Preparing for Worship – Jeff Hampton.
Today on this Reformation Sunday we sing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Solid and sturdy, the hymn was penned by Martin Luther, the Catholic monk and theologian who in 1517 launched the Protestant Reformation with his “95 Theses” — his arguments against the church’s deed-based theology of salvation, including paying for the forgiveness of sin. Luther believed the only way toward forgiveness and salvation was repentance and a faithful life devoted to following Christ.
While “A Mighty Fortress” is a great old hymn of the church, it is not about the church. It is about the people of the church and the one God we worship. The hymn, written sometime between 1527 and 1529, firmly declares that it is God and Christ — and not the church — who are our fortress against sin and evil. In fact, the hymn does not mention the church at all.
Throughout the hymn, Luther describes the eternal war between good and evil and how God and Christ stand with us through our constant battles. But then at the end of the third verse, he says of the prince of darkness: “one little word shall fell him.”
Luther doesn’t tell us what that word is. The next verse capitalizes Word, which might refer to Christ as described in the opening sentence of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Luther lowercased it when speaking of “one little word,” but it’s not much of a leap to believe that one little word is “love.” After all, love was at the heart of all that Jesus said and did.
As we worship today, think about the times that “one little word” has been transformative in your life. Think about how it might be applied as a bulwark against the most troubling and disheartening moments of your life. Think about ways you might share the love of God and Christ with others through your actions and words.
And then, yes, think about how you can love your church — the community with which you have chosen to worship. Think about how you can spread the love of God and Christ by supporting the mission of the church with your presence in worship, your commitment to learning and growth, your service to others, and the gift of your resources.