Day 384 | Wednesday, 7 April 2021
It has been a while since I have given COVID statistics. In the USA the death total is over 555,530 from the 30.8 million reported cases. As I am writing this page, the county latest update is from April 1, 2021 at which time the total number of cases was 8,261 with 143 active, 483 in isolation and 142 deaths.
“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” is probably the most popular hymn to be sung on Easter. It was written by Charles Wesley in 1739. As an opening hymn for worship, it really sets the mood for the Easter celebration.
Yesterday I ended my thoughts by asking you what it means to be an Easter person. Today, I want to share the hymn “Easter People, Raise Your Voices” words by William M. James, 1979 and music by Henry T. Smart, 1867.
1. Easter people, raise your voices, sounds of heaven in earth should ring.
Christ has brought us heaven's choices; Heavenly music, let it ring.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Easter people, let us sing.
2. Fear of death can no more stop us from our pressing here below.
For our Lord empowered us to triumph over every foe.
Alleluia! Alleluia! On to victory now we go.
3. Every day to us is Easter, with its resurrection song.
When in trouble move the faster to our God who rights the wrong.
Alleluia! Alleluia! See the power of heavenly throngs.
“Following in the tradition of many pastors who write hymns, William Marceus James (1913-2013) wrote "Easter People, Raise Your Voices" for his congregation at Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church in New York City. “The author of more than fifty hymns, James noted to this writer in 2005 that "I wrote hymns for my congregation whenever I needed one. 'Easter People' is not the greatest hymn I have, but it took better than the others. Most of my hymns have themes around the social gospel." Originally in five stanzas, the hymn first appeared in the United Methodist collection, Songs of Zion (1981), in its present form.
“The first stanza seems to echo Charles Wesley's "Christ, the Lord, is risen today." Wesley states, "earth and heaven in chorus say." James proclaims, "sounds of heaven and earth should ring." The musical metaphor continues with Wesley – "Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply" – and James – "heavenly music, let it ring. . . Easter people, let us sing!" Both acknowledge the cosmic connection between heaven and earth. The Wesleyan connection is unmistakable in James' hymn.
“Both hymns share "victory" language. Wesley, citing I Corinthians 15:55, asks, "Where's thy victory, boasting grave?" James sounds a battle cry at the end of stanza two, "On to victory now we go."
“The triumph of the Resurrection over evil is the theme of "Easter People." In stanza two, the poet reminds us that the "fear of death" cannot stop us from doing all we can to overcome evil "here below." The final stanza insists: "Every day to [Christians] is Easter" because our God is one who "rights the wrong."
“William James' ministry and his 97 years of life reflected his belief in the power of the Resurrection to make a difference in the lives of those whom he served.”
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Rev. Douglas Knopp, Pastor Emeritus