Jesus conquered the grave
What Joy! What hope! What calming peace! But this will likely be the weirdest Easter of our lives. Watching an abbreviated Easter service on YouTube wearing comfy sweats. A housebound dinner after church. No guests. Maybe takeout, unpacked at home with sterile techniques previously only used in setting up surgical trays. Maybe you are worried about a loved one suffering with the coronavirus or just missing the Easter egg hunts with the grandchildren. But has there ever been a better time for grateful celebration?
Since Easter this year has already been turned on its head, may I suggest listening to and meditating on a Thanksgiving hymn? Instead of –– or in addition to–– the glorious Alleluias of Easter hymns, take a fresh look at the lyrics to “Now Thank We All Our God” and the story behind them. As with many of the greatest hymns of faith, this one sprang from an experience of great sorrow and distress.
“In everything give thanks”
The composer, Martin Rinckart, began his ministry in the city of Eilenburg, Germany on the eve of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Refugees poured into this walled city. Soon Eilenburg was overcrowded and wracked with extreme poverty, famine—and plague. At the height of the plague in 1637, Rinckart was performing forty to fifty funerals a day, including his wife and two of the four ministers in his city. The fourth clergyman fled and refused to return, leaving Rinckart the only one left to minister to the entire population for the duration of the war. He and his children subsisted on meager scraps of food while he stretched his personal resources, even borrowing from his future pay to care for others. Read more of his story here. Before he died just a year after the end of the war, he penned these joyous lyrics.
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.
Oh, 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 guard us through all ills in this world, till 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 Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
If you are tempted to be anxious or perplexed during our time of “plague, ” meditate on these beautiful words. May Rinckart’s legacy of unwavering faith and gratitude fill you with joy and hope over the upcoming Easter weekend.