So begins one of our most familiar – and one of my favorite – hymns, regularly sung at Thanksgiving and sung at other times of the year as well. (Spoiler alert: It’s our closing hymn this Sunday.)
The hymn conjures up images of “wondrous things,” “countless gifts,” “bounteous God,” “joyful hearts,” and “blessed peace.” One can easily envision a Thanksgiving table laden with abundant foods that we associate with Thanksgiving: turkey with all the trimmings (or maybe a stuffed squash for the vegetarians among us), cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and more. Family and friends gather around the table to share stories and enjoy the feast and one another’s company.
Of course, that Norman Rockwell image is not the lived reality of a lot of people, including some of us who might be away from loved ones this Thanksgiving or whose larders are a bit thin.
It turns out that this image also likely wasn’t the lived reality of Martin Rinckart when he wrote the hymn either. I was curious about the origins of this hymn when I saw it was written in 1636, so I did a little sleuthing. And I found a situation that might be considered quite at odds with the images of “wondrous things” or “blessed peace.”
Rinckart was a German minister, one of the last surviving ministers in the city of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years War, that incredibly destructive series of wars that raged over much of Europe from 1618-1648. Rinckart also was an accomplished musician who wrote nearly 70 hymns. As is often the case, it is difficult to document the exact year this hymn was written, but the earliest projected date is 1636 and the latest is 1663. That means Rinckart apparently wrote this particular hymn either during the war or soon thereafter.* One historian provided a vivid image of the context for this hymn: “A minister and his family sing this hymn before dinner to thank God for the scraps of food they have on the table in their meager home in a desolate refugee city that is afflicted with famine and disease and war.” Another historian noted that Rinckart shared what little he had to take care of those refugees.
I was struck by the seeming disconnect between the optimism in the hymn and the daily experience of the minister who wrote it. And also by the relevance it has for us today. That optimism in the face of what might understandably lead to despair will be in my mind this Sunday when I hope to see you so we can join together to joyfully sing, “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices.”
I also hope you will join me in pledging to our two church campaigns this month.
Just to reiterate the difference in the two campaigns:
The 2020 Stewardship Campaign: Reaching In, Reaching Out is our annual drive to fund the church’s operating budget. This year our pledge goal is $261,500, a very slight increase (about 1.6%) over last year’s goal. We are asking that you make your slightly increased annual stewardship pledge by this Sunday, November 24. You can fill out an online pledge card or return the card you received in your Stewardship mailing to the church.
Our 2nd Century Campaign: Renewing Our Foundations is a once-every-dozen-years campaign to raise funds for major capital expenses such as infrastructure repair, accessibility, and energy efficiency, and an expanded mission & social action project (none of which is covered by our annual operating budget). We are asking that you make your stretch pledge to this campaign (payable over a five-year period) by November 30. You can find a pledge form here.
As you consider your pledges, remember that no gift is too large or too small. What is important is that we all contribute at whatever level we are able to support our vibrant church community in the coming year and for many years to come, so that we can continue to live out our mission to nurture love of God and love of neighbor in the world.
Peace and Joy,
*(Just a side note: This hymn was translated into English for British hymnals in the 19th Century by Catherine Winkworth so that is the translation we have in our Chalice Hymnal in the sanctuary.)
EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
2020 Stewardship Campaign: Reaching In, Reaching Out— Please make your 2020 Stewardship pledge, we will be dedicating our pledges this Sunday. Our 2020 pledge goal is $261,500, a <2% increase over our 2019 budget. A stewardship pledge differs from a capital campaign pledge: one funds our annual operating budget, the other major capital expenses. Thank you for supporting both campaigns!
Save a Life! 11/24—Join us after worship this Sunday for a training on bleeding control techniques led by a licensed professional. From everyday accidents to acts of public violence, injuries causing uncontrolled blood loss can take a life in minutes. Please spread the word, register, and Save a Life!
Friendship Place Winter Warmth Drive, thru 11/24—We’re collecting gently used coats, gloves, scarves, hats, and blankets (along with new socks and long underwear) for individuals in need. L-XXL sizes preferred. Donations received through Sunday, Nov 24.
Advent Retreat, 12/7—Join Pastor Ellen from 1-5 pm for a time of spiritual renewal and restoration amidst the often hectic holiday season. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Secret Santa for Shaw Community Center, thru 12/8 — Sign up to be a Secret Santa for a child at Shaw Community Center. A sign up sheet and gift tags will be available on the mission board in the parlor. Please take a tag, sign the sheet, and bring your wrapped gift (don’t forget to include the tag) to church by Sunday, 12/8. Questions? Email email@example.com.
Bible Study, 12/8—We’ll meet after worship to continue our discussion of the Book of Revelation (Ch.11-22). All are welcome!
FaithLife Group, 12/8—Join us from 5-6:30 pm for a discussion about Holy Envy (or, how we approach other faith traditions). For this month’s short article, email Dansack1962@gmail.com.