A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – Alternate text
Last year, during the Reformation 500 celebrations,
it is possible that “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was sung more times, and in more places than ever before. It is important to note that Martin Luther wrote the original words for this hymn for a particular time and a particular place. 500 years later, Rev. Dr. Allen Jorgenson, professor at Martin Luther University College (formerly Waterloo Lutheran Seminary) penned an alternate text to this familiar hymn tune. These words were first sung at the 2017 Reformation Open Door service at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, and then at the synod announcement of the newly named Martin Luther University College in June 2018.
Allen shares his thoughts on the lyrics – both the original and the alternate.
“Martin Luther’s ‘A Might Fortress’ is a lyrical adaption of Psalm 46. In it, Luther takes the psalm’s metaphor of God as a fortress and illustrates the implications of this for Christians in his time. For the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the posting of the 95 Theses, said by some to mark the beginning of the Reformation, I wrote new lyrics to the traditional tune of this famous hymn. These lyrics take up Luther’s interest in metaphors for God. Metaphors are poetic pictures that illustrate a truth about God without pretending that the image is exhaustive, or philosophically rigorous. Metaphors are evocative. The three I chose are God as poet, midwife and painter. God as a poet points to God’s creative power. God as midwife points to God’s loving care. God as painter points to God’s inspiring power. This is seen in the phrase ‘God brooks no hesitation.’ The verb brook means to allow, or put up with. The metaphor imagines God as a painter so taken up in the creative energy of the moment, that God cannot stop until this energy has been put on canvas. My hope is that just as Luther inspired me to consider other metaphors for God, my words will inspire you to consider metaphors that speak to your experience of God.”
Here are Allen’s new lyrics to this familiar tune. Please note that they were written for the rhythmic version of the hymn, which can be found in EvLW #503.