God is our hope and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear though the earth be moved, and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea.
-Psalm 46: 1-2
Psalm 46 was the inspiration behind the well-known hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, which we will sing this Sunday. Martin Luther, who unintentionally became the leader of the Reformation, wrote the words for this hymn in his native German, and it has been translated into English more than 70 times! The original melody, which is quite different from the version we have in our hymnals, was also likely written by Martin Luther, but there seems to be some debate about this.
Actually, there is debate about most of the stories behind this hymn. My grandmother always told me he wrote it after the death of one his children. In researching the hymn, I found countless stories behind the hymn, but the truth is, there isn’t any very much proof to back any of them up. Martin Luther did not intend to create such a division in the church with his Ninety-five Theses, but quickly found himself on the Pope’s bad side. This, among many other issues in his life, including lean finances and the death of two children, could have all led Luther to compose this hymn.
Sunday is All Saints’ Sunday, and we take the time to remember our friends and family members who have died in the past year. There is no one on earth who will be free from dealing with the death of a loved one – it is a pain we have to endure and there’s no avoiding it when it comes. But as Christians we believe and know that death is not the end. Death cannot rob us of our hope or strength, because Christ has already won the battle against death for us. God is our continuous, unchanging strength despite the physical and emotional pain of this life. As a bell rings out during the service Sunday for each person who has died, take a moment to be still. Remember that God is in control. It’s easy to say but hard to live into this truth. This earthly life is sure to take from us all that we have ever had but nothing can separate us from God’s love and truth. God’s kingdom is forever, and the kingdom is ours through Christ.