Sunday, March 18
Note: We asked our writers on Sundays to address the power of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
The Lutheran minister Martin Rinkart arrived in Eilenberg, Saxony, in the seventeenth century. By 1636, war and plague left him, as the town’s only living pastor, to conduct some 4,000 funerals during a single year. It was during this time that he penned “Nun danket alle Gott” – or as you may know it, “Now Thank We All Our God.”
Today, you are most likely to sing this hymn around the fourth Thursday in November, as it pairs nicely with the American tradition of eating large lunches and dozing off to football. Indeed, I fell in love with this hymn as a child, singing with the congregation during an outdoor Thanksgiving morning service: “who from our mothers’ arms, has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.” I had no idea that these words, reminding me of God’s constant blessings, came from a man who would soon conduct his own wife’s funeral.
When Paul instructs the Colossians “with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God,” he did not have a time or place in mind. He didn’t demand that we sing God’s praises when our world is crumbling in famine, or when we are spooning out the last crumbs of stuffing after a feast. Thanksgiving is a way of life.
Prayer: Gracious Father, as we go about the business of Lent, let us be thankful. When our stomach groans for the chocolate we swore off, or our finances take an unexpected plunge; and when we ace that test, or welcome a healthy grandchild into the world, our hearts will be thankful. Thank you for your constant blessings. Thank you for guiding us when perplexed, and freeing us from all ills, in this world and the next.
– Wesley Gentle