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, thru 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 beloved hymn was written by Martin Luther. No, not the Martin Luther who gave the I have a Dream speech!! This Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Germany. He was studying to be a lawyer when nearly struck by lightening and became a monk. He dedicated himself to monastic life. He describes this time period as “a time of deep spiritual despair”. He later would say that , “If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would have indeed been among them”, and “I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul”. His superiors believed he needed more work to distract him from his excess introspection and was ordered to pursue an academic career. In 1508 he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenburg. On March 9, 1508 he received his Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies. On October 19, 1512 he was awarded his Doctorate of Theology.
Just 5 years and 10 days later is when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg church door. Much of this was a protest to the sale of indulgences. At the time, the Catholic church was selling forgiveness & salvation to any purchaser. This is in direct opposition to what the bible clearly states. It is God alone who grants forgiveness. The nailing was not an act of rebellion or confrontation, for the church door was like a bulletin board for the town. This was a learned objection to church practices. The 95 Theses were quickly translated from Latin into German and then printed (thanks Gutenberg!) and widely copied & distributed. Within 2 weeks copies had spread all over Germany, and within 2 months it had spread over all of Europe.
The Catholic church was upset and took steps to silence Luther. His stand against the church was that he would need to be convinced by the scriptures or by clear sound reason. The church declared Luther an outlaw. He was rescued on his return trip home by being “kidnapped” and kept hidden in Wartberg Castle. It was here that Luther translated the New Testament into German.
One of our church traditions is to have a Reformation Sunday celebration with German food, a quiz, scripture memory recitation and to sing many of the ‘hymns of the reformation’. One family tradition we like is to watch the black & white movie, “Martin Luther” with Niall MacGuinnis, Phillip Leaver, David Horne & Annette Carell. A great book to use with your younger children to learn about Luther is: Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World by Paul L. Maier. For older children & adults there is “From Dark to Dawn” by Elizabeth Charles.
What does your family do to celebrate the reformation?
I pray your Reformation Day is a joyous one!