One of the great old hymns of thanksgiving was written by a Lutheran pastor named Martin Rinkart in 1636. It was Nun danket alle Gott, which in English became Now Thank We All Our God. Rinkart served a church in the walled city of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years’ War. The Swedish army surrounded the city, and famine and plague were rampant. There was a tremendous strain on the pastors who had to conduct dozens of funerals daily. Finally, the pastors, too, died of the plague, until Rinkart was the only one left. He conducted 50 funerals a day. He performed more than 4000 funerals in that year, including that of his wife. It was in this context that the hymn was written:
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!
It is a testimony to his faith that, after such misery, he was able to write a song of abiding trust and gratitude toward God.
Gratitude affirms our faith. Being thankful to God helps us to see our blessings through our problems, and keeps us connected to the Lord who is the source of every good thing.
We see this throughout the Bible, but especially in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. There we read about those who have decided to say NO to God: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…” (Rom. 1:21). You see, not giving thanks is a characteristic of those who decide to ignore the God who made them. Ingratitude is a mark of the faithless.
By sharp contrast, throughout the Bible we are told that God’s people are to be known for their thankful hearts. In Psalm 107, there is a recurring theme that believers are to thank God. “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love” (vs 8). Over and over again, the Psalm says, “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love.” Why? Because thanksgiving is expected of God’s people. If nothing else you can always be grateful to God for his steadfast love, which is always directed toward his own. In Luke 17 our Lord Jesus heals 10 lepers and only one comes back to say thank you. Jesus said, “Where are the other nine? Why has only one returned to give thanks to God?” Thanksgiving is something we need to do in our relationship with God and with each other.
In the New Testament letters, almost every one of them contains expressions of Paul’s gratitude for the church. Here’s one example:
Philippians 1:3-5 (NLT) – 3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.
Gratitude to God and others. It’s a good combination.
This year, I am deeply grateful to God for my church family.
I’m thankful for our leadership team. This year, your generous Church Council granted me a 3 month Sabbatical. During this time, Leanna and I traversed the winding path of the apostle Paul. It was unforgettable.
I’m appreciative of our pastoral staff. They are your partners in spreading the Good News about Jesus. They are faithful servants, seeking to make a difference in this world in the name of Jesus.
I’m grateful for the many volunteers who serve God with gladness, often behind the scenes. Crosswalkers are generous with their time and talents. The king of all volunteers is John Strole, who directs our congregational care ministry and head up our ministry to seniors. His passion for service is a blessing to many. Our Financial Operations team is led by Karen Kenfield and Dave Stokes. Their dedicated service has significantly upgraded our entire financial system. Now that I’ve started to name names I’m in trouble, because I will overlook some of our very dedicated servants. Let me just say a brief word of appreciation to all our highly committed musicians and singers who lead us in the worship of God each week. Our ushers and greeters are doing a fantastic job of making all our members and guests feel welcomed, appreciated and even loved. The Duncan family leads our ministry to the Refuge. I could go on and on but I have to stop somewhere, so I’m just giving a major shout out of thanks to all who serve the Lord gladly at Crosswalk!
Crosswalkers are not only generous with the time and talents, but with their treasures as well. We are a generous congregation. Today I’ve been fielding calls from missionaries who are so grateful for our partnership with them in spreading the Good News. Our congregation is making a difference all over the world. Here are just a few of the countries we are impacting with the Good News of Jesus: Bhutan, Nepal, India, Iran, Liberia, Paraguay, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic. Thank you, Crosswalk, for your generosity to all the home base and international ministries we support!
A thankful heart is a generous heart. Thank you Crosswalkers!
With deep appreciation,