On the Sunny Side
Whenever I think I’ve had it really bad in 2020, I would do well to consider the following verified account of circumstances during the 30 year war between Sweden and Germany.
Martin Rinkart, son of a poor coppersmith, became the Lutheran Archdeacon of Eilenburg, Germany in 1617, just before the 30 year war with Sweden broke out. Fugitives from the war sought refuge in Eilenburg. Forced quartering of soldiers, plundering of goods, and seizures of food made life severe and starvation rampant. By 1637 the famine, devastation and pestilence had become so bad that over 8000 people died that year. Among them were most of the town’s council, many pastors, whole families and many children. People would fight over a dead cat. Martin remained healthy, gave away much of what wasn’t stolen and assumed the huge burden of ministering to the suffering. He buried 4480 people in one year, sometimes in mass funerals of 40 – 50 people in a trench. At one point the Swedish general demanded a 30,000 thaler tribute from the town. Pleas for mercy from Rinkart were ignored until he and many of the townspeople knelt in passionate prayer for divine intervention. The General was moved by their desperation and lowered the price to 2000 florins.
We would think that in all of this Martin would have turned resentful and bitter. He died the year after the war ended, so his whole life of ministry was centered on facing this war. However, as a choral director, musician and hymn writer, he composed the song “Nun danket alle Gott” translated as “Now Thank We All Our God”.
It still appears in hymn books. His attitude remained thankful. I don’t want to minimize or trivialize the difficulties we face but if he could still be thankful then, should we also be that way now?
Happy New Year!