any weapons that can destroy his kingdom. It is different. Jesus is a witness to truth. He IS the truth. Those who hear his voice know it and obey him.
That is what I love about this hymn. "Truth is how you reign." To speak truth to power is a meme we hear a lot these days but it seems that each person has his or her own truth. Sometimes that means we are in protracted arguments about facts that seem incontrovertible but are not accepted by the other side. Which means there can be no discussion. Just power games. Those in power can silence the truth. And often do. The First Amendment in the United States was written by people who knew the dangers of the divine right of kings and their brutality. Democracy, science and arts flourish and grow with disagreement because democracy is founded on the belief that debates held in peace and freedom help us discover the truth both sides have been missing. The world has a way of wanting to kill the truth, and always has.
The offense of Jesus is that he is in his person the Way, the Truth and the Life. Tyrants like Pilate can cynically wash their hands of their complicity in killing the Truth, but all of Pilate's powers fade and crumble before the Lord whom he sends to his death. Three days later the Truth will shatter rocks, the confines of a grave and the ultimate sentence of death. Those who lie beside the stone to keep the dead one inside, will be thrown into panic and terror when they see that their powers, granted by the authorities, mean nothing to this King of Truth—who of all things has come to save them and us from the delusions of strength and power—to raise us from the dead. He is like no other king. Thus we worship this meek and mild one who may look as gentle as King Harald, but has powers over tyrants even crueler than Herod. His reign is forever. Glory be.
Gustav Margerth Jensen was a Norwegian scholar and churchman who contributed to the liturgical life of Norwegians and Norwegian Americans when he revised the Landstad hymnal in 1921 including his 1887 version of the Norwegian liturgy. Those who grew up with the revised Landstad hymnal, The Lutheran Hymnary or the Concordia still remember that liturgy in their bones. This hymn is based on John 18:33-37 where Jesus’ trial is reported. It was published first in 1912. Jensen was editor of Luthersk Kirektidende and served Vår Frelsers church in Oslo where he was known as a fine preacher and liturgist.
Steenberg was a church musician who lived and worked in Oslo. He was trained in Leipzig and Copenhagen, and taught at the school for the blind, and the Music Conservatory in Oslo. The major disciple of Thomas Laub in Norway, he compiled a book of harmonies for the Landstad hymnal, which was popular but never authorized. He also wrote liturgical music for the church.
Johan Muren/organ and instruments
Jesus the Harmony would make a nice Christmas present. It can be read devotionally over the entire year, one poem for every day.
"Listen! This day the Spirit speaks in Jesus's voice and Gracia's verse. This volume will bless generations." David Tiede, President and professor emeritus, New Testament, Luther Seminary
"With these 366 sonnets, remarkable in artistry and number, Gracia Grindal has made literary history. The scriptural and theological knowledge that supports these poems is vast, but it is the imagination infused with the holy in poem after poem that reveals the poet's grace and skill and the astonishing work of the Spirit." --Jill Baumgartner, Poetry Editor, Christian Century, and professor of English emerita, Wheaton College