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  • Writer's picturePastor Nancy Raabe

"Built on a Rock": A hymn for today

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

One fear I am hearing from people is whether congregations will survive if we are not allowed to gather indoors for an extended period of time. Will people forget their church? What it’s about? Why we worship? Will church become dispensable?

Everything we have done in our lives as Christians is coming to bear on the situation we find ourselves in. How solid is the foundation of the church that the Holy Spirit called into being on that first Pentecost? How deep is our commitment to build our lives on Christ and not be confined by "temples built with human hands?"

We find our answer in this great hymn by the Danish hymn writer Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872). It’s not as well known as it should be, possibly because of its stern tune, but many Lutherans in Scandinavia and beyond consider it to be second in greatness only to “A Mighty Fortress."

Ludvig Lindeman’s musical setting infuses the text with an electrifying intensity. Grundtvig’s message, a critical one for us at this moment in time is: The church will survive “even when steeples are falling” because it is built on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ (stanza 1); we know that God does not live “in temples made by human hands” (Acts 17:24-25) because through love God makes our bodies his temple (stanza 2); and we are the habitation for Christ, who fills us with life and salvation (stanza 3), and it is we who gather to praise God and confess our faith in our Savior (stanza 4). Please see the music below.

To experience this magnificent hymn in a riveting performance, I invite you into the experience of a Lutheran hymn festival at its very best. This took place last May at First Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD. This link takes you to the church newsletter which explains the hymn festival and its subject:

and here is the link to the hymn festival itself:

Start at 7 minutes, 40 seconds for “Built on a Rock,” but consider treating yourself to the entire thing. Hymn festivals are what Lutherans do best!

Yours in Christ’s hope,

Pastor Raabe

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