By Keith Boyette
In the seventeenth century, Martin Rinkart wrote the words of an amazing hymn of thanksgiving, “Now Thank We All Our God.” Rinkart knew the adversity of having lived through the Thirty Years’ War and a plague that decimated his home city. Rinkart is reported to have conducted 4,000 funerals in one year, including that of his wife. Yet in the aftermath of such a season, Rinkart was able to pen the inspiring words of this hymn which we frequently sing during Thanksgiving Services:
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.
As we gather here in the United States for Thanksgiving 2019, polarization characterizes so much of our lives. Yet the people called Methodist continue to be blessed by the faithfulness of our God.
So many of the Apostle Paul’s letter begin with words of thanksgiving. Paul knew that whatever may be pressing in upon us in a particular moment, we have so much for which to be thankful. Thanksgiving reorients our lives from being inwardly focused to an outward focus on God and His goodness. Life was certainly not easy for Paul or our Christian forbearers in the first century church. Nevertheless, Paul was quick to remind followers of Christ of the myriad of ways God has provided for and blessed them. Whatever adversity is pressing in upon us in this present moment, the presence and provision of God is more than adequate to sustain us and to usher us into the future He has prepared for us.
In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul declares, “We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray for our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3) As we pause to observe a day of Thanksgiving on Thursday, in the midst of uncertainty and adversity, let us give thanks for the great and amazing things that God has made possible in and through us:
A faith that is genuine and vital. Regardless of what we may be experiencing, our confidence is not in what we can see, but in that which God has guaranteed for us in and through Jesus Christ.
A love that is willing to toil and serve. In each of our churches, our faith in Jesus Christ is being lived out in practical ways that is making Jesus real and present to those who are struggling and perhaps far from God. Our faith is not a paper faith – duly recorded but inconsequential in our daily lives. Our faith empowers and transforms.
An enduring or sustained hope. Our confidence is not in ourselves or in the times in which we live. We are confident in the future because we know the One who holds the future in His hands – Jesus our Living Savior who has secured the future for all who call upon His name trusting in Him alone for our salvation.
On behalf of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving filled with great food and fellowship as you gather with family and friends. And I give thanks for your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we give thanks for the blessings of God, may we focus not on our limitations, but on the possibilities yet available through our relationship with our generous God.
Rev. Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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