I probably wore my hat decorated with pheasant feathers. They were very cool in my new husband’s Pennsylvania of 1962 and I loved mine. In any case, I’m sure I was dressed up that October Sunday—hat, gloves, high heels. That’s how we went to church back then.
But underneath all those fancy clothes, I was scared to death.
It was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Anyone remember that? Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev installed missiles on the island of Cuba—90 miles from our shores—and dared President Kennedy to do something about it. The threat of war, even nuclear war, was very real. (If you want to see how close it came, watch the movie “Thirteen Days.”) The world held its breath.
I was holding mine. I was only 22—fresh out of college, newly married, very new to faith and shaky in it. Could I trust a God I wasn’t even sure existed?
I went to church that Reformation Sunday to find out.
“A mighty fortress is our God,” we sang. “A bulwark never failing.” Luther’s words reached out over the centuries and wrapped their assurance around my trembling heart. I knew “the prince of darkness grim” was alive, well and threatening destruction on that awful Sunday. But was Luther right? Was his “doom sure?” Could God and good possibly prevail after all?
However, it was the last verse that rocked me to the core:
Though this world with devils filled/Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God hath willed/His truth to triumph through us.
Let goods and kindred go/This mortal life also
The body they may kill/God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever.
Wow. I saw, as clearly as I ever had, what faith and trust in God was. I knew I couldn’t sing those words and mean them, but I prayed that some day I would.
And several days later, Kruschev agreed to dismantle the missiles. The crisis passed, as have many since. Evil is still real; the world is as “filled with devils” as it ever was. But they will not and cannot prevail.
I know that now.
This October, we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In my Lutheran church, especially, it was and is a Big Deal. A glorious day, indeed. Of course, we sang “A Mighty Fortress,” as we always do, but with special vigor.
The last verse reduced me to tears. For I realized, as we sang it, that my prayer of 55 years ago had been answered. The faith Luther proclaimed so powerfully has become mine.
At my age, death is a lot closer than it used to be. It may come for me at any time. And I will have to let go of everything in this world I hold dear.
But that’s okay. I know that God’s kingdom will be more wonderful than anything I can imagine: good and right and true and glorious.
And it will be forever.