EVANS MILLS — Martin Luther of Protestant Reformation fame once wrote:
“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts and spirits ….”
Luther wrote a good number of hymns, perhaps the most well known being “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
Luther used music to not only revive congregational worship and singing in Germany but also to convey the word of God as well.
His goal was to combine biblical truth with uplifting melodies or tunes.
He desired people to retain God’s word in their hearts and minds.
For Luther, therefore, music was a significant element of God’s marvelous creation.
Since his time, Christian music has grown and developed to an amazing extent.
One of the popular Christian radio stations is K-LOVE (90.1 FM), which plays some of the best modern and also traditional Christian hymns and songs.
While the novel coronavirus pandemic continues into this year, Christians throughout the known world are getting ready to celebrate what most people refer to as Easter.
For the spiritually minded Christian, however, it is celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
We have had some state governors mandate that churches should refrain from congregational singing.
However, nothing says a Christian cannot hum or make melody in his heart!
There is a particular hymn or song that I would like to emphasize for the purpose of celebrating the Lord Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead.
The song is titled “He Lives,” written by Alfred Henry Ackley in 1933.
Mr. Ackley became an ordained Presbyterian minister in 1914.
He initially pastored a church in his home state of Pennsylvania.
However, in the early 1930s he was called to pastor a church in California.
While there, he began witnessing to a Jewish man he had become acquainted with and who laid out a challenge to Ackley with the question, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?”
He prepared a message to address this question on an Easter Sunday.
While getting ready for the service that morning, he turned on the radio and heard a liberal preacher say:
“Good morning! It is Easter. You know folks, it doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ be risen or not. As far as I am concerned, his body could be a pile of dust in some Palestinian tomb. The main thing is, his truth goes marching on!”
This was a contradiction of fact in Ackley’s ears and he started to rant and rave, shouting about the absurdity of this preacher’s words.
His wife, overhearing her husband’s yelling, challenged him to do what he does best — write a song based on biblical truth.
Ackley then started reading and studying the Gospel of Mark’s account of the resurrection of Jesus.
This so inspired him that the words of “He Lives” began to form:
I serve a risen Savior. He’s in the world today.
I know that he is living, whatever men may say.
I see his hand of mercy. I hear his voice of cheer.
And just the time I need him, he’s always near.
In all the world around me, I see his loving care;
And tho’ my heart grows weary, I never will despair.
I know that he is leading thro’ all the stormy blast,
The day of his appearing will come at last.
Rejoice, rejoice O Christian, lift up your voice and sing.
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the king.
The hope of all who seek him, the help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind.
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”
— 1 Corinthians 15:14-20 (KJV)
The Rev. Steve Nagler of Evans Mills is a chaplain at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility. An ordained minister with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, he previously served as a chaplain in U.S. Army from 1985 to 2005.