Some 500 years ago – Pope Leo X – was chasing wild boars. In the spectacular Luther film (2003) we see the roman bishop chasing wildly through the Italian forests – trying to catch up with his hounds and to strike the final blow. The imagery gives some vivid background to the papal bull “Exsurge Domine” (1520). This bull exhorts our Lord to arise against the wild beasts – foxes and boars – that have invested the vineyard: “Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom…” (Song 2:15 NASB) and “boar from the forest eats it away And whatever moves in the field feeds on it. O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You; Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine…” (Ps 80:13-14 NASB)
Hunting was not strange to Luther himself, although he was more familar with gardening and tending the vineyard himself. In his Wittenberg home it was he, who took care of the vegetable garden – and not Käthe – according to a note in a recent exhibition here. As exile and fugitive “Junker Jörg” on the Wartburg, he not only complains drastically about the negative effects on his inner well being due to the overdose of venison and the stationary lifestyle of a scribe, but undermines the hunting efforts of his party, when he hides a little rabbit in his cowl so that the rabid dogs can´t get too it. He was traumatized by the ferocity of the hunting dogs tearing apart the lesser game. Lutherans don´t believe, that Doctor Martin Luther was causing havoc in the Lord´s vineyard. On the contrary, they hold with Cranach, that he – together with the team of Wittenberg pastors, theologians and teachers – did a lot to get that vineyard sorted out and in good working order.
1. 0 little flock, fear not the Foe
Who madly seeks your overthrow;
Dread not his rage and power.
What though your courage sometimes faints,
His seeming triumph o’er God’s saints
Lasts but a little hour.
2. Be of good cheer; your cause belongs
To Him who can avenge your wrongs;
Leave it to Him, our Lord.
Though hidden yet from mortal eyes,
His Gideon shall for you arise,
Uphold you and His Word.
3. As true as God’s own Word is true.
Not earth nor hell with all their crew
Against us shall prevail.
A jest and byword are they grown;
God is with us, we are His own;
Our victory cannot fail.
4. Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer;
Great Captain, now Thine arm make bare,
Fight for us once again!
So shall Thy saints and martyrs raise
A mighty chorus to Thy praise,
World without end. Amen.
Johann M. Altenburg, 1584-1640 translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1829-1878