In the early 1600's, Martin Rinkart was a pastor at the Lutheran Church in the city of Eilenburg, Saxony at the beginning of a war in Germany that lasted for thirty years. The war killed eight million people, including 20 percent of Germany’s population.
The young pastor was 31 years old. He had been turned down for this job seven years earlier, but now he was the pastor. Thousands of people poured into Eilenburg, trying to escape the war. This overcrowding brought famine and disease. A deadly plague came to the city in 1637. Over 8,000 people in the city died because of it, including many children and most of the town council.
The city had only five pastors. Then four of them quickly died from the plague. So now, Martin was the only pastor in the whole town. It’s hard to imagine, but on some days he conducted fifty funerals per day. In 1637, he buried over 4,000 people, including his wife.
But yet during this time of darkness and despair, when death and destruction came every single day, Pastor Rinkart composed over sixty sacred hymns, including one that we often sing around Thanksgiving: “Now Thank We All Our God.”
I look back today with admiration on the faith of a Lutheran pastor in the midst of horrific pandemic. With grief and death all around him, he wrote: “Now thank we all our God. With hearts and hands and voice, who wondrous things hath done.” May God give us today a faith like that!
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