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Excited for Easter

Oh I know I am jumping the gun on Easter. We haven't even gotten to Palm Sunday at but I am so excited for Easter.

You see a been working on another book of the title is nothing else matters and it's all about the resurrection. As I've been researching and writing I came across the singing church. Entitled the chapter the songs of the resurrection because we are a singing church. We have so much to be joyful about that Christians keep writing new hymns of praise about our risen Savior Jesus Christ. So I thought it give you a little bit of a preview of this book and I'm going to post here chapter 2 of nothing else matters songs of the resurrection.

I hope this wets your appetite for Easter and the fact that we serve a risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

2 Songs of the Resurrection

The People of God, whether before the Incarnation of Jesus Christ in the womb of the virgin Mary, or during his life, death and resurrection and the beginning of what we call the ecclesia (people) or Church has been a singing congregation. In fact, Paul tells us that we should “address on another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” (Eph. 5:19). If anything has stood out to me as a new Lutheran, okay not so new after four years, it is that Lutherans absolutely love to sing. Our hymnal, called the Lutheran Service Book, is replete with songs ancient and modern. From simple melodies of contemporary writers to complex musical renditions of the works of reformers to the chanting and melodious songs of the ancient church we sing throughout the Divine service. Indeed, Christians of every generation have made a joyful noise to the Lord.

Why? Simple. “We serve a risen Savior.” Oh, wait, that’s an older hymn…or in the view of Lutherans, a newer hymn. Our Service Book is in the order of the Church Calendar with the Incarnation leading to the ministry years of Jesus through to the wonderful season of Lent and then the Paschal Feast of Easter. In hymns we join with Christians of every era rejoicing in our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. In fact, one of my favorite Lenten hymns is

We sing the praise of Him who died,

Of Him who died upon the cross.

The sinner’s hope let all deride:

For this we count the world but loss.

Throughout the year we sing in the Liturgy

Lamb of God, pure and holy

Who on the cross didst suffer

Ever patient and lowly,

Theyself to score didst offer.

All sins Thou borest for us,

Else had despair reigned o’er us:

Have mercy on us, O Jesus! O Jesus!

Through hymn titles we are told to Go to Dark Gethsemane and Survey the Wondrous Cross. We ask O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken recognizing that In Silent Pain the Eternal Son hangs derelict and still. During Holy Week we look through the Scripture passages at the Sacred Head, Now Wounded. focusing upon Jesus who was Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted whose arms are Upon the Cross Extended and our Lord who is suspended… These images of our Savior dying on the cross of roman execution having been betrayed by a friend, the world can grasp and understand in some small sense. However, what happened on that Sunday morning, before the angels rolled that stone away, is the triumphant message Christians gladly understand, embrace and shout from the rooftops.

And the Word, being His Son, came to us, having put on flesh, revealing both Himself and the Father, giving to us in Himself resurrection from the dead, and eternal life afterwards. And this is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. - Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection[1]

On Good Friday, after the Tenebrae Service (an ancient service) those I serve with on the Altar Guild then strip the altar covering it in black paraments and then the congregation leaves the sanctuary in silence meditating on the awful price God paid to redeem humanity and more specifically how “My sins nailed Him there”.

Then, Sunday comes and triumphant chords are stuck and shouts of hallelujah abound as Christians greet each other with “He is Risen!” and the responses in equally jubilant voice echo, “He is Risen, Indeed! Hallelujah!”. Together the Church sings:

Jesus Christ is ris’n today, Alleluia!

Our triumphant holy day, alleluia!

Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!

Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia[2]

Joining with the ancient throng we sing

Christians, to the Paschal Victim

Offer your thankful prises!

The Lamb the sheep has ransomed;

Christ, who only is sinless,

Reconciling sinners to the Father

Death and life have contended

In that combat stupendous

The Prince of life, who died,

Reigns immortal.

