Summary: There are some TV show theme songs or commercial jingles that we can immediately recognize. Luther's "A Mighty Fortress" is one of them too, for it is the theme song of the Reformation. This sermon is based on Psalm 46, the one the song is from.
There are some theme songs that are just iconic and memorable. There are some that are so recognizable that when part of it is heard or sung, you can immediately recognize the TV show that it belongs to. For example, “Here’s a story, of a lovely lady, who had three very lovely girls…” belongs to the Brady Bunch. Or if you hear, “there is a bar where everyone knows your name”, you think of the show Cheers. Now what comes to mind when you hear this line: “A mighty fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon.” You almost naturally think of Luther and the Reformation. One can say that this hymn is the theme song of the Reformation, and it comes from our morning’s psalm. Psalm 46 is the basis for this theme song of the Reformation and it makes a great theme song for our lives: God is our refuge and fortress.
The Psalmist begins by confessing that God is our refuge amidst earthly troubles and dangers. He says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” He says that God is the One that we can go to for shelter in times of danger, trouble, and distress. He confesses that God is the One who strengthens and preserves us. He is the One Who gets us through things. He also says that He is a present help in trouble. He is not the back-up plan or the One Who helps when the first options fail us. He is not a God Who says, “Wait a few days and then I’ll help.” He is a God Who is a present help, a help here and the now.
The Psalmist continues on by explaining what this means. Since God is our refuge and strength, “we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” Even if the earth collapses, the forces of nature go crazy, and the end times are upon us, we don’t have to fear. We don’t have to even fear any turmoil that threatens our body and soul because God is our refuge and strength.
This includes not fearing living on a fixed income. It includes going through surgery, and facing recovery. It includes not fearing wintery weather, which Minnesota is famous for, although we have no snow yet. It includes not thinking you are good enough for God or for others. We don’t have to fear work issues, family problems, or the death of a loved one. The Psalmist has a confidence in His Lord about Him being His strength and protector. It doesn’t mean that these issues won’t affect him, but he goes to God when it does because the Lord will help him through these things. God will do the same for us too.
Now the Psalmist builds on this with the next set of verses. He tells us how God is with His Church and people. He says, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” The city of God is the Church, where the Gospel is purely taught and where the Sacraments are rightly administered. It is the place where God dwells with His people on earth.
And where is God in the midst of all of this? He is in the midst of her! He is not far off, or sitting on a distant throne away from it all. Rather, He is present with us in the danger, in the heartache, in the pain, trouble, suffering of it all, and when we face persecution. He is present with the hurting family, the one who is ill from sickness, and with the struggling soul.
This is seen especially in the person of Jesus, who is called “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” Jesus is God in the flesh. He knows what these troubles and dangers that we face are like. He has experienced some of them too. Jesus came to earth to overcome these effects of sin and sin with His death on the cross. His death for us allows God to dwell with us, because we have been forgiven and are righteous in God’s sight. It is through His death that we receive the real peace, his forgiveness, that our lives desperately need.
Now He is still in our midst through His Word and Sacraments. He hasn’t left and hasn’t gone anywhere. Jesus is with us in our service, where He gives us gifts and grace. He comes to us in His Word, and gives us His real body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. In baptism, we have put Him on, and we live in Him. These are the ways that our Lord is with us, and where He gives us His grace, forgiveness, gifts, and Spirit. It is through these means that He preserves, strengthens, nourishes, and dwells with us.