A modern rewrite of the ancient hymn is perhaps appropriate in this Reformation spirit.
The Only Song for 500th Anniversary?
This Sunday is observed as the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, remembering when Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on the door of Christ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Churches everywhere will likely be singing the most famous of Luther’s hymns: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.
But when they start singing it, particularly congregations who don’t have it in their typical rotation, they may notice some weird lines. “Prince of Darkness grim?” We are singing about Satan? What is with is this hymn about good and evil in a military-laden conflict?
Is there a better way to sing the hymn without these weird lines?
Guess what, you are in luck.
My friend Tallessyn takes ancient hymns that are lovely but have problematic language or atonement theology and offers more inclusive versions of them. She also wrote some inclusive Christmas carols we’ve previously featured.
So in honor of this anniversary, here’s her version of Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” appropriate for folks to sing on Reformation Sunday:
A Mighty Fortress Is Thy Love
A mighty fortress is thy Love, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper still, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still an ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
A craft and power great, of fear and cruel hate,
Alone, we cannot equal.
Did we in mortal strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Without the One who dwells inside, the Light of Life infusing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ now, eternally;
With many Earthly Names, from age to age the same,
And Love must heal the battle.
And though this world, with evils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for Love hath willed a truth to triumph through us.
The Hour of Darkness grim; we tremble not within;
This rage we can endure, for lo, its end is sure,
One little word brings healing.
That word above all transient powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Love, who ever guideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
A body they may kill; this Truth abideth still:
Love’s kin-dom is forever.
How to use
I love this version without male references to God or weird Satan references. I recommend its use in two ways:
- For congregational singing, a congregation can project the changed words on the displays. Barring congregational acceptance, folks in the pew can print off a copy and sing with gusto the new lyrics amidst the old so they can join in the moment with theological integrity. I do this all the time by changing masculine pronouns for God, so this is just an elevated version of that practice.
- For Sunday School conversation, comparing the two versions can lead to great theological exploration. For example, compare the third stanza’s original focus on defeating Satan with Tallessyn’s focus on overcoming the evil and reaching healing could lead to conversations about the value of personified evil.
Both are great ways–and well within the Reformation spirit itself!
Thoughts? It’s way better than the Gilmore Girl’s take on the hymn, I’m positive!
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