Christ indeed from death is risen,

Our new life obtaining

Have mercy, victor King, ever regning

Amen. Alleluia.[3]

As a Lutheran I love all these hymns but when I think of what it must have been like in heaven and for the disciples, whose sorrow was immense, when they realized Jesus was very much alive having conquered sin, death and the devil, my heart and mind immediately go to this hymn:

Now let the vault of Heav’n resound In praise of love that doth abound, “Christ hath triumphed, alleluia!” Sing, choirs of angels, loud and clear, Repeat their song of glory here, “Christ hath triumphed, Christ hath triumphed!” Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. Eternal is the gift He brings, Wherefore our heart with rapture sings, “Christ hath triumphed, Jesus liveth!” Now doth He come and give us life, Now doth His presence still all strife Through His triumph; Jesus reigneth! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

O fill us, Lord, with dauntless love; Set heart and will on things above That we conquer through Thy triumph, Grant grace sufficient for life’s day That by our life we ever say, “Christ hath triumphed, and He liveth!” Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Adoring praises now we bring And with the heavenly blessèd sing, “Christ hath triumphed, Alleluia!” Be to the Father, and our Lord, To Spirit blest, most holy God, Thine the glory, never ending! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia![4]

In our hymnal, the Collect for Easter Sunrise sums up the prayers of Christians throughout the world:

Almighty God, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, you overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. We humbly pray that we may live before You in righteousness and purity forever; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy spirit, one God, now and forever. [5]

Yes, this Jesus who suffered and died, crucified upon a cruel roman cross of execution bearing the sins of the world is the same Jesus who rose victoriously destroying sin, death and the devil. As Melito of Sardis preached, “This is the one who clad death in shame…who delivered us from slavery to freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal Kingdom.[6]

"Christos Anesti!"

There is an ancient story of the church found in the annals of the Easter sermons of John of Damascus that tell of this particular Paschal Feast (Resurrection) Hymn. As the crowds gathered just before midnight the priest and monks somberly chanted in song of the death of Christ and our sins. At midnight a canon shot was heard marking the beginning of Easter Sunday and the shouted triumphantly one to another Christos Anesti, Christ has risen! Then thousands gathered began to sing this Resurrection Hymn, which Dr. John Mason Neale, the translator, called it a "glorious old hymn of history." [7]

The day of Resurrection!

Earth, tell it out abroad!

The Passover of gladness,

The Passover of God!

From death to Life eternal,

From earth unto the sky,

Our Christ hath brought us over,

With hymns of victory.

Our hearts be pure from evil.

That we may see aright

The Lord in rays eternal

Of resurrection light:

And listening to His accents,

May hear, so calm and plain,

His own "All hail!"— and, hearing,

May raise the victor strain.

Now let the heavens be joyful!

Let earth her song begin!

Let all the world keep triumph,

And all that is therein:

In grateful exultation

Their notes let all things blend,

For Christ the Lord hath risen,

Our Joy that hath no end.

Another ancient hymn from Melito of Sardis (Asia Minor) praises the Resurrection of Christ extolling the victory won for all:

Trembling for joy cries all creation;

What is this mystery, so great and new? The Lord has risen from among the dead, And Death itself He crushed with valiant foot. Behold the cruel tyrant bound and chained, And man made free by Him who rose![8]

Moving from these older ancient hymns, some say from the fourth and fifth centuries, we come to one of martin Luther’s hymns: in the bonds of death he lay-1524

In the bonds of death He lay, Who for our offense was slain, But the Lord is risen today, Christ hath brought us life again; Wherefore let us all rejoice, Singing loud with cheerful voice.

Of the sons of men was none Who could break the bonds of death, Sin this mischief dire had done, Innocent was none on earth; Wherefore death grew strong and bold, Death would all men captive hold.

Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, Came at last our foe to smite, All our sins away hath done, Done away death’s power and right; Only the form of death is left, Of his sting he is bereft.

’Twas a wondrous war, I trow, When life and death together fought, But life hath triumphed o’er his foe, Death is mocked, and set at naught; Yea, ’tis as the Scripture saith, Christ through death hath conquered death.

Now our Paschal lamb is He, And by Him alone we live, Who to death upon the tree For our sake Himself did give. Faith His blood strikes on our door, Death dares never harm us more.

On this day, most blest of days, Let us keep high festival, For our God hath showed His grace, And our Sun hath risen on all, And our hearts rejoice to see Sin and night before Him flee.

