Today’s second devotion in our “Season in Song” series on Lenten hymns was written by Dr. Jerrode Marsh, the Music Director of Trinity Lutheran Church, Frankfurt, Germany, and the director of Trinity International Concert Choir (TICC) (the text of Dr. Marsh’s devotion is below the video). The hymn is “My Song Is Love Unknown,” which was chosen by Missionary Sarah Berta-Somogyi. Sarah serves in Hungary as an English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) teacher. She says of the hymn: “I like ‘My Song’ because not only is the text very poetical, it also leads us through how Jesus’ death relates to us, personally. Especially notable parts are the last part of the first verse, the last part of verse 6, and verse 7.” Dr. Marsh also worked with the Trinity Sanctuary Choir to record her arrangement of the hymn in the video below. The video was produced by Rick Steenbock, Project and Communications Manager for Eurasia.
Text by Samuel Crossman
Tune by John N. Ireland
Musical Arrangement by Jerrode Baker Marsh
Sanctuary Choir of Trinity Lutheran Church, Frankfurt, Germany
My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me,
Love to the loveless shown
That they might lovely be.
Oh, who am I
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh and die.
He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know.
But, oh, my friend,
My friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend.
(“My Song is Love Unknown” LSB 430:1-2)
What is Love Unknown? I like to think I know what this kind of Love is, yet I continually do things that hurt others. I speak badly of those who have injured me. I allow pride to mask itself as humility. I permit fear and mistrust to blind me to the desperate cries of need from my friends and neighbors. I tolerate injustice when instead I should stand up for what is right, even when it is not easy. All of these things make me unlovable and are not Love Unknown. And even though I long to know Christ, I still “make strange” and push Him away in order to fulfill my own agenda in life. I still let myself become busy and absorbed in activities that take my eyes off of Jesus. Such sin separates me from God and indeed makes me unlovable to those around me–yet never to my Savior. Jesus came in human form to be my Savior, to be the One true Friend who gave His life for my need and to show me what “Love Unknown” really is and does.
When Jesus came, the world did not recognize Him, but instead the world crucified Him—they hung Him on a cross to die a slow and painful death. He willingly went to the cross that the world of unlovable, unloving, loveless people—people like me—prepared for Him. This is the utter wonder of God’s love—it is love shown to the loveless that they might be lovely. He laid down His life for those who had no friends and were not loved by anyone other than Jesus Himself. He laid down His life for all of mankind. There is nobody in the world that is not loved by Jesus. This “Love Unknown” is so deep that we cannot begin to fathom it—there is nobody on this earth that is able to love the way God loves us with His perfect love. So He sent Jesus, who took on human flesh and blood, to show us what this Love Unknown looks like and what it does: this kind of Love is so deep that it would die for the unlovable–it would die for someone like me. The song takes a very personal turn at that moment in verse 1: Oh, who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh and die?
Who am I? I am a child of God. I am loved by God—that is who I am! My sins separate me from God, but my loveless state did not cause God to abandon me. Instead, in His great love—this Love Unknown–God sent his Son Jesus to be my Savior and my Friend. It is only through this Love Unknown that my relationship to God can be reconciled and this friendship with Jesus can be restored. It is Love and only Love that led Jesus to sacrifice His life for all mankind. Because He loves me, Jesus redeemed me from my loveless state and daily shapes and forms me into something more lovely for His sake. By becoming human, Jesus showed me how to love others. By experiencing this overwhelming Love, I realize that my entire identity on this earth rests in being loved by Jesus, my Friend: “But oh my friend, My friend, indeed, who at my need, His life did spend (verse 2).”
My Friend Jesus tenderly draws me into His embrace and enables me to trust Him, to learn to love Him more deeply, and to seek forgiveness when I have sinned against Him. He provides courage and strength to stand up for injustice when I would otherwise fear. He opens my ears to hear and respond with care and compassion to the painful cries of the needy around me. He allows circumstances to enter my life to bring about growth by breaking down my pride and teaching me humility. With this Friend, I can share my innermost sorrows with tears and express my greatest joys through song and praise. My deep and lasting relationship with Jesus my Friend completes my song—My Song of Love Unknown.
Here might I stay and sing, No story so divine!
Never was love, dear King, Never was grief like Thine!
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend (LSB 430:7)!
Note about the musical arrangement: While sitting at the piano late one night, pondering both text and melody, I began to improvise. The result of this meditative improvisation was a very simple and contemplative arrangement. For me, the music and text are intrinsically intertwined and music should always elevate the text, rather than be the focal point. My prayer is that the result of the musical improvisation will enable the listener to reflect on his or her relationship to Jesus, as both personal Savior and as a personal Friend, and in doing so, come to a greater understanding of how deeply we are each loved by Jesus.
- Did you miss last week’s “Season in Song” Devotion? You can still see the video and read the devotion for “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now” here.
- Learn more about and support Sarah Berta-Somogyi.
- Sarah and her husband, Tamás, are expecting their first child in May. Please pray for a safe delivery for all!
- Learn more about Trinity Lutheran Church, Frankfurt, Germany where Dr. Marsh serves as Director of Music.
Tags: devotions, Dr. Jerrode Marsh, Frankfurt, Germany, lent, Life Together, My Song Is Love Unknown, Rick Steenbock, Sarah Berta-Somogyi, Season in Song, Trinity International Concert Choir., Trinity Lutheran Church, Witness