Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the nations. (Isaiah 12:4)
With the season of fall officially beginning tomorrow, you can see attention turning to the upcoming holidays. I know Halloween is coming because I have seen commercials for scary movies. Personally, those do not interest me. About the scariest Halloween movie I watch is, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." I have also begun to see signs of Christmas which is only 95 shopping days away.
First and foremost, however, my thoughts turn to Thanksgiving. As we clean out the community garden in front of the church and begin to see fields of corn and soybeans harvested, I start to think of the classic Thanksgiving hymns of my childhood. "We Gather Together." "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come." And of course, "Now Thank We All Our God."
This last one especially comes to mind this year. "Now Thank We All Our God" was written by Martin Rinkart, a minister in the German city of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Along with suffering through the war (the city was invaded and looted at least three times), the over-crowded city of Eilenburg also endured a terrible epidemic in 1637. It is reported that Rinkart officiated as many as 50 funerals a day, including that of his wife.
Yet, despite witnessing and enduring such great suffering, Rinkart was able to declare, "Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices." His faith in God remained and he saw God's wondrous deeds all around him, giving him a joyful heart and blessed peace.
I know many people today who feel the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. We, too, are enduring a terrible pandemic. We have just ended a messy, twenty-year war. Add in extreme weather caused by climate change and economic uncertainty and who knows what else, and our own faith in God who "still is ours today" may be strained.
Today, as much as ever, we need these hymns of thanks. We need to be reminded of all that God has done, and all the blessings we have received. Now as much as ever, we need to lean in to our faith, giving thanks to God and seeking God's guiding light in our world. As Rinkart wrote long ago, "For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore. Amen."