My four-year-old son Roman loves stories…specifically origin stories of superheroes and detailed accounts of Star Wars episodes. The push and pull of right and wrong, victory and defeat, hero and villain attract him and shape him as he grows into an understanding of his place in this world. He regularly thanks Jesus for creating bad guys so that he (Roman) can capture them.
Martin Luther was similarly interested in the ultimate story of right and wrong, victory and defeat, hero and villain. They shaped him as he grew into an understanding of his place in this world, and in 1529 he penned an epic summary of this world’s ultimate battle in “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
Take a moment to read the text, and if a line seems to not make sense, read it again. Treat it as a poetic summary of an epic story and imagine what this actually looks like as a story designed for us to live into.
A Mighty Fortress is Our God
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;*
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
This Sunday after we pray the Collect for Purity we will sing the first three verses of this story and respond to it by joining the angels and saints singing, “Salvation belongs to our God…praise and glory, wisdom and thanks, honor and power and strength” and then cry out to Him in his mercy to heal us and for his love to free us. We will sing of our desire to follow the God who is a mighty fortress for he is good!
I pray that these songs will help us to enter into the reality of right and wrong, victory and defeat, hero and villain. And my prayer for my little boy is that he also will grow into this story of redemption and strength because of and through our Lord Jesus Christ whose kingdom is truly forever.
* Luke 14:26-27,33, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…So therefore, anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Check out restorationmusic.wordpress.com to see and listen to the music for Sunday.