Dear Dickinson First Family and Friends,
This season of Easter, we are focusing on the risen Christ, raised from the grave, alive and present with the disciples. Our focus is two-fold: our scriptural witness in the Bible and our wonderful library of Easter music within the church. This coming Sunday, we’ll hear the apostle Paul’s own story in 1 Corinthians 15 of the risen Christ appearing to him, affording him grace when he did not deserve or earn it. Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ transformed him forever, from a chief persecutor of the early church movement to the church’s most famous evangelist of all time.
We’ll also hear Alfred Ackley’s He Lives, written during the gospel song era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; it has many characteristics of the gospel song genre. The refrain carries the central theme. Not only does the text identify the main thrust of the song, but also the music lifts the song to an emotional climax. The message is direct and unmistakable. The stanzas revolve around the theme of the refrain. The stanzas are in the first person (gospel songs often reflect a testimony of an individual believer). The message outlines an understanding that is at the core of Christian belief – in this case, that core belief is that Christ lives.
Repetition is an important communication technique in the song, just like last week’s Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Last week, we heard Alleluia! (which means Praise the Lord!) at the end of each line 16 times. This week, we’ll hear the proclamation (and echo) He lives (he lives) 27 times! The music is lively and joyous, in keeping with the message of a risen savior on the other side of the grave, present with us here and now, knowable and relatable. From its creation, He Lives has been a favorite at revivals.
In fact, the refrain is so catchy and powerful that it’s easy to forget the beginning of the song - I serve. Ackley begins with the risen savior’s call on our lives to be his hands and feet in the world, to be his body here and now. Only three chapters earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul makes this same claim - now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it... a manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.
Worship the Risen Christ this Sunday - worship with the rest of the Body of the Risen Christ.