To the supper of the Lord Gladly will we come today; The word of peace is now restored, The old leaven is put away; Christ will be our food alone, Faith no life but His doth own.[9]

It may be said that the saving significance of the resurrection of Christ, for the world, is unfathomable and often incomprehensible. For Christians, we are often overwhelmed by this truth and yet the resurrection is the foundation of our joy. In Rev. Matthew C. Harrison’s book A Little Book on Joy, he writes that in his search of Luther, CFW Walther and the ancient church fathers he found joy because of the resurrection.

“I read Athanasius, Ambrose, and the Martyrdom of Polycarp. I turned to the old Lutheran scholars and plowed through their ponderous Latin and German, like a coon dog following a fresh scent, sure to tree joy at any moment….to my exuberant surprise, I found joy everywhere…”[10]

This has been my own testimony. As I read the Easter Letters of Athanasius or Melito of Sardis On Pascha I found joy because Jesus conquered sin, death and the devil when He rose again. Athanasius writes, “We are not alone in our joy, for in heaven the whole ‘church of the first-born’ (Heb. 12:23) rejoices with us…[11]” and again in Letter XXII writes “…while looking forward to the celebration of eternal joy in heaven, let us keep the Feast here as well—rejoicing at all times, constantly prayer, and giving thanks to the Lord in everything.[12]

As Christians we have a rich heritage of joyfully singing of the Risen Savior Jesus Christ. We can sing and agree with St. Ambrose who wrote:

O mystery great and glorious, That mortal flesh should conquer death, And all our human pains and wounds The Lord should heal by bearing them.

Behold how man, though crushed by death, Now does arise and live with Christ, While death, repelled and robbed of might, Dies from its own malignant sting.[13]

Then from St. Gregory of Nazianz circa 414 AD we read and sing:

That Easter day with joy was bright:

the sun shone out with fairer light

when to their longing eyes restored,

th'apostles saw their risen Lord.

His risen flesh with radiance glowed,

his wounded hands and feet he showed;

those scars their solemn witness gave

that Christ was risen from the grave.

O Jesus, King of gentleness,

do thou thyself our hearts possess,

that we may give thee all our days

the willing tribute of our praise.

O Lord of all, with us abide

in this, our joyful Easter-tide;

from ev'ry weapon death can wield

thine own redeemed forever shield.[14]

With an abundance of Easter hymns, the Church Militant (those of us still here) join with the Church Triumphant (those who are in heaven) and shout

Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

The Resurrection, if it did not happen, would leave every human in their sins and under judgment. Therefore, because Jesus did rise from the dead, destroying and conquering sin, death and the devil, those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are assured of sins forgiven and eternal life bestowed. As Jaroslav said as he neared the gates of Heaven, we may victoriously echo along:

If Christ has not risen…nothing else matters.

If Christ has risen…nothing else matters.[15]

Excerpt from: Nothing Else Matters: How the Resurrection of Jesus Changes EVERYTHING

©2021 Nancy A. Almodovar, Use with Permission ONLY

[1] Justin Martyr, Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection, 37 (Kindle: Catholic Way Publishing, n.d.). [2] Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, Lutheran Service Book: Three-year Lectionary (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2006), 463. [3] Wipo, “Christians, praise the paschal victim! (Victimae Paschali laudes),” hymnary, accessed March 26, 2021, [4] Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, Lutheran Service Book, 465. [5] Ibid. [6] Melito of Sardis, On Pascha, trans. Alistair C. Stewart, 2nd edition ed. (Yonkers, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2016), 70. [7] “Ancient Hymns of the Resurrection,” Ancient Hymns, accessed March 24, 2021, [8] Melito of Sardis, “Fragment II,” in On Pascha and Fragments (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979). [9] Martin Luther, “In the Bonds of Death He Lay,” 7 Easter Hymns, Ancient Hymns, accessed March 24, 2021, [10] Matthew C. Harrison, A Little Book on Joy: The Secret of Living a Good News Life in a Bad News World (St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 2011), 3. [11] Jack N. Sparks, The Resurrection Letters, St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria from A.D. 328-373 (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1979), 107. [12] Jack N. Sparks, The Resurrection Letters, St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria from A.D. 328-373, 195. [13] Gregory of Nyssa, “That Easter Day,” Catholic Culture, accessed March 24, 2021, [14] Ibid. [15] Quoting Jaroslav Pelikan on his deathbed, “An Essential Theology of Easter,” Concordia Theology, accessed March 24, 2021,

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