30 May 2021
Dear church family
I was thinking whether there had been any songs written in the midst of a pandemic. I found one – “A Mighty Fortress is our God” by the great reformer, Martin Luther. The article below was written on 15 May 2020 by Rev Dr Ray Howell III, a senior minister at First Baptist Church, USA. May this well-loved hymn strengthen your faith, encourage your heart and refresh your soul.
The Bubonic Plague first hit Europe in the 14th century and killed an estimated 60% of the population… For over 300 years there were outbreaks of the disease, including the summer of 1527 in Wittenberg. The entire university left town, most professors and their families fleeing the city, but not Martin Luther. He felt God was calling him to minister to those dying of the plague. He was ready to do battle with the Prince of Darkness himself.
Luther knew all too well the deadly power of this cruel enemy. Two of his brothers died in the pandemic. In spite of the fact that his wife, Katie, was pregnant, Luther turned his home into a hospital to care for the sick and dying. Writing to others about the danger of this mortal ill, Luther said that if you truly love your neighbour, you will self-quarantine to stop the spread of the disease.
The personal strain of living in this world that was “devil filled” threatened to undo Luther. He was slipping into depression, an ancient foe that Luther battled his entire life. But he found great strength and solace in the Word of God, especially Psalm 46 “God is our fortress and our strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble.”
Struggling with depression, Luther knew that he, in his own strength, could not prevail. He put his hope and trust in the one who is our refuge and strength. In the midst of a global pandemic as he battled his own personal demons, Luther wrote the enduring words that have lifted millions of hearts throughout the centuries. “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing!”
When you look carefully at the words of this powerful hymn, you can see many references to the devastating pandemic. “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still: his kingdom is forever.”
As we find ourselves struggling with a flood of mortal ills known as COVID-19, let us find courage and resolve in the words of the great Reformer: “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.” It is Christ who will win this battle.