By Chuck Fromm
The news of this past few weeks has been unfailingly grim. Even the most devout believer might well shudder with fear and wonder when we’ll wake up from what seems a never-ending nightmare.
To those seeking comfort in the face of such news, Martin Luther’s great anthem, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” seems to speak to us across the centuries: Luther reminds us that God is our refuge, “a bulwark never failing” who alone can rescue us from the “flood of mortal ills” which seems at times to overwhelm us. In calmer and less troubled times, Luther’s hymn can seem like over-the-top hyperbole: “And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us….” But a world filled with devils does not seem too much of a stretch when we are dealing with the threats posed by foreign dictators and the organized hatred of swastika-brandishing murderers. And make no mistake about it: Luther was spot on in identifying the source of our troubles and the nature of the spiritual battle we are fighting:
But though our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe
His craft and power are great
And armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal.
When we wonder what motivates the violent actions of haters, we do well to remember humanity’s “ancient foe,” who has always sought to bring woe to the earth and whose weapons of cruel hate often seem on the verge of overpowering the forces of virtue in our world. His craft and power are great indeed, and it is easy to despair when we feel overwhelmed when nightly news reports continually remind us of our inability to defeat the organized force of evil. But “On earth is not his equal” is not the end of the story. Luther’s message in this song is one of hope, not despair; the world as presented in the news media may be a nightmare, but we know that the nightmare will end in a new morning. We need not tremble in fear of the grim Prince of Darkness. “His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure: One little word shall fell him.”
One little word. One word! Not just any word: it is the Word we live by, the Word that stands by our side to help us in the fight and to remind us that we live not in fear but in faith, in the confident hope that the forces of evil and hatred are no match for the Power of God manifested in His Son, who is our leader in this struggle. Luther tells that we need not fear, “for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.”
God’s truth will always triumph if we join with His Son in proclaiming His Word. That word, that little Word made flesh, is the biggest story of all. All the technologies of modern media are geared toward repeating the narratives of hatred and despair, but we have a different Word, a different story to tell, and it is up to us to tell it and sing it and bear witness to it in tweets and podcasts and blog posts and new songs and in the public proclamation of worship. Our task is to use every medium of communication at our command, and to gain command of every new medium that we can, to proclaim God’s Word unceasingly, and in so doing, to make our own lives and our own flesh the medium in which the Word is told and retold.
“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness comprehends it not” (John 1:5). The darkness will never comprehend the light, but that does not matter. So long as our light shines brightly, our victory over the prince of darkness is a sure thing. One little word: pass it on.