by Kathye Hamm
“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 mother’s arm, has blest us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”
(Now Thank We All Our God, ELW # 839)
When I was newly sober, it really bugged me when a person would begin their “share” by saying, “Hi, I’m ____, and I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic.” What did that person have to be grateful about? What did any of us in the room have to be grateful for? We were all a bunch of drunks who would never be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine in front of a blazing fire with our loved one, or share a cold one with a friend – ever. For the rest of our lives.
It’s not always easy being grateful. When I found out that our third child had congenital heart disease, the first words out of my mouth weren’t, “Thank you, God.”
- When I hear that another woman has been disrespected and degraded, I don’t say, “Thank you, God.”
- When I meet with a church that is struggling with conflict and anxiety over finances, my first prayer isn’t “Thank you, God.”
- When I read about the people in Santa Rosa, Napa and Sonoma who have lost their homes, I don’t say “Thank you, God.”
“Now Thank We All Our God” was written by a Lutheran pastor, Martin Rinkart in the 16th century. He wrote it after his wife died of the Plague – along with 4,000 other people. Since the other two pastors died, Martin sometimes presided over forty or fifty burial services in a week. How was he able to write about a wondrous God who gives us countless gifts of love? How was he able to do that? He lost his wife, he was abandoned by colleagues and he was living in a war-torn city. (Did I mention that The Thirty Years’ War was also going on during this time?)
I believe that this hymn is a prayer. It’s a prayer for God to fill us with joyful hearts and blessed peace – to be near us throughout our lives. To keep us in grace and give us wisdom when we are confused – to free us from harm in this life and the next.
Thankfully – it bothers me less now when someone opens their share in an AA meeting by saying they’re grateful. I still don’t begin my share time with that same phrase, but I do realize how much I have to be grateful for in my life. I also realize that no matter what happens in our lives, God finds a way to work through it, around it or sometimes with it. God is in the business of creating wonderful new things out of chaos – sometimes out of the mess of our lives!
God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us, but we do trust and believe that God’s love permeates every aspect of our lives. However twisted or despairing our path through life may seem to us, we believe God will not abandon us.
“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 all in grace, and guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all harm in this world and the next.”
August 14, 2018
August 08, 2018