How the great songwriters teach us to sing life into the face of death . . .

March 18, 2014

Psalm 61

O God, give ear unto my cry; unto my prayer attend.
For from the utmost ends of earth my cry to You I send.

I cry to You when my heart has grown faint – oh, hear my cry;
And lead me safe unto the Rock that higher is than I.

For You have been a refuge strong, a tower from the foe;
I long to dwell within Your tent, and under Your wings go.

For You have heard my vows, O God; and unto me do give
the heritage of all those who do fear Your name and live.

Increase the days of the king’s life; the years he is enthroned;
May he reign in God’s presence long; saved by Your love alone.

And so I will perpetually sing praise unto Your name;
That having made my vows, I may each day fulfill the same.


I will forever remember the funeral of Martin Lee Walt, my Grandfather. We knew this day was coming and yet we all resisted it. Still, there we found ourselves, huddled as a family in the Narthex “aka lobby” of the church, a place so familiar to us yet a place we had never known. The forced march down the long center aisle loomed before our grieving family. The patriarch of our clan lie in state, lifeless, at the front of the sanctuary. The Spirit beckoned us onward down the well worn path where so many had walked, crossing the ancient rubicon of death itself.

All of a sudden, the doors to the great hall flew open, as though to reveal a bride entering the courts of her wedding. Then the organ started to play a song we knew so well in a way like we had never heard it before. Five hundred years ago, writing under extreme duress, another Martin, the battle weary patron saint of the Great Reformation, penned a hymn for the ages yet we heard it as though written for us, for this particular day in history.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper he admid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal. . .

Stepping into that small town sanctuary, the song  surrounded us like like a cosmic cathedral. The cowering death march immediately transformed into a parade of victory.

“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same, and he must win the battle. . .

The ancient story of struggle, of life versus death, of God versus Satan, rose  up around us. Yes! He must win the battle! Our collective vision lifted from the casket, the emblem of death, to the cross towering above, the sign which sang of ten thousand victories.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.

One little word; a word which shouted the salvation of all that is, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word was God.” This little word, the name of the Lord, rose up like a strong tower, and though by appearance we moved in a steady gait, in the Spirit we ran into that tower.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours, through him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.

We ran to the rock that was higher than ourselves. We raced into the tower of the name of the Lord. We stood in the fortress that is our mighty God. And for all the stony strength of these strong metaphors, the reality of it for us felt like being gathered under the wings of a protective parent, surrounded with the perfect peace of a holy love. It just doesn’t get any better than this. . . . until it does. And it will.

That’s what Song #61 sings for me. It’s a page out of the playbook of the songwriters of the ages.

If you are not ready to sing by now you might want to check for a pulse?  CLICK HERE.

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at

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