Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Now thank we all our God, with hearts 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 is ours today.
I have always loved this hymn. It seems so appropriate around Thanksgiving time, and its German origin makes it feel very Lutheran. It is our Confessional Hymn for Sunday, and in 2020 it feels especially appropriate. Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmJtef10DWw
The original German was written in 1636 by Martin Rinkhart (1588-1649), a Lutheran minister. We sing it in a standard English translation, a story for another Music Notes. Rinkhart came to Eilenburg, Saxony at the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. The walled, free city was a refuge for political and military fugitives, but overcrowding caused pandemics and famines. In 1637, at the height of one plague, Rinkhart performed more than 4000 funerals, including one for his wife. He was the only pastor in town still alive!
I don’t tell you this to make you depressed, but to note that we too are in a horrible time, with Covid-19 spreading out of control. Maybe it’s not as bad as Germany in 1636. We know, in wearing masks and keeping our distance, how to help contain its spread; the people of Eilenberg did not. We know what a vaccine is, and that one is coming; the people of Eilenberg did not. But never in my lifetime have we had to deal with a pandemic. So, we will sing these words on Sunday, together, keeping our distance, with new understanding of their meaning, and a renewed empathy for others.