This is the second of five reflections on worship for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Above the entrance to the Cathedral of the Ozarks at JBU are the words, “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,” – “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” As members of the choir, Raquel and I have sung these words hundreds of times. The words of this song offer the picture of God as a protector to those under attack. “A Mighty Fortress” was a theme-song for the early protestants who were not only under attack from the Roman church, but also under threat from the plague. And the picture of God as our mighty fortress continues to be a comfort to Christians who need a divine Helper amid the floods of life.Martin Luther drew these words of resolute faith from both the Old and New Testament, but the song starts with a paraphrase of Psalm 46. The English words that we sing are a translation from German, but the connection to Psalm 46 is still unmistakable.
The Psalm starts…
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
A mighty fortress is our God.
A bulwark never failing.
A bulwark is a defensive wall with a broad top and a walkway where one could look down on the enemy from relative safety.
The Psalm continues…
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.
In other words, God is prevailing over many life-threatening events, such as the plague in Germany.
Later in the Psalm we read…
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
For still our ancient foe, doth seek to work us woe
One little word shall fell him.
They didn’t have YouTube when we were in college, but I did find a video of a JBU choir singing, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”