Lyrics by Luther

My Saxon father in law, who we are visiting for a few weeks, has an incredible talent for music. He belts out tunes opera-style, plays piano gloriously, and knows all the classic German symphonies by heart.

My son takes after him, but my husband missed out on everything in the musical regard.

Last night, as we were getting ready for bed, we heard sounds of an orchestra coming from downstairs.

“Oh,” I said wistfully, “Your dad is playing Martin Luther songs for the Reformation holiday!”

John retorted back: “It is NOT Martin Luther songs!”

“Of course it is! I know all the words to this one.”

“It’s Bach, or Mozart or something! Martin Luther was NOT a musician!”

“He composed songs! Don’t you know anything!”

“He was a religious Protestant guy—NOT a musician!” he huffed back.

(My husband doesn’t know jack about religion, or music.)

“Ah yeh? Wanna bet?”

“Fine! What do I get if I win?”

After deciding on something X-rated for the winner, we ran downstairs—both gleefully seeking triumph.

Knock, knock, knock.

“Come in!”

When his father opened the door, my husband apologized for the late night commotion. “Dad, may we ask a question?”

“Of course?”

“Whose composition is that you are listening to?”

“Why, it’s Bach…”

“AHA!” John started.

“Wait!” I protested, “Bach may have made the music, but Martin Luther wrote the lyrics, right?”

My father-in-law paused thoughtfully, and then motioned us to his computer. “Actually, that’s true. Martin Luther did write the words. Here, let me show you.” He hit a few keys, opening Google.


I punched my husband back. “I told you!”

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, the German words appeared on the Wikipedia screen.

“A Mighty Fortress is our God!” I quoted, without looking at the screen—I didn’t have to. It was the Reformist Luther’s most famous hymn, a poetical version of Psalm 46. “I can even sing you the entire song—in English!” I continued basking.

“Well, well, technically you are both right,” my father-in-law said, noting that Bach wrote one of the many musical organ versions of the song.

“I wasn’t talking about the lyrics—I meant the music! So, I win,” John was not one to concede defeat.

“He said we were both right!” I chased my boyish husband back up the stairs and into bed.

And we both proceeded to claim (take by force) our X-rated winnings.



(Note: Today, October 31, is Reformation Day in Germany, a public holiday celebrated by Protestants. It marks the event when Martin Luther famously nailed the 95 Theses onto the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. That was the beginning of a religious and social revolution in Germany, and eventually the world.)


2 thoughts on “Lyrics by Luther

    1. I think it’s also known as The Battle Hymn of the Reformation? Did you know Martin Luther also started the Christmas-trees-with-lighted-candles tradition (or so they say)? Lots of great people hail from Saxony! 🙂

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