Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Know That My Redeemer Lives!

The danger of loving the traditional liturgy and hymnody of the Church is that we experience therein a great deal of repetition. The church year is cyclical, and the subjects we talk about at any time of year become appropriate for the daily lives of God's people. This is especially true of the liturgy and hymnody of the Easter season. The hymnody of Easter is also most appropriately the hymnody of funerals and gravesides. Two of the hymns we sang today at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Metairie, Louisiana, were hymns that I've sung at funerals. (One of those two hymns was also sung at my Ordination, but that's another story.)

Singing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" has deep meaning for me, but not only because it's a beautiful Easter hymn. Another reason is that we sang that hymn at my grandfather's funeral. But even more so than that, the hymn is a tremendous reminder of the blessings that the Lord of Life--the Lord of the living--provides for his people.

1. I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever-living Head.

2. He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all-glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high.

I know that my Redeemer lives, the firstborn from the grave. He lives triumphant from the grave, triumphant over the grave, over death, over sin. He lives so that I need no longer fear these things, even though they assail me in my daily life. He lives to make His triumph into my triumph in Holy Baptism. He lives, exalted in the heavens and on earth; He lives where heaven meets earth in His Holy Supper, and in Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper I, too, am given faith that I may praise Him in His exaltation.

3. He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives to bless me with a love that is patient and kind, that is not harsh, that does not envy, that rejoices in the truth, that endures all things, that never ends, a love that intercedes for me before the Father, bringing reconciliation to wayward children and their just God. He lives so that His body and blood, given and shed for me, are a meal that feeds me, body and soul, with the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, thus fulfilling my greatest need.

4. He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul's complaint.

He lives to give me all that I need to support this body and life. He lives to make me to lie down in green pastures, to lead me beside the still waters, to restore my soul, to lead me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. He lives to bring to bear His rod and staff to comfort me. And when the gifts that He gives me are foolishly and sinfully judged to be inadequate, He even lives to hear me complain about it.

5. He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives so that my laundry list of anxieties about this life and the life of the world to come won't bury me under their weight. He lives so that, every time I sing this hymn and am reminded of all those fears and feel myself becoming overwhelmed in my faithlessness, my tears will not flow without comfort. He lives to bless me in ways that I cannot even begin to ask or imagine--and that in addition to answering each item on that laundry list of anxieties--blessing me with every blessing God has for me.

6. He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I'll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

He lives to be the foolishness that is wiser than my wisdom, a blessing I need and too often fail to acknowledge. He lives and loves me without end. He lives, and because He lives to give me faith, He makes me bold and gives me the words to sing His praise. He lives to proclaim His great love to me, to provide and to be the Paschal lamb, to sit on the throne above all thrones, to be the One before Whom all knees shall bow and tongues confess.

7. He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He Iives to bring me safely there.

He lives so that I have life--not only eternal life, but the blessings of a life on the earth for which He was the Word of creation. He lives, and because He has conquered death, so shall I. He lives, and thus He has fulfilled His promise to prepare a place for me. He lives to stay by my cradle til morning is nigh; and when morning has come nigh, He will take me to heaven to live with Him there.

8. He lives, all glory to His name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

He lives, and He has given me the faith to believe and the tongue to confess His great glory. He lives, the Lord who does not change, who remains eternally constant in all things. He lives, and the knowledge that He lives is my greatest blessing, my greatest joy, my only true comfort. He lives . . . and that's all that matters.

"For I know that my Redeemer lives,and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!"

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