Devotional Thought of the Day:
Tomorrow, Lutheran Churches around the world will sing “A Mighty Fortress”, the hymn written by Martin Luther.
I’ve heard it called the Battle Hymn of the Reformation, a rally cry to do battle…. As I look at the words, and at Psalm 46 which it is drawn from, and look at Luther’s life, I am not so sure.
I think it is a hymn of surrender, and let me use a medieval village (think like Robin Hood’s era) as a parabolic example.
The village is constantly raided by bandits. Those who would try to stand and fight, are instead overwhelmed, beaten and battered into submission. Those who are too weak simply give in, and compromise, and let the bandits steal what they want. The village is crushed, there is no joy left, no hope, nothing but the bondage thrust on them by the Until a messenger comes from a nearby castle, offering protection, and more importantly, a place in the King’s family. People struggle with the decision, for it means they have to give up what they know and what will it be like to be no longer free.
Such is the life that Luther knew, in bondage to his own sin, oppressed by Satan and by the thoughts of death. The church at his time didn’t help – it held hostage the very thing that would give any hope. Forgiveness, redemption, restoration, the hope received by those who believe and are baptised, hidden behind indulgences merited..by paying a hefty price.
It is as Luther realizes the breadth, the width, the height and depth of the Father’s love shown to us in Christ, that grace – the mercy and peace of God is revealed. Our freedom, which was but an illusion is traded in for security, protection, peace…forgiveness, adoption. Nothing, absolutely nothing, St Paul wrote – can seperate us from that love in Christ.
I picture then, using my parable, the people of the village, being pursued by their enemies, running to the Fortress, encouraged by the One who came to bring them to their real home. The hymn not a cry to do battle, but a realization that true safety is found there, in Christ, who brings us home. For He is not just a messenger, but the Lord God Almighty, come to bring His people home. A favorite Catholic priest/writer wrote:
“Doubts assail you, temptations, with that gloss of elegance about them. I love to hear you say how this shows that the devil considers you his enemy, and that God’s grace will never leave you unprotected. Keep up the struggle!” (1)
It is not our battle, this battle against sin, and satan and death… it is Jesus’ battle. One of the translations of A Mighty Fortress says this so well:
With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, who is this? Jesus Christ it is.
Of Sabbath Lord, and there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.
Indeed He does, as we scurry into His fortress, as we tend to those wounded and broken, as we go out, not to do battle, but on rescue missions, to bring home those who need the refuge we have found.
May we indeed live by faith, by trusting in the One who sets captives free, and then guards their hearts and minds, in the peace that abiding in Christ brings.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1247-1250). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.