Danish: Herre Jesus, vi er her
German: Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier
Norwegian: Jesus Frelser, vi er her
Text: Tobias Clausnitzer (1619-1684). Tune: Johann Rudolf Ahle (1625-1673)
Blessed Jesus, at your word we are gathered all to hear you. Let our hearts and souls be stirred now to seek and love and fear you. By your gospel pure and holy, teach us, Lord, to love you solely. All our knowledge, sense, and sight lie in deepest darkness shrouded, till your Spirit breaks our night with your beams of truth unclouded. You alone to God can win us; you must work all good within us. Glorious Lord, yourself impart; Light of Light, from God proceeding, open lips and ears and heart; help us by your Spirit's leading. Hear the cry your church now raises; Lord, accept our prayers and praises.
The parable of the farmer sowing his fields and then letting it grow unseen by him and the mustard seed are wonderful parables of faith. Our God loves to work with the small and the unseen, the despised and rejected. The way we receive the faith and how it works in us is a mystery and not obvious. This is true throughout the biblical story. God seems to prefer the weaker, the second son, the despised woman, the repentant sinner. Not those too full of themselves to see much of anything but their own reflection in the mirror.
It is true of the whole Christian faith. No better than the story of Jesus himself. God’s messenger Gabriel comes to a young maiden in an out of the way place and asks her to bear his son. She says yes to a request she understands is part of the prophecies in the book she is reading. Then the shame of telling Joseph, a simple carpenter, her betrothed that she is with child. And him, being a righteous man, at first thinks to leave her quietly, but then the angel comes to him and persuades him he has a vocation to keep Mary and raise her son as his own. Which he does. Still, this is a pretty out of the way person and place. What must he have thought as they made their way to Bethlehem, having to find a place for Mary to give birth and only finding a stable?
And then the baby being visited by shepherds, the simplest of people on the social scale, then wisemen from the East? Then having to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s brutality? It is such a strange story played out at the edges of the great Roman Empire. While the great movements of the day affect their lives, they can only respond. Little they do can affect the sweep of history, it seems.
This little baby grows up, like the mustard seed, he begins his ministry, he is opposed by the great, he suffers and dies at their hands because somehow they understand he is a threat to everything they hold dear. They cannot, however, defeat him. Even their weapons of death and cruelty are overcome in his resurrection. And from his disciples who are witnesses to his life and death and resurrection go out into the world and utterly change it.
It ebbs and flows. But as the word is preached throughout the world, the seed is planted and despite what the powers that be try to do, it will grow and flourish. We need to be good farmers, planting and watering, tending and harvesting knowing the growth comes from God. Sometimes it may seem that it has lost its power, and we wonder where God is in all our wonder and horror at what is going on in our world and the church.
But even as we wonder, and worry, the word is being preached in small out of the way places, unbeknownst to us and a small root is wending its way out of the seed into the heart of another and growing into a large tree that bears the Gospel into the world yet again, over and over, offering shelter and home to all the birds of the air. What an amazing God! What an amazing way to get the work done.
So we sing as we are getting ready to hear the sermon again and again, Blessed Jesus at your Word. Let it grow, let it grow in us so we can have a small part in bringing the Gospel to the world it so desperately needs today! Help as we sing by opening our hearts and minds to your word so it can grow untrammeled in us, we sing. It never ceases to astonish me. Here is my sonnet on the text.
PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED
The smallest seed becomes the largest plant In the garden. One for the books but workaday. A girl from a backwater in a little land Hears an angel. She wonders what to say— Then assents. A lily shudders. A dove descends. Beyond our grasp, the consequence breaks through. The egg in her womb grows. It will have no end. Its provenance unlikely, strange, but true. A boy is born in a stable. The family moves To Nazareth; he learns his Father’s trade, Healing the sick and hated for his love. He is crucified—died and buried—then raised. From the dead, he ascends. Now all the books in all The world cannot contain him. They are too small.
Matthew 13:31–32; John 21:25; 2 Peter 3:18 Gracia Grindal From Jesus the Harmony text copyright 2021 Fortress Press
The text and tune have a storied history in Lutheranism. It was written by Tobias Clausnitzer during the Thirty Years War. He preached at the thanksgiving service in 1645 celebrating the coronation of Queen Christina of Sweden, gifted daughter of King Gustavus Adolphus. (See Hymn 74 Do not Despair O Little Flock). He also preached at the service in the Thomas church in Leipzig remembering the Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years War, especially at the Thomas Church in Leipzig. The time had been awful and so devastated the German territories, especially, that it took decades for them to recover. The hymn was first published in 1663 in a collection of hymns set by Johann Rudolf Ahle, the composer, a contemporary of Clausnitzer.
Topher Keene, solo
Bach has a fine setting of the tune