Here is my article published in the October 13, 2016 Camrose Canadian Clergy Comment column.
Give thanks in all circumstances
Last weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving. The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Thessalonica, exhorted them to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). With all of the troubles, tragedies, and suffering in the world, how do we give thanks in all circumstances?
One of my favourite thanksgiving stories provides some inspiration in that direction.
Martin Rinkhart was a Lutheran pastor in Eilenburg, Saxony, Germany during the Thirty Years’ War, 1618-1648. As the story goes, he was the only surviving clergyperson in 1636 or 1637, when a major pestilence afflicted the town which was so crowded with refugees and so ravaged with plague, disease, and famine that sometimes as many as 50 funerals were held in one day. Among those buried that year was Rinkhart’s own beloved wife.
Yet, in the midst of such difficult circumstances Pastor Rinkhart wrote the beautiful hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God.” According to one tradition, Rinkhart based this hymn on Sirach 50:22: “Now bless the God of all, who everywhere works great wonders.” Another tradition suggests that it was originally written as a table grace for his family. In any case, the hymn was well received in Germany and has been sung on such special occasions as the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and the completion of the Cologne cathedral.
Although Rinkhart had suffered much and his family, friends, parishioners and townspeople had suffered much, he was still able to offer God his thanks and praise.
We too, like Pastor Martin Rinkhart, have many things to be thankful for: everything from the blessings of being in a loving, grace-filled, forgiving relationship with our God and with others, to our church through our baptism into Christ, to life itself, to our health, to family, friends, neighbours, to a free, democratic country, to God’s abundant provision of all our basic needs and much, much more.
As an exercise in thanksgiving, you may either individually or as a family wish to write down a list from A to Z, of all the blessings God has given each of you and then prayerfully offer your praise and thanks. You may even consider doing this each day or week or month, rather than only once a year at Thanksgiving. This exercise may also motivate you to pursue moving your thanking into acts of loving-kindness in response to what God has given you.
Those two words, Thank You, can make so much difference in so many ways!