A Bulwark Never Failing

This weekend tens of millions of kids will be knocking on doors and announcing "trick or treat." I suspect most Christian families, however, will not be celebrating Halloween, a pagan holiday. Instead, celebrate Reformation Sunday—the commemoration of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the Wittenberg door. Luther started the Protestant Reformation, something I suppose our Catholic brethren won't be celebrating. But he made at least one contribution all Christians can rejoice in: his great hymn drawn from the 46th Psalm: "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Luther wrote this hymn nearly 500 years ago in the midst of the religious and political upheaval of the Reformation. Then in 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach harmonized and lengthened Luther's hymn. An associate of mine who happens to be Catholic can testify to the mighty way God can use Luther's hymn to remind His people that, in the midst of life's greatest trials, God is always there. My friend has a young son, a wonderful little boy, I'll call Joshua, who is the apple of his daddy's eye. However, like my own grandson Max, Joshua is autistic. Unless you have an autistic child in your family, you cannot imagine the heartache autism can cause. Although Joshua has made great progress, he still has a long way to go. Joshua's father lives with the knowledge that there are many things he can never take for granted, like watching Joshua graduate from college, or marry, or have children. Most of the time Joshua's father copes fairly well with his son's autism. But there are those days when he feels overwhelmed. The other day, after bringing his son home from yet another appointment with a specialist, he began to sob. In the depths of my friend's despair, something, or Someone, told him to listen to Luther's great hymn. That Someone, he's convinced, was the Holy Spirit. You see, for my friend, Luther's words and Bach's music speak to the heart in ways that preachers can never do. As he listened to the great opening refrain, ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, "a mighty fortress is our God," the world began to look less bleak. My friend's troubles were still there. But he no longer felt alone or overwhelmed. His fear was replaced by the assurance that he could take refuge in the same mighty fortress that had sheltered the Psalmist—and Luther and Bach. He was reminded that while our strength may fail us, our Lord will not. Within a half hour, a 500-year-old hymn had turned despair into hope and isolation into communion with our Lord. This is the power that the great music inspired by our faith can have upon us. So instead of letting your kids dress up as goblins and witches this weekend, pick up a good recording of Luther's classic. Let those beautiful chords and words ring out and remind your own soul that our God is indeed "a bulwark never failing."  


Chuck Colson


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