Above: The Union of Kalmar, 1400
Image in the Public Domain
JOHAN NORDAHL SVENDSEN BRUN (MARCH 21, 1745-JULY 26, 1816)
Norwegian Lutheran Bishop, Author, and Hymn Writer
Intermarriage among the royal families of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden culminated in the Union of Kalmar (1397-1523). Norway was part of Denmark from 1380 to 1814, when, in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden (which broke away from the Union of Kalmar in 1523) gained Norway. Norwegian nationalism persisted during these centuries leading up to Norwegian independence in 1905. Our saint for today was part of that nationalistic movement.
Johan Nordahl Svendsen Brun entered the world at Bynesset, Norway, on March 21, 1745. His parents were Svend Busch Brun (a merchant) and Mette Katarina Nordahl Brun. Svend taught his son arithmetic and writing. Mette taught her child to read the Bible. Our saint had read the Bible twice before his eleventh birthday. He was on the path to the ordained ministry.
That path contained some difficult times, however. A half-brother, a theology student at Copenhagen, encouraged Brun to study theology and even tutored him in the subject. Our saint studied at the Latin school and the university at Trondhjem, Norway, and worked as a family tutor in the home of one Mr. Mennche, a councilor there. In Copenhagen Brun failed his initial theological examination and performed badly on his first homiletical test. Back at Trondhjem, our saint wrote poetry, taught, and preached. For a brief time in 1771 he served as the private secretary to one Bishop Gunnerius during a trip to Copenhagen. Brun did not know German, so he had to resign. At Copenhagen, however, he wrote Zarine, a play which won much acclaim. In 1772, still in Copenhagen, Brun wrote the first Norwegian-language play, Einer Tamberskeilver, which attracted more criticism than acclaim at the time. Our saint also wrote nationalistic songs, including the first, unofficial Norwegian national anthem.
Above: Bergen, Norway, Between 1890 and 1900
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-06107
Brun became an ordained minister in 1772. From 1772 to 1774 he served as the assistant minister at his hometown, Bynesset. There he married Ingeborg Lind (1746-1827) in 1773, after an engagement period of twelve years. For nearly three decades (1774-1804) Brun was the senior pastor at the Church of the Cross, Bergen. Then, from 1804 to 1816, he served as the Bishop of Bergen. There he died on July 26, 1816.
Brun composed hymns. In 1786 he published Evangelical Hymns, a collection of sixty-five texts. An excerpt from one of them follows:
Today I was my Savior’s guest,
My soul was there so richly blest,
The Bread of Life receiving.
Oh, may thereby my faith prevail,
So that its fruits shall never fail
Till my account is given
Before the throne in heaven.
–Translated by Oluf Hanson Smeby (1851-1929)
Brun was a Pietist, resisting rationalistic (Enlightenment) influences in Lutheranism. This meant that he also disagreed with Confessional Lutheranism, which has no kind words or rational or Pietistic theology. As for me, I am an Episcopalian, thus I have Richard Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool, which consists of scripture, tradition, and reason. I value reason highly, thus I harbor strong rationalistic sympathies; I am more of a rationalist than a mystic. Pietism, which in its classical form, entails a focus on personal experience, requires only the most perfunctory of shoves to become a form of works-based righteousness or of legalism; it is a heresy which infects much of Protestantism, especially the Methodist and Holiness movements and their heirs, much of Lutheranism, and, to a lesser extent, the Moravian Church. Professor Phillip Cary argues persuasively in his Great Courses DVD series on The History of Christian Theology (2008) that:
The emotional focus, however, was not the experience of conversion but the wounds of Christ. Thus unlike other forms of Pietism, Moravian heart religion was not a turn to inner experience but a turn to the flesh of Christ.
—The Course Guidebook, page 93
Collegiality is an Anglican virtue I practice in this post. Thus, while criticizing Brun’s theology I have no difficulty or reluctance in adding him to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JANUARY 31, 2015 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA
THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF MARY LUNDIE DUNCAN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER
THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER
Dear God of beauty,
you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to
Johan Nordahl Brun and others, who have composed hymn texts.
May we, as you guide us,
find worthy hymn texts to be icons,
through which we see you.
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK
THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR
THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH