Updated: Feb 2
Text and Tune: Alfred H. Ackley (1887-1960)
1. I serve a risen Saviour, 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
R/ He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Christ Jesus lives today He walks with me and talks with me Along life's narrow way He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Salvation to impart You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart
2. In all the world around me I see His loving care And though my heart grows weary I never will despair I know that He is leading, through all the stormy blast The day of His appearing will come at last.
3. 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.
MEDITATION This old chestnut fills me with memories of Bible Camps or youth conventions when a massed choir would be gathered together on stage singing their hearts out. To live for Jesus, a living Savior, thrilled the singers and us all. Especially holding the word lives in the last line, "You ask me how I know he lives? He LIVES within my heart."My father, who often directed these choirs, would love to have them hold that note for a good while.
These were the late 1940s and early 1950s, World War II was still on our minds, and the Korean War would take a good number of the older teenage boys off to war. They would pass by the parsonage on their way to high school, and joke with me, so I knew them well. And then they went to war. My mother taught us to pray for them in our nightly prayers. My sister and I still can rattle off the names of those young men from our congregation, Hank and Raymond, Ted and Howard, Jerry, Ronnie and Glen.
We still had Young People’s Society in the country churches. While the young part was not always true, it was still a time for fellowship with the young—which the older members were glad to support, attending their meetings and enjoying the lunch afterwards in the basement—chocolate cake and egg coffee with other treats.
The Luther League of the Lutheran Free Church, like all American Lutheran churches at the time, would sponsor conventions every year, usually at Medicine Lake near Minneapolis, or once at Pacific Lutheran College in Tacoma, Washington. Over 1000 kids would come together from around the small church body to hear passionate preaching, powerful singing, and Bible studies for a week. It changed many lives. Many of them would enroll at Augsburg College, and some few would become pastors. And many would find sweethearts and marry.
What it did, along with challenging them to live for Christ, was give them a chance to learn how to be leaders. It was the work of the church leadership to raise up leaders from the next generation and the Luther League with its leadership training schools did that.
Nearly the entire summer work of small college professors and administrators was admissions work. Augsburg's President, B. M. Christensen, frequently traveled to Bible Camps and Youth Conventions to interest kids in Augsburg. While it was hard on his health, he seemed to love it. I remember a long conversation with him at Lutherland Bible Camp near Tacoma as we talked politics. As a thirteen year old, I was flattered that this legendary intellectual would find time to speak with me about the Suez Canal, the political concern of that summer.
Although we have had mass youth conventions with thousands of kids gathered in stadiums around the country in the past decades, it has not been possible for the church leadership to be as personally involved with the next generation as that. Because the 1950s American church leadership was obsessed with merger, a kind of mimicking of corporations in the business world, those small denominations were brought together into larger and larger church bodies. Fewer and fewer young people knew the people in leadership. The young could no longer be mentored in this personal way.
The amount of time, effort and money for such negotiations might have been used for doing the mission of the church instead. (I say this as one who has still not gotten over the merger of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church in America in 1890! LOL)
But one can ask what the gains and losses were thinking of the youth in particular. Much was gained, perhaps, but much was lost. Those precious moments together in small groups with the young made a huge difference to many.
The effect that those times confessing Christ in their song and thoughts had on the personal lives of Hank and Raymond, Ted and Howard, Jerry, Ronny and Glenn, et al. made the difference as they went off to war and came home to raise their families. For that we can praise the Lord.
Ackley was something of a childhood genius. Born in Pennsylvania, he attended the Royal Academy of Music in London as both a cellist and composer. He returned to study for the ministry at Westminster Theologial Seminary in Maryland and became a Presbyterian minister. He wrote this hymn in answer to a student who kept asking him why he should worship a dead man. After several times being asked that, Ackley replied “But Jesus lives! He lives! I tell you. He is not dead, but lives here and now. Jesus Christ is more alive today than ever before. I can prove it by my own experience, as well as by the testimony of countless thousands.” From that came this hymn. It was published in Homer Rodeheaver’s songbook Triumphant Songs in 1933. Ackley worked with Billy Sunday and others in the revivals of the day, writing over 1500 songs, many of which appeared in Rodeheaver’s books. This is his most well-known. It still has its fans. Many gospel groups and gatherings still sing it with joy as you can see below!
Bellevue Baptist choir and orchestra https://youtu.be/2d8PhidZQjI
Baptist hymn sing First Baptist in Atlanta/Gaithers
Beverly Crawford at AZUSA with a soul version
Rumble Community Baptist Church/This is a hoot!
NB: Lent is less than a month away. A wonderful Lenten discipline is reading the Passion hymns, one for every day of Lent. Follow the link to buy it and receive it in time.