Thursday, November 24, 2011

Who are you thanking?

Listen. Watch. The Lincoln Minster School Choir makes it clear (2:26).

The song “Now Thank We All Our God” (a translation from the German “Nun danket alle Gott”) is a Christian hymn that was written circa 1636 by Lutheran pastor Martin Rinkart (1586–1649) in Eilenberg, Saxony, Germany. It was translated into English in the 19th Century by Catherine Winkworth.

Martin Rinkart came to Eilenburg, Saxony at the beginning of the Thirty Years War. The walled city became the refuge for political and military fugitives, but the result was overcrowding, and deadly pestilence and famine. Armies overran it three times. The Rinkart home was a refuge for victims, even though he was often hard-pressed to provide for his own family. During the height of a severe plague in 1637, Rinkart was the only surviving pastor of four who had served Eilenberg, and he conducted as many as 50 funerals in a day. He performed more than 4000 funerals in that year, including that of his wife.

Still he could write:

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 blessèd 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.

In tough economic times, in times of political unrest and terroristic threats, in war, famine, pestilence, and even the face of death, can we do less?

[Editor's note. Just for the record, I wrote this post a day or two before this presidential faux pas occurred. President Obama should have been reading my blog. -- RWP, Nov. 26, 2011]


  1. I'm thankful that I'm here today -
    as for tomorrow? Come what may! lol

  2. So many of these traditional hymns were by writers who had been brought through tremendous times of adversity or inner turmoil.Witness Newton sitting in the middle of the sea storm composing 'Amazing Grace' in his fear, or Scriven unable to be with his dying mother to comfort her in her last days. Perhaps there is a sense in which at times like that we are all faced with a sense of our own mortality and seek a way of expressing it and it has to be said that sometimes (by no means, always!) the theology in these outpourings is eccentrically awry, but that aside, they not only express a profound faith quality in their authors but carry an authority of experience that some of the more modern offerings do not.

    In contrast, you mentioned in a previous post a new carol. Although it was too 'Tinkerbell turns to Scripture' for my musical and theological tastes, there was something deeper that jarred with me. Whilst I'm sure that worshipful consideration is there, many of the modern songs are written for competitions or by professional poets and there is nothing intrinsically wrong in that, but they somehow don't carry that seal of authentic 'ownership' of what is being sung about. I call them candy floss songs - lots of sugar, but not much substance. x

  3. Jinksy, I'm thankful you're here today too!

    Elizabeth, I appreciate your insights. Someone elsewhere called "Now Thank We All Our God" a Dutch Reformed song, which is a bit strange since it was written by a German Lutheran pastor. As for the new "Carol of the Star" at least we now have an alternate tune for the words "venite adoremus, Dominum" in our heads.

  4. This is true, Bob - and one not demanding such a trouser - filling tessitura from both sexes, at that! xx