Thankfulness in all things
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Martin Rinkhart was a Lutheran pastor in Germany in the early 1600s. The Thirty Years’ War was raging throughout his ministry at Eilenberg, a tragic fallout from the Reformation we just commemorated that pitted not just theologies and pieties but weapons of war, Lutheran against Catholic. Eilenberg was a walled city, so thousands sought refuge there from the horrors of war. The resultant overcrowding caused both hunger and disease.
In 1637 the Church Superintendent left, and the rampant plague took the lives of the two other pastors who had served the city with Rinkhart, leaving him alone to minister to this whole city. Church records show that, during the plague, Rinkhart sometimes buried 40-50 people per day. His wife also died of the plague. Rinkhart himself fell ill, but somehow he survived.
The incredible part of this story is the legacy Rinkhart left us from this experience. In the middle of all this death and grief, Rinkhart composed the words to the hymn we still sing, “Now Thank We All our God”—not a pitiful lament, as he had every reason to do, but a joyous hymn of praise and thanksgiving.
So it was with the early American pilgrims who lost half their number to cold and starvation the previous winter, then planted and reaped the following summer and fall and paused to give thanks for God’s abundant blessing, including the native people who welcomed and helped them. The sense that I am owed something—by you, by the country, by God—quickly evolves into the insatiable monster of entitlement. Gratitude, on the other hand, sees everything as a gift from God’s gracious hand.
St. Paul exhorts the people of Thessalonica in the closing of his first letter to them to give thanks in all circumstances. Why? Because God wants us to be thankful people. God knows that grateful people are joyous people, while entitled people will never be satisfied. Ultimately, gratitude and the generosity that flows from it is God’s will for us in Christ. Thankful people are hopeful people, no matter the circumstances. There is always plenty to worry about, plenty beyond our control. We are called to pause, reflect realistically on where we find ourselves, and yet always find the gratitude that restores our hope and joy.
Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours.
Walking with you,