The congregation here at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg had the opportunity to sing “He’s Risen, He’s Risen” this past Sunday on the occasion of the First Sunday after Easter. This hymn is the only one in our hymnal which was written by Dr. C.F.W. Walther. He wrote both the lyrics and the tune. I think knowing the story behind this hymn makes it even more meaningful when we sing it.
During his short stay here in Perry County, Dr. Walther helped start the Log Cabin College and led the congregations at both Dresden and Johannisberg during times of great suffering and death. Not long before his participation in the Altenburg Debate, his fall into the icy waters of the Apple Creek caused him severe medical issues. After taking a call to Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Louis, he became involved in a whole new set of responsibilities. In addition to serving his congregation, he was involved in starting several other new congregations in St. Louis. He not only helped form what became the Missouri Synod, but he also became its first President. Once Concordia Seminary moved from Perry County to St. Louis, he taught many classes there and became its president. He was the editor and author of Der Lutheraner, a newsletter for other confessional Lutherans around the country. He experienced the Great Fire and the Cholera Epidemic, both of which took place in 1849 in St. Louis and impacted many families in his congregation. He lost two sons who died before they were four years old. By the time 1860 rolled around, Dr. Walther was exhausted…….physically, mentally, and spiritually. He was on the verge of a breakdown. His condition led him to make the decision to make a trip back to his homeland of Germany in hopes of getting some much needed rest and to get re-energized.
It was on his voyage across the ocean in 1860 that C.F.W. Walther composed the hymn, “He’s Risen, He’s Risen”. He wrote this hymn on April 8, which was Easter Sunday that year. In a way, Dr. Walther was able to receive some relief by preaching a sermon in hymn form to himself as he was surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. After returning from Germany later, Dr. Walther was able to continue performing his enormous amount of responsibilities with renewed vigor. And we now have this wonderful hymn which is full of words of hope in our hymnal. I love to sing this hymn. As we sing it in our church, I cannot help but imagine C.F.W. standing in our pulpit (one of the few remaining pulpits from which he preached) proclaiming an inspiring Easter message.
Here is an interesting choral arrangement of this hymn. I encourage you to take about four minutes to listen. While listening, you might want to follow along with the words that I have printed below the video.
1 He’s risen, He’s risen, Christ Jesus, the Lord;
He opened Death’s prison, the Incarnate Word.
Break forth, hosts of heaven, in jubilant song,
And, earth, sea, and mountain, the paean prolong.
2 The Foe was triumphant when on Calvary
The Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.
In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer,
For Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.
3 But short was their triumph, the Savior arose,
And Death, hell, and Satan He vanquished, His foes;
The conquering Lord lifts His banner on high.
He lives, yea, He lives, and will nevermore die.
4 Oh, where is thy sting, Death? We fear thee no more;
Christ rose, and now open is fair Eden’s door,
For all our transgressions His blood does atone;
Redeemed and forgiven, we now are His own.
5 Then sing your hosannas and raise your glad voice;
Proclaim the blest tidings that all may rejoice.
Laud, honor, and praise to the Lamb that was slain,
Who sitteth in glory and ever shall reign.
(LSB’s last line: with Father and Spirit He ever shall reign.)