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A Theologian sifted in Satan’s Sieve

THE hymn we are focusing on for Vespers during Lent is “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” (438) by Pastor Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676).

Pastor Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)
Pastor Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)

Pastor Gerhardt lived a life filled with much suffering and difficulty. This caused him to find hope in Christ alone and sharpened his pastoral and hymn-writing skills, ranking him among the greatest hymn writers like Luther, Nicolai and others. Near his portrait in his final parish is the inscription “A theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve.”

Mittenwalde, the town south of Berlin where he served as pastor, suffered heavily during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) and his service here caused him to gain notoriety as a hymn writer. Later, as pastor at St. Nicholas Church in Berlin, Gerhardt refused to sign an edict by Elector Friederich Wilhelm the Great. The edict attempted to stop the Lutheran preaching and teaching against the false doctrine of the Reformed. For this, Pastor Gerhardt was deposed as pastor and prohibited from performing pastoral duties. Making matters worse, Gerhardt and his wife, Anna, buried four of their five children. Soon after, Anna herself died. In 1669, Pastor Gerhardt became pastor in Lubben, where he served in many trials until his death.

Pastor Gerhardt has been called “Germany’s great psalmist,” writing between 120-130 hymns, 16 of which are in our hymnal. His hymns reflect fervent meditation on the life and teachings of Jesus in the individual life of each Christian. In a life filled with suffering, disappointment, and despair, Gerhardt turned to Christ in his need. As a pastor, he pointed Christians to Christ in all their challenges of life. And in our own time, Gerhardt in his hymns points us to Christ in all seasons of life.

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