Prelude to Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is typically on my mind every fall semester, not just for the promise of food and a break from school, but also because our worship program is responsible for producing the Thanksgiving chapel every year. It is always somewhat of a challenge to emphasize our thanks to God in new and creative ways. It usually leads me to focus on thanksgiving long before the actual holiday, and to prioritize it in my own personal life.
This year has been somewhat different for me. I have found myself somewhat frustrated with life circumstances and personal burnout. These have led at times to a spirit of irritability and discontent. Living with discontent only fed itself, leading to more frustration and burnout.
However, God has been faithful to send encouragement along the way that has helped me see how grateful I need to be. Sometimes this came in positive ways as I received encouragement from others, and needed to realize that “every good and perfect gift is from above” James 1:17. Other times it has come through seeing the struggles of others and realizing how that I have been blessed.
Ingratitude is not an option for the believer. Paul writes in Col. 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” We are to give thanks in all things, regardless of the circumstances. Paul writes in 1 Thess. 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
The Thirty Year’s War (1618-1648) began as a conflict between the Protestant and Roman Catholic princes in Germany initally based on religious issues, but spread into a quest for territory and political power. Martin Rinkart was a pastor in Eilenburg, Saxony that was greatly impacted by the war. The city itself was a walled city, and was a place of safety for many refugees. Although he was barely able to provide for his family, Rinkart shared what he had with others, providing shelter and food for many of them in his home. Plague also struck the city, killing at least 8,000 people. He did 40-50 funerals a day in 1637, and eventually his wife also succumbed to the disease.
Yet with this backdrop of war, famine and disease, Rinkart wrote what he called a “Tisch-Gebetlein”: a “little table prayer” to be said before a meal. It has become widely known as a hymn in German and now translated into English, commonly known to us as the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”. It is a great statement of faith from a man who could have easily been frustrated with his life circumstances, but instead focuses on giving thanks to God.
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
Dr. Roger O’Neel serves as Associate Professor of Music and Worship, and as director of the Worship Program at Cedarville University. He has served for over 20 years as a music and worship pastor, and has been at CU since 2002. You can catch his blog at worshipblogger.com.