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Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

22 November 2012
  Thanksgiving Day
Fourth Thursday in November, United States

Another year, another day to stop and say, "Thanks." Of course, we don't need to be reminded to be thankful, do we? God doesn't need to encourage our living lives of love and trust in response to His mighty deeds, does He? Sad to say, we do and He does.

How many blessings has God already given you? How many times have you been truly thankful? How many times have you acted like you deserve the favorable treatment? How many times have you gone on without so much as a token nod to the Giver of all good?

Martin Rinckart Are we any better than those who've gone before us? Consider the lepers Jesus healed (Luke 17). All ten were cleansed (v. 14). Jesus sent them to the priests who were required to declare them ritually clean (see Leviticus 13). However, nothing either in the Scriptures or Christ's command prohibited them from returning first to the One who saved them from lives as outcasts. We don't know the motivation of those who kept going; we do know that one came back, "And he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving Him thanks. (v. 16)"

Jesus pointed out that the returning man was a Samaritan, not an Israelite. Why would God's covenant people — "church people" — continue on rather than first returning? Yet this one, whose people had removed themselves from Israel, demonstrated faith that grasped the blessings of God.

Even when they show initial thankfulness, God's children have a poor record of continuing in the same spirit. Israel, following the Red Sea crossing, sang and celebrated, praising and thanking the Lord for His divine rescue. Yet only three days later they complained about the bitter waters of Marah (Exodus 15:22-25). Satisfied by the miracle of sweetened water, they soon started doubting God's providence, whining about not having food, blaming Moses and Aaron for bringing them out "to kill this whole assembly with hunger. (Exodus 16:3)" In response, God sent His manna.

Time and again, rather than thinking, speaking, and acting in thankfulness, God's people forget about His blessings and focus on their problems. Yet God provides a few heroes of the Faith who have the strength to thank Him even in times of trouble.

Now Thank We All Our God

Martin Rinckart, a Lutheran minister during the 1600s, was called to pastor Eilenburg, Germany just before the Thirty Years War began and served until right after hostilities ceased. Eilenburg was a walled city where refugees sought protection. Thousands of citizens and sojourners died of famine or plague; one of these was his wife. Much of the time, Rinckart was the only pastor, sometimes doing burial services for as many as seventy people in one day. Catholic Austrians sacked the city; so did Lutheran Swedes. Yet in the midst of all this, Rinckart was able to give thanks to the Lord.

Now Thank We All Our God In the heart of the hostilities, Rinckart penned one of the Church's enduring songs of faithfulness and thanksgiving. In our times of trouble, we can make it our own prayer: "Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, In whom His world rejoices; Who from our mother's arms Has blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love And still is ours today."

Rinckart didn't look at the losses he or others had suffered. Instead, he focused on God's divine presence each day and the promise of eternal bliss: "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 free us from all harm In this world and the next."

In the midst of death and destruction, Rinckart focused on the God of grace who faithfully keeps His promises. With unbridled joy, he bids us join the choir: "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."

Lection

Deuteronomy 8:1-10
Psalm 67 (antiphon v. 7)
Philippians 4:6-20 or 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Luke 17:11-19

Collect

Almighty God, Your mercies are new every morning and You graciously provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may acknowledge Your goodness, give thanks for Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience all our days; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Paul Gerhardt was another hymn writer who experienced great sorrow yet boldly and joyfully confessed his Savior. We certainly must number Oh, Lord, I Sing with Lips and Heart among Christendom's greatest songs of thankfulness. Another classic song of thanksgiving is Praise, Oh, Praise Our God and King by John Milton.

Scripture quoted from the English Standard Version (ESV).

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