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Our Heavenly Father

This coming Sunday, April 14th, the Sequence Hymn we will sing is titled “Children of the Heavenly Father”. The tune of the hymn is a Swedish folk melody and the text comes from a poem by Swedish poet Lina Sandell-Berg (Karolina Wilhelmina Sandell-Berg, 1832-1903). The hymn is well-known in many denominations, but is especially beloved by Lutherans, as the author was the daughter of a Lutheran minister who wrote over six hundred hymn texts. The message of the text is a simple, sincere witness to God’s care for us throughout our lives. As is so often the case, the ‘back story’ of the lives of poets, artists and composers deepens our understanding and appreciation of their work. **For Lina Sandell-Berg that ‘back story’ includes how her faith grew strong in the face of physical challenges and grief. At an early age she experienced a partial paralysis that left her confined to her bed much of the time. As the story of her healing has been relayed, at about the age of twelve, while her parents were at church one Sunday, she began reading the Bible and praying. When her parents came home from church, they found her dressed and walking about the house. It was at this point that she began to write poetry that expressed her gratitude and love for God. Her first book of spiritual poetry was published when she was sixteen.


Having been a rather sickly child, she spent a lot of time inside, much of it in the study of her father, a Lutheran minister. She was very close to her father, and when she was twenty-six watched in horror as he drowned in a boating accident after he fell overboard. Although she was already well-acquainted with challenges and grief, this tragic event further deepened her faith and dependence on God’s provision and care in her life. Most hymnals (including ours) include only four of the six stanzas of her poem, but below is the complete text. As we all need reminders of God’s love and care for us, I’ve put the text of the hymn below so that you can print it out, if you like. I hope reading it will enrich our appreciation of the many testimonies of God’s faithfulness found in our hymns.




**From The Complete Book of Hymns, © 2006 William J. Petersen.


Children of the Heavenly Father (Tryggare kan ingen vara in Swedish)

Children of the heav’nly Father safely in his bosom gather;

Nestling bird nor star in heaven such a refuge e’re was given.


God his own doth tend and nourish, in his holy courts they flourish;

From all evil things he spares them, in his mighty arms he bares them.


Neither life nor death shall ever from the Lord his children sever;

Unto them his grace he showeth, and their sorrows all he knoweth.


Praise the Lord in joyful numbers, your protector never slumbers;

At the will of your defender ev’ry foe-man must surrender.


Though he giveth or he taketh, God his children ne’er forsaketh;

His the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy.


More secure is no one ever than the loved ones of the Savior;

Not yon star on high abiding nor the bird in home-nest hiding.


Poem by Lina Sandell-Berg (1832-1903), tr. by Ernst W. Olson (1870-1985). Translation: © Board of Publications, Lutheran Church in America. Reprinted by permission of Augsburg Fortress.



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