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Sabbatical 2017
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Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

We sang this hymn today in our church service. It's a powerful hymn whether backed by a huge pipe organ or by our excellent worship team with their guitars and drums.

Have you ever wondered why? Let's look at the setting this hymn was written in:

It is one of Martin Luther's most famous compositions. Written sometime between 1527 and 1529, the Reformation was under way. Luther, unsuccessfully trying to reform the Catholic Church, had been labeled a heretic and his followers and others who were part of the movement were being burnt at the stake for not recanting their Protestant positions.

Luther's main issue was with the Catholic Church's practice of selling indulgences. Luther believed that Christians are forgiven, saved and justified by faith alone and that no device offered by the church could replace that. He also held precious the belief that the Word of God (the Scriptures) superseded any word any man could utter. This was in direct conflict with the belief and practice of the Catholic church which held that Papal decrees were more authoritative than Scripture and indulgences, once paid for, had the power to absolve sin.

Luther, having been kidnapped by his friends, was forced into hiding to preserve his life. In the middle of what would turn out to be one of the bloodiest religious conflicts ever, Luther wrote these words:

1. 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.

2. 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 Sabbaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

3. 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.

4. 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.

The next time you sing this song, remember Luther's mindset as he wrote the lyrics to this great hymn.

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