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I Know that My Redeemer Lives

 

“I Know that My Redeemer Lives.”   Samuel Medley (1738-1799), the author of this famous Easter text, began his life as apprentice to an oilman in London, only to leave in dissatisfaction to join the navy.  At age 21, he received a terrible leg wound which required him to return home to live with his grandfather.  During his months of recovery, his grandfather read to him from the sermons of the recently-deceased Isaac Watts, the great hymnwriter and Dissenting preacher.  This catechesis (“catechesis” refers to an true imbuing of the faith into one’s heart and mind, often through the mentoring of parents or other mature Christians) resulted in his conversion shortly thereafter.  He joined the Baptist Church, set up a school in Seven Dials, one of the poorest sections of London, and eventually became a successful pastor.  Much like his contemporary John Newton (writer of “Amazing Grace”), people would flock to hear Medley preach and his churches always grew both in numbers and in faith.   His leg injury so impaired his health that he died rather prematurely in 1799, but not before being able to publish several collections of hymns, many of which today can be found in Baptist hymnals particularly.

            This text is taken from Job 19, specifically verse 25 in which Job responds to his tormenter Bildad by saying “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!” Job here gives a prophetic account of the last days.  For those who wonder about the nature of the resurrection of the body, Job provides us the clue that our own bodies will be resurrected—we will be recognizable and distinguishable from others, for “I myself will see him, and not another.”  Some Christians believe our final bodies will not be corporeal, but somehow “spiritual,” as phantasms.  Yet, Job prophecies that “in my flesh I will see God.”  Neither he nor we will be disembodied souls.  From a theological point of view, Job here asserts not a specific faith in Jesus as we know Him today, but in the prophesied “Redeemer” whom Job knows to be “somewhere.”  (The word “Redeemer” here is sometimes translated as “Defender.”)   We New Testament Christians can see even more prophetic meaning in Job’s cry for deliverance than perhaps even Job could at the time.  Job knew his Redeemer “lives,” although Job did not know Who that was. We do know Who that was and is—we are fortunate to be able to call the Redeemer by name and know of the historical events surrounding his life, death, and life again. 

            How, then, can we be sure about our resurrection?  Paul states in Romans 6, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.”  It is no surprise that we humans must die—Christ died, too.  But Paul continues, “If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.”  We baptized Christians also can be assured we will be resurrected in reality—Christ was not merely a phantasm;  His body bore the marks of physical crucifixion to which Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God!”  Baptism, then, assures us a place in heaven after the resurrection.  We know and can be assured of this since we also know that our “Redeemer lives.”

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All Glory, Laud, and Honor

 

“All Glory, Laud and Honor”  This hymn is one of the oldest in the corpus of Christian hymnody, written most likely by a certain Theodulf of Orleans.  A 16th-century legend records that Theodulf was a bishop imprisoned at Angers in 821 for having conspired against the king.  During his imprisonment, legend has it, he composed this text (originally there were 39 stanzas).  One Palm Sunday, when King Louis the Pious was processing through the town and passing under Theodulf’s cell window, Theodulf is said to have sung this out the window loudly so the king could hear.  Impressed, the king allegedly released him.  This story is probably not true, however, for Theodulph was imprisoned from 818 to his death in 821, and there is no record of that king ever visiting the town.  Nonetheless, it makes for an interesting (if untrue!) story.

            This hymn from the beginning has had a long association with being used on Palm Sundays.  There are many medieval records from all over Europe of this being a standard Palm Sunday processional hymn.  Some of these liturgies employed a choir of seven boys to sing the first four stanzas from a “high point” in the church, recalling Theodulph’s singing from his high cell.  Often, this hymn would be sung as the congregation processed around the town; hence, 39 stanzas was not such an ungainly number as we might think today.

            The tune is familiar to most of us, and was composed by Melchior Teschner and first published in 1615 to a text called “Farewell, I Gladly Bid Thee” by a Lutheran pastor at the Manger of Christ Church in Fraustadt, Germany.  This text for which the tune was written is meant as a “farewell to the world” and was written by this pastor (Valerius Herberger) during a plague time, in which 2,135 people in his town had died in only a couple of years.  This original text may be found in The Lutheran Hymnal #407. 

I cannot help but think of the association between the original text of this tune—as a “farewell to the world” and its relationship to the historical events of Jesus’ life at Palm Sunday.

This year’s Holy Week is particularly meaningful to the writer of music notes (as was Christmastide) having journeyed to the Holy Land only last autumn. Having seen and experienced many of the places referred to in our Gospel readings this week enliven the narrative. On the back of this sheet is a picture of the “Golden Gate”—one of the eastern gates to Jerusalem and, according to tradition, the one in which Jesus passed through on Palm Sunday. The writer of music notes took this picture from the Garden of Gethsemane from across the Kidron Valley. This gate actually dates from Justinian’s era (6th century AD), and has been walled off for centuries in accordance with the prophecy from Ezekiel 44: 2, "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut.” It has been walled up at various times throughout the ages by the Moslems (as it is today) due to their belief that the Jewish Messiah would enter Jerusalem through these gates. So bothered were the sultans, apparently, that they even located a cemetery (traditionally considered unclean according to Jewish law) in front of these gates so as to discourage the Messiah! The writer of music notes has a much better sense of location now—of particular note was the close proximity of this gate to the Mount of Olives, and of course the proximity of Jesus’ tomb and site of His probably crucifixion. This Holy Week may we encounter the living Christ in an even more profound way than simply by visiting the land upon which He walked.

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