MID-WEEK DEVOTIONAL and Hymn Reflection
November 25, 2020
INVITATION and READINGS
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods. Psalm 95:1-3
*Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Sirach) 50:22-24
22 And now bless the God of all,
who everywhere works great wonders,
who fosters our growth from birth,
and deals with us according to his mercy.
23 May he give us gladness of heart,
and may there be peace in our days
in Israel, as in the days of old.
24 May he entrust to us his mercy,
and may he deliver us in our days!
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. Thomas Ken, 1674
Studying some of our best known hymns in preparing these devotionals has reminded me that many of our great hymns of praise were born in times of pain and suffering. Such is the case with “Now Thank We All Our God” (UMH #102). The text was written in 1636 by Lutheran Pastor Martin Rinkart (1586-1649) and alludes to the Wisdom of Sirach – the apocryphal reading above that likely inspired Rinkart. *(https://hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/454)
It was the latter part of the Thirty Years War, and the town of Eilenburg, Germany was not spared the devastating effects of disease, destruction and famine. He wrote it as a simple blessing over his family’s humble meal – giving thanks, even in the face of such devastation. Rinkart is credited with performing some 40 to 50 funerals per day during this period – with one of them being for his own wife in 1637. Still, he found the faith to give thanks to God.
The text and tune (NUN DANKET) first appeared together in Johann Crüger’s Praxis Pietatis Melica in 1647, and Crüger (1598-1662) is largely considered to have composed it. The hymn was translated to English for British hymnals in 1858 by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878).
The stanzas work together to bring us an especially perfect message for this Thanksgiving: stanza 1 offering abundant thanks to a God ever providing for us; stanza 2 asking God to keep us always safe, especially in turbulent times; and stanza 3 a doxology (expression of praise) to the Triune God.
One of my many short-comings as a Christian is losing my faith in troubled times. Even so, I have found deeper meaning in this hymn during this pandemic, and the realization that the Lord has offered me the choice in how I share His compassion during these times. It is up to me, and each of us, to decide how I (we) protect and defend one another, and how we keep each other safe. And so, even though our lives are disrupted at present, I know God wants us to be safe, and we all have a role to play in bringing that about. I take heart in understanding that in the separation we are undergoing now is the very connection we find in Christ. So, if I can feel the communion we share as we are mostly apart from one another, I must have found at least some of my faith again. Hallelujah!
Dear Lord, I thank you for the many blessings you have given me. I thank you for seeing me through all of the times of my life – the good and the bad. And, when I am downcast and discouraged – losing my faith and forsaking you, I am most grateful you have not given up on me. Thank you for opening my eyes to your ever-present mercy that invites me to care for my brothers and sisters and all you have created.
Thank you for restoring my faith and for letting me feel a part of your earthly kingdom. I ask your protection during these rough times. May I in turn do all that is required to protect others, especially when just the stillness of my actions can do the most good. Then, in place of loneliness and impatience, let me find strength and unity. And above all – let me remain ever thankful to you, my God and King.
In your most gracious name I pray, Amen!
Offered by Joche Wilmot, Director of Music Ministries