One spectacular Sunday in July, I published a post titled “This I Know”, which was about the song Jesus Loves Me. Of the 62 Spectacular Sunday posts so far, that post has been the most read and shared.
Since you’ve shown that you like to read the origins of hymns, I plan to repeat the process occasionally. Today, let’s look at Handy Builder Dad’s favorite hymn, He Lives.
What inspired this hymn?
A Jewish man asked the author, Alfred Henry Ackley, “Why should I worship a dead Jew?”
Born in 1887 in Pennsylvania, Alfred H. Ackley showed musical talent during his growing years at home, where his musician-father tutored him before sending Alfred to study music in New York City. From there, Alfred studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
After returning to the states to attend Westminster Seminary in Maryland, Alfred was ordained into the Presbyterian ministry in 1914. He pastored a church in Philadelphia and later answered the call to a pastorate in California.
The question was posed to Alfred as he ministered in California of 1932.
Why should I worship a dead Jew?
What a great question! Don’t you think?
The question inspired Alfred to prepare an answer as his sermon for Easter Sunday. He awoke early and turned on the radio to listen as he shaved for the day. He was astonished and angered by the opening statement of a famous liberal preacher in New York.
Good morning—it’s Easter! You know, folks, it really doesn’t make any difference to me if Christ be risen or not. As far as I am concerned, His body could be as dust in some Palestinian tomb. The main thing is, His truth goes marching on!
Tempted to fling the radio across the room, Alfred exclaimed, “It’s a lie!” Upon his wife’s inquiry, Alfred asked if she heard what that good-for-nothing preacher said. Alfred H. Ackley drew upon that anger and passion as he preached the reality of Christ’s Resurrection that morning and evening with vigor!
Alfred continued his unrest later that night over the original question and the dreadful radio sermon. His wife said it was time for him to do the thing he did best, which was to write a song about it, which would make him feel better.
That, he did – after re-reading the Resurrection account in the Gospel of Mark. As Alfred put his words to music, he had no idea it would become not only a popular Easter hymn but one of the church’s most triumphant!
Let’s proclaim our Risen Savior as we celebrate and worship on this beautiful and Spectacular Sunday. He lives!
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