Above: Europe in 1648
Image in the Public Domain
JOHANN MICHAEL ALTENBURG (TRINITY SUNDAY, 1584-FEBRUARY 14, 1640)
German Lutheran Pastor, Composer, and Hymn Writer
Johann Michael Altenburg received his education at Eufurt, where he spent most of his life. He served churches at or near Eufurt during the Thirty Years’ War–truly difficult circumstances. He also composed tunes and wrote hymns, including one often translated into English as “Fear Not, Thou Christian Flock,” printed in the original German in 1632. I found an alternate translation in the Lutheran Common Service Book (1917), which contained the English rendering by Elizabeth Rundle Charles (1858) and Luther D. Reed (1915).
Be not dismayed, thou little flock,
Although the foe’s fierce battle shock,
Loud on all sides, assail thee,
Though o’er thy fall they laugh secure,
Their triumph cannot long endure;
Let not thy courage fail thee.
Thy cause is God’s–go at His call,
And to His hand commit thine all;
Fear thou no ill impending;
His Gideon shall arise for thee,
God’s Word and people manfully,
In God’s own time, defending.
Our hope is sure in Jesus’ might,
Against themselves the godless flight,
Themselves, not us, distressing;
Shame and contempt their lot shall be;
God is with us, with Him are we:
To us belongs His blessing.
Amen, Lord Jesus, hear our cry;
Stir up Thy power, come from on high,
Defend Thy congregation;
So shall Thy Church, through endless days,
Give thanks to Thee and chant thy praise
In joy and adoration.
Such words make much sense in the midst of great hardship. I am fortunate to live in a setting of religious freedom–not absolute freedom, I know, but there is no such thing as that. Yet I can attend church without fear of arrest. And I live in a peacetime setting. So I am quite blessed. And I defer to those less fortunate in that way to interpret the hymn.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR
Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,
we thank you for your servant Johann Michael Altenburg,
who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.
We pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,
we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ;
through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35
1 Peter 5:1-4 or Epheisans 3:14-21
John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60
Revised on December 2, 2016