I helped with music in a fabulous little church in Northern Michigan during my first five years after college, and one Sunday we sang Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” We actually sang it frequently, but this particular day, one of our lovely and enthusiastic older women named Sue came up to me wide-eyed after the sermon and said with a slight panic, “Did you know that we were singin’ ’bout the devil?” To be honest, I had to look at it again, and then I smiled with delight and responded, “Yes! And one little word shall fell him!” And we laughed together at that truth. She got it! She had been singing this song for so long, and she finally got it; and I got to get it with her. And we celebrated.
This song used to feel very much in the past and very much in the future for me in part because the tune is old and glorious, and its lyrics told the story of something I believed happened back on the cross and in the distant future. I was not wrong, but I did miss out on the present reality of this song. Every time I would sing it, the gloriousness and beauty of the tune for whatever reason kept me from embracing its reality for today. This morning I need to sing it with a hint less triumph and a bit more anticipatory hope for today, so I put a different tune to these fabulous and applicable lyrics to help me embrace it just a bit more. My tune will not endure the way the original does, but it’s helpful for me today. Maybe it will be helpful for you.
I imagine sitting with Sue, who has since passed away, in the front row of our little church building in Northern Michigan sharing this more folksy take on the ancient classic. And I imagine her closing her eyes, peacefully swaying back and forth, and when the part comes about one little word felling the prince of darkness, I imagine her calm expression turning into a beam of sunshine. She did not have everything figured out, but she knew that Satan was real and against her and that Jesus loved her and won her. I want to know that more deeply today too.