One Easter hymn is as good as another. They’re all about the resurrection and since that’s the chief topic of Easter, we’re set.
This really was my mindset before listening to the hymns in the Lutheran church. Here’s a quick comparison between a hymn I sang every Easter as an FE, and a hymn we sang at our local parish this past Easter. Links to lyrics are posted below the videos. It will take 2 minutes or so to get into the actual song on the second video.
This song is a little challenging at first to critique. I mean, the resurrection is all through it. Isn’t that the gospel, after all?
Well, sort-of. Never mind the fact that the first verse opens up with me and what I have to offer to God, even though in reality Easter is all about what Christ has done for us. Never mind that the verses completely contradict themselves: I see his hand of mercy, I see his loving care… but I won’t despair despite the heaviness in my heart due to things on Earth being so bad. Never mind the blip mentioning Christ’s return but neglecting his baptismal promises to return also for us, raise us again, and share with us his inheritance as his brother. Never mind that we’ve “never minded” most of the hymn away.
But don’t neglect that the hymn mentions two absolutely un-scriptural items in the refrain. According to this hymn, the most important thing about Christ’s resurrection is to impart salvation by (drum roll, please) ….. ….. ….. ….. walking and talking with us. And according to the song, how do I know this to be true? By the testimony of the scriptures, proven by history and the internal consistency of the scriptures themselves? By the excellent transmission of the scriptures through the ages by devout men? Nope… I know it’s true because “He lives within my heart.” How we are to know this to be true is a different issue entirely…
I chose this first hymn because it’s the quintessential FE Easter hymn. This stands in stark contrast to the second hymn.
Notice the Gospel all through the song: that Christ tasted death on our behalf, because of our sin… that we were trapped in sin and incapable of paying for it without his humbling himself to our low condition. It goes on. It’s truly a Gospel hymn. This is the standard of what an Easter hymn is.
However, what’s important to keep in mind is that hymns are not sung simply for no reason at all. They flow from an organization’s theology -or lack thereof. Hymnody matters. The Gospel (or lack of) matters.