We remember this week (on Wednesday, October the 26th) three of our great Lutheran hymnwriters, namely, Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608), Johann Heermann (1585-1647), and Paul Gerhardt (1607-76), all three of whom were also pastors during times of great distress and difficulty. Anyone who considers the history and service of these men will be struck by the hardships they endured, and all the more so by their steady faithfulness in the midst of both personal and professional adversity.
Pastor Nicolai served during the Great Plague and had to bury 1300 of his parishioners over a six-month period. Pastor Heermann and Pastor Gerhardt both served during the tumultuous Thirty-Years War (1618-1648), which did such violence to the life of the Church. Pastor Heermann also suffered personal heartache within his family and physical infirmity that robbed him of his voice; whereas Pastor Gerhardt saw the death of his wife and all but one of his children, and was removed from his pastoral position due to the integrity of his confession.
For all that, these three men not only continued to serve as faithful preachers and teachers of the Word of Christ, but they were also gifted and able to express that proclamation so beautifully in their hymns, a number of which we continue to sing and benefit from to this day. The truth is, the beauty and power of their confession were not “in spite of” the Cross they were given to bear and suffer in this life on earth, but the Cross itself bore such good fruits in them and in their service to others. And so is it also the case that the Cross we are called to carry after Christ Jesus bears good fruits after its own kind in us and through us within our various callings and stations, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name.