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Martin Rinkart (1586-1649) was a Lutheran pastor in the village of Eilenberg, Saxony, Germany. Shortly after he had begun his pastoral work he faced a challenge of a life time. The Thirty Years' War was raging through Germany. The situation is described in the book (page 17) Then Sings My Soul 150 of the Word's Greatest Hymn Stories by Robert Morgan: "Floods of refugees streamed into the walled city of Eilenberg. It was the most desperate of times. The Swedish army encompassed the city gates, and inside the wall there was nothing but plague, famine, and fear. Eight hundred homes were destroyed and people began dying in increasing numbers. There was a tremendous strain on the pastors, who expended all their strength in preaching the gospel, caring for the sick and dying, and burying the dead. One after another, the pastors themselves took ill and perished until at last only Martin Rinkart was left. Some days he conducted as many as fifty funerals." As the story continues it was Martin Rinckart who negotiated with the Swedes and the hostilities came to an end. It was in the midst of all of this that Martin Rinckart wrote the hymn, Now Thank We All Our God.

Our situation may not be that desperate, however it goes without saying that in 2020 we have faced many challenges. It also holds true that God has not left us. God did not leave us even when we by our sin and rebellion turned away from Him. It was during those dark times that God sent His Son, Jesus, to seek us out and do more than negotiate a temporary peace. Jesus brings to us an unending peace with God. He died upon the cross for our sins. He conquered this world and even death as His resurrection bears witness. Furthermore, our Lord continues to bless us with His Word and His Sacraments. He has not left us or forsaken us. In Romans 8:37-39God promises us that nothing "in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

With such great promises and such a loving Lord, it is only right and proper that we give God thanks. Thanksgiving is not just about eating Turkey or gathering with family, but it is about thanking God. Such thanksgiving is good for the soul. Instead of focusing on all the bad news like the world and our sinful self often leads us to do, giving thanks enables us to look at what is good and how God is blessing us.

This year we are not canceling our giving thanks to God. In fact, this year it is all God the more essential that we give thanks to the Lord for the many blessings He has given to us. Such a thanksgiving toward God is not limited to just one day or one service. Rather every Sunday is a day of Thanksgiving, especially as it remembers the Resurrection of our Lord, as His risen body proclaims the atoning sacrifice that redeems our life. Every time we gather together is a Thanksgiving as the Lord blesses us with His Word and His Sacraments. Really every day is a Thanksgiving as God continues to provide for us, be with us, and care for us even as our sinful nature and this broken world rages against us.

Therefore, just as Martin Rinckart did when he wrote the hymn, Now Thank We All Our God, let us consider Thanksgiving in the midst of a pandemic. Our Thanksgiving service this year will take place on Tuesday, November 24, at 7:00 pm. It is also my intention to record this service and post it the next day on our YouTube channel. In the midst of our trials and tribulations by God's grace may we all now thank our God.

Pastor Schoenfeld