Christ has arisen, alleluia.~ Bernard Kyamanywa, ELW 363:1
Rejoice and praise him, alleluia.
For our redeemer burst from the tomb,
even from death, dispelling its gloom.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Bernard Kyamanywa, though now retired, is an accomplished musician and clergyperson in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. He is exceptional in his understanding of Biblical Hebrew and was appointed to use that skill to translate the Bible into his native language of Haya.
This hymn “Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia” (or in his language, “Mfurahini, haleluya”) was written in 1966 while Kyamanywa was still a student at the Lutheran seminary in Tanzania. It is interesting that the Tanzanian church has nearly 8 million people while the American church has 3.5 million. I bring up this hymn he wrote because of how exuberant it is. The words alone are uplifting, and if I could portray the music that goes with the words, you would be singing it in your head all day. In any case, this hymn he wrote stands as a witness to the resurrection. The resurrection is central to our common Christian faith. Without it, we would be lost. Certainly, it is uniquely through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that God makes himself known to humankind.
Of course, we must not divorce Jesus’ resurrection from his death. There would also be no resurrection if he had not died. But it is because Jesus “burst forth from the tomb” that we Christians have anything of worth to say to this world. The gospel message is not something akin to “well as long as you are sincere, it doesn’t matter what one believes.” No, the gospel message is a particular word from God that comes from beyond ourselves—that is from God-to-us in the Word! And that Word is none other than a crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.
“Even from death, dispelling its gloom.” Right, so death does not have the final say. Whatever gloom it has, it was dispelled the day Jesus came out of that tomb. And in the Day to come, this gloom will be gone forever. The refrain to Kyamanywa’s hymn goes “Let us sing praise to him with endless joy. Death’s fearful sting he has come to destroy. Our sin forgiving, alleluia! Jesus is living, alleluia!” Because Jesus lives, we can have joy and sing praises to God right now. This refrain also connects the doing away with death with the forgiveness of sin.
Because Jesus has forgiven our sin, death no more has dominion over us. We are set free. Now, don’t get me wrong. Death hurts whenever we experience it now, and it is always good for us to “weep with those who weep.” But what scripture calls the “sting of death” is that death has been overcome in the resurrection of Christ. Jesus says, “I will raise you up on the Last Day.” And so, whoever dies in Christ, will be raised. And every tear will be wiped away, and we will come to know with our eyes what is eternal life—that which we have now by faith.
Thanks be to God who has provided us with many witnesses of the resurrection like Kyamanywa from throughout the world, to remind us of God’s promise in our time of need!
Have a happy and gladsome Easter,
Pastor Levi Powers