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HYMN for Week 14 John the Baptist/Midsummer

John the Baptist/Sankt Hans aften

Text: Gracia Grinal Tune: James Clemens

John Pointing out Jesus to St. Andrew Ottavio Vannino 1640s

The third day of summer

the eve of St. John

Is six months from Christmas

The birth of God’s Son.

John points to Christ Jesus

The one who will come.

The wild celebrations

The solstice still brings

the force of sweet nature

that moves us each spring

Are gifts God has given

To prosper all things.

So hear now the Baptist

Who cries from the fire,

Refining our passions

To cleanse our desires.

God wants us to follow

The voice of this crier.

Though summer seems endless

Like heaven on earth,

Each day we grow older

As we wander forth,

As John bids us listen

To words of new birth.

What God has created

Are gifts to receive

And learn to use wisely

because we believe

another world beckons

One Christ came to give.

A heaven of summers

like clear precious stones

More than we imagine,

like nothing we’ve known,

will shine like the angels

Before Jesus’ throne.

Text copyright Wayne Leupold Editions 2015


June 24th is Midsummer's Day. Northern Europeans celebrate the night before as Saint John’s Eve or Sankt Hans Natt. It is an old pagan celebration of the solstice that the church took over and Christianized, or at least tried to. With the parties and fires lighting up the horizon in the long night of midsummer across the northern hemisphere, we may search a bit for the rather dour Baptist and his pointing his bony finger at Jesus.

John did that from his beginning. One of the great events in the book of Luke is the Visitation when Mary, newly pregnant, runs to her cousin Elizabeth in the Judean hills. When they meet, Elizabeth feels John kicking in her womb, already saluting his Lord. So the church made his day exactly six months away from the day they chose for the birth of Jesus, also around the winter solstice and a holiday with its share of pagan traditions.

So even saying Saint John, whether one is a believer or not, is to speak of the incarnation of our Lord to which John the Baptist pointed his entire life.

To point to Jesus is also the work of the Holy Spirit who points to Christ and brings us to him and into the faith. The job of all Christians is to point others to Christ. Like John the Baptist we point him out and help people meet Jesus trusting the Holy Spirit to do its work in the heart of those we have pointed to Christ.

Per Kivle

Today I am grieving the loss of my second cousin, Per Kivle, a long time missionary to Japan from Norway. He and his wife spent their lives pointing people to Christ. Just after World War II, as a young man, Per heard the call to China and went there after a brief time of study in the USA. He drove a truck from Minnesota to San Francisco where it was put on board and shipped to China, along with him. He quickly learned Chinese and brought a spirit of joy and youth to the mission there. On his way to the field where he was to work he had many adventures. Once he took a river boat where the pilot would kill a chicken and read its entrails to see whether they should continue or not. When the Communists took over, he helped the missionaries escape to Hong Kong on two LWF planes, Peter and Paul. When they finally got to Hong Kong, Torveig joined him and they were married.

Then they went to Japan where they pioneered the Norwegian Lutheran Free Church’s mission. Per learned Japanese quickly so he could preach the Gospel.They went to Matsusaka and began the mission there. They worked there for many years, raising a family of four.

They served a congregation in Norway for a time, and when they retired in the late 1990s, they moved to Kragerø, across the street from the small grocery shop Per's parents had owned and now his brother did. From there, Per visited and preached at all of the congregations of the Free Church in addition to speaking wherever he was asked. In every case, he pointed people to Jesus. Once he preached at Mindekirken, my congregation in Minneapolis. It was Pentecost and he spoke on the work of the Holy Spirit being one of pointing to Christ. I can still see him in the pulpit pointing. While he pointed people to Christ, he also drew them to Christ. His hospitality and genuine interest in people and the world, made people want to be around him. One could always count on hearing about the Lord. Together Per and Torveig had a huge ministry that brought many people to Christ.

Per and Torveig Kivle

I was a frequent guest in their home over the years. Every meal closed with devotions. After Per had read the Word for that time, his eyes would close and he would marvel at the good things there, smiling and exclaiming at the wonders of God in Christ Jesus. Those moments were holy. The conversations were filled with experiences they had had around the world as they served their Lord. Always pointing to Christ.

After a day with them, one felt that one had been at the portals of heaven, that the division between here and there was separated by a fine scrim. This is no surprise. They took seriously, with great joy and delight, what Jesus said when he announced that the kingdom of God was where he was. It was a rich, incarnate life they lived and brought to everybody they met. A kind of spiritual spring time and summer seemed to waft around them wherever they went, a freshness of the spirit. After being with them for a time, one knew that one had touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and the kingdom was near.

Blessed be his memory and hers! Happy Sankt Hans and Midsummer! Thanks be to God!

HYMN INFO This hymn comes from a series of texts I wrote on the festivals of the church and the lives of the apostles. James Clemens’ tune is a fun one.


I will give the link to the hymn they sang at his funeral, a favorite of mine along with many others, My Heart is Longing to Praise my Savior. It speaks for many of his generation.

Augustana College Choir/Leland Sateren arrangement

Ole Bull

Gunnar Ajen and friends

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