Now Thank We All Our God

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices, who from our mother s arms hath blessed us on our way, with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.  Thus reads the first lines of a beautiful hymn of praise and thanksgiving, originally penned over 350 years ago. Martin Rinckart, the bishop of Eilenberg, Germany, to whom these words are credited, lived contemporaneously with the period of time known as the Thirty Years War. Begun as a religious war between Catholics and Protestants, it eventually became a political war involving most of Europe. Eilenberg, being a walled city, became a refuge for many trying to escape the carnage. Soon over—crowded and unsanitary, it succumbed to famine and disease. Officials either died or ran away leaving Rinckart alone to care for the dead during the great pestilence of 1637. He read the burial service 40 to 50 times a day and the total dead numbered over 8,000, including Rinckart’s wife. The city of Eilenberg was subsequently sacked three times by the Austrians and the Swedes. With his own health broken, Martin Rinckart died at the age of 63 the year after the Peace of Westphalia, ending the war, was signed. Considering his experiences, there is barely a hint of what was happening around him in the entire song except for the ending of the second stanza where he writes, “And free us from all ills, in this world and the next”. The whole song is in thanks to God’s greatness, His guidance, His bounty, a yearning for peace, freedom from suffering, and assurance of salvation. How then do we relate to Martin Rinckart’s thanksgiving in present day America? Currently all of us live in a land of plenty. Medical science is learning to control and cure diseases, and wars, when they occur, happen somewhere else in the world. 1 Thess. 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. As the Scripture says, we should be giving thanks to God for everything that comes our way, not only in our comfort but also when we are in distress. God gives to us daily and we should daily return our thanks.

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