God is our refuge and our strength,
a helper ever near us;
We will not fear though earth be moved,
for God is nigh to cheer us.
Happy “Reformation Day,” readers. October 31st is affectionately named thus because on this day in 1517, Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This action is lauded by many as the official spark of the Protestant Reformation, in which tradition all Reformed Churches stand.
Luther’s popular hymn “Ein’ Feste Burg” (“A Mighty Fortress”) is his paraphrase of Psalm 46. The blue 1959/1976 Psalter Hymnal used by most URCNA churches includes not only the popular translation of “A Mighty Fortress” (#444) but a more faithful versification of Psalm 46 to the same tune, #85, “God is Our Refuge and Our Strength,” which is also attributed to Luther.
Martin Luther wrote in his Manual of the Book of Psalms,
I believe, for my part, that there is no book under heaven… to be compared with the Book of Psalms. Wherefore, if it were right to ask of God… that all the greatest excellencies and most choice experiences of all true saints should be gathered and collected from the whole church… and should most briefly and appropriately be condensed into the focus of one book…such a book would be the Book of Psalms. For in the Book of Psalms we have not the life of one of the saints only, but we have the experience of Christ Himself, the Head of all the saints, for He is set forth in those Psalms. We have, moreover, the feelings and experiences of all the faithful; both under their sorrows and under their joys, both in their adversity and their prosperity; how they conducted themselves towards God, towards their friends, and towards their enemies; how they acted in various perils and afflictions, in the midst of temptations, and under the greatest necessities.
…The Book of Psalms ought to be more dearly and highly prized by us on this account: because it contains such clear prophecies concerning the death and resurrection of Christ, and holds forth such great and gracious promises concerning the Kingdom of Christ, the spread of the Gospel, and the state of the whole Church. So that you may truly call the Book of Psalms, “A Little Bible,” for in it, all things that are contained in the whole Bible are given to us in the most wonderfully sweet and brief manner, and condensed into a most beautiful manual.
Here is a link to a digital version of Martin Luther’s Manual of the Book of Psalms: http://archive.org/details/amanualofthebook00luthuoft
Here are a few more items for meditation on this “Reformation Day”:
- What was Martin Luther’s favorite psalm? Find out HERE.
- Did you know that German composer Felix Mendelssohn wrote a “Reformation Symphony” (it was his fifth symphony)? Mendelssohn is one of my favorite composers and I can’t help but share that fact with you today. Look it up! Here a link to the last movement, which happens to be an extended meditation on “Ein’ Feste Burg”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n2t3BbnLnM
Thank God for His faithful servant Martin Luther and other men and women like him.
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper He, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.