Sunday was Feb. 26. While walking home from a funeral he had conducted, a pastor in Berlin, Germany, died Feb. 26, 1561.
The next Sunday (March 3) Pastor Paul Gerhardt attended the other pastor’s funeral, and heard a sermon on part of Paul’s letter to the Romans, where Paul begins, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, for free, give us all things?” (8:31–32).
Moved, Gerhardt went home and wrote a hymn paraphrasing those words. In two of the original 15 verses we tell our Father:
“Though earth be ripped asunder
You’ll never be untrue.
Not fire, nor sword, nor thunder
Shall sever me from you.
Not hunger, thirst or danger,
Not pain or poverty
Nor mighty princes’ anger
Shall ever hinder me.
“No angel and no gladness,
No throne, no pomp, no show,
No love, no hate, no sadness,
No pain, no depth of woe,
No scheme of man’s contrivance,
However small or great,
Shall draw me from your guidance,
Nor from you separate.”
Where did Gerhardt got such hope? From God, via another Paul Jesus’ apostle. How both Pauls struggled!
For instance, Gerhardt experienced “schemes” and “mighty princes’ anger.” Six years after he wrote this hymn, he lost his pastorate.
Frederick William I tried to get Lutheranpastors in his realm to compromise the Bible. Gerhardt resigned instead.
While Gerhardt was jobless, his wife died. Four of their five children had previously died one in infancy, 11 years earlier.
Gerhardt, a widower with a 6-year-old son and no pulpit, must have ached. Yet like his apostolic namesake, he believed, even rejoiced.
In your darkest hour, would you like the faith of both Pauls?
Read about Jesus in Scripture. Taste the truth at Christ’s table, too: God loves you, and his love is in his Son, who died for you. There it can’t change or leave, for Jesus lives. Jesus reigns. He always will.
So we sing with Gerhardt:
“My heart for joy is springing
And can no more be sad,
’Tis full of joy and singing,
Sees only sunshine glad.
The sun that cheers my spirit
Is Jesus Christ my King;
The heav’n I shall inherit
Makes me rejoice and sing.”
The Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 941-747-5564. For more information, see www.rsavior.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.