Re-imagining a hymn: I know that my Redeemer lives

I’ve been thinking a lot about President Uchtdorf’s General Conference talk from several years ago entitled “You Are My Hands.”  In it, President Uchtdorf tells a story of a statue of Christ that is damaged during World War II, and though the statue was partially repaired, the hands were so severely damaged that they could not be restored.  Instead of replacing the hands, the townspeople placed a sign at the bottom of the statue that read “you are my hands.”  The idea is that we are here to be instruments in God’s hands, and to do the work that Christ would do if He were here walking among us today.

Christwithouthands

This meditation hit full-force when we sang “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” in church yesterday.  That’s always been one of my favorite hymns – it’s a source of comfort, of healing, and of peace.  And as we sang that beautiful hymn, I found myself thinking of all of the ways that I could be doing the work of the Savior that are illustrated through that hymn.  Clearly there are roles of the Savior that are exclusively His – I thankfully haven’t been asked to atone for the sins of all humankind – but I found myself penciling the lyrics to the song in a way that can illustrate my commitment to both follow Christ, and to be His hands to those around me.

1. I know that my Redeemer lives.
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
He lives, my ever-living Head.
I live to bless you with his love.
I live to plead for you above.
I live, your hungry soul to feed.
I live to bless in time of need.

2. I live to grant you rich supply.
I live to guide you with his eye.
I live to comfort you when faint.
I live to hear your soul’s complaint.
I live to silence all your fears.
I live to wipe away your tears.
I live to calm your troubled heart.
I live, all blessings to impart.

3. I live, your kind, blind earthly friend.
I live and love you to the end.
I live, and while I live, I’ll sing.
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants us daily breath.
He lives, and we shall conquer death.
He lives our mansions to prepare.
He lives to bring us safely there.

4. He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”
He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”

It’s obviously not perfect, nor is it going to be replacing the original hymn at any point, but it was a way for me to see the hymn with new eyes.  In addition than focusing on all of the things that Christ does for me, I can also focus on the things I can do for others.  It reminds me that the work of building Zion is a relational and communal one, and that our focus should not just be upward, but outward.

What other hymns have you re-imagined?  What are some of your favorite hymns that inspire you to do better?

Liz

Liz is a reader, writer, wife, mother, gardener, social worker, story collector, cookie-maker, and hug-giver.

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7 Responses

  1. Patty says:

    Great idea! Thanks for sharing this! Back when we did a practice hymn before we dismissed to Sunday School, I asked families to write new verses to For the Beauty of the Earth. Then they were printed in the program and we sang them the following Sunday. Tangentially, I have a friend who rereads the words to the sacrament hymn as a meditation during the sacrament itself.

  2. Caroline says:

    Liz, I LOVE this. There is something powerful about viewing ourselves as responsible for comforting, loving, guiding and listening to others.

    I have not rewritten any hymns – other than eliminating the incessant “his” “brother” “man” “men” “son” “Father” rhetoric that appears in nearly every hymn. But there are a few rewrites I know of that I have loved. My favorite is by Susan Howe and it is to the tune of If I Could Hie to Kolob. It takes the form of a woman’s blessing on a baby, and it’s wonderful.

  3. April says:

    This is lovely. Thank you for sharing your reflections with us.

  4. spunky says:

    Oh, this is lovely! What a great way to really remind us to take the work of Christ upon us. Thank you for sharing this powerful idea– I don’t think I’ll ever hear that hymn the same again– in a good-and-empowered-to-do-right way.

  5. Jenny says:

    I love this! Some of those lines gave me goosebumps. What a powerful new way to look at that hymn. Thank you.

  6. Ziff says:

    This is a wonderful way of re-imagining the hymn. Thanks for sharing this, Liz!

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