I love the songs and hymns we sang when I was growing up….they create a tapestry that weaves through my history and wraps itself around me like the warmest, softest blanket. My mom always liked music and sang to us, my older sister Dana taught me those she learned at school. When I went to church and school it continued. I learned words and tunes without even realizing I was doing it. I sang, loudly and with abandon.
It’s interesting now to hear a tune and start to sing along and have the lyrics surprise me. Sometimes they make me laugh….sometimes shocked laughter. (Sort of like watching cartoons from my childhood….how did I miss all of that?) But some of these songs, the hymns, make me pause….and think. I’ve had a few Thanksgiving songs in my head this morning.
“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!”
-Theodore Baker, 1894
“We Gather Together”…who knew? It’s not a wimpy sweet song after all. It talks about God, the chastener and hastener so we know his will. We tend to glide right over that part, in the sweetness of the melody. (Don’t know about you, but there has been a bit of chastening and hastening in my past and I don’t always like it. Especially when done to mold my will.) The God who stops the oppressive wicked ones. That stands beside us to guide us. That defends us. That doesn’t forget us. Powerful words, not to be taken lightly. A God who is strong….who expects something from us, doesn’t expect us to live life passively, without thought or action. Who serves not just Americans but our world. Regardless of the oppression or circumstances, it is God who makes any of us free. And that is what God ultimately fights for….the freedom of his people. Not their bondage.
“Now Thank We All Our God”. It reminds us of the God who is the giver of our bounty. Not the paper towels, though you could say that the fact we take paper towels for granted is a part of it. The God of provision. The God of miracles. The God who answers our questions and directs our paths. The God who remains the same, though if we’re keeping a good eye on his work, the one from whom we discover different dimensions all of the time. While God never changes, we, his people should be forever changing. If God is the same to you this Thanksgiving as he was last, you have wasted a year.
“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.
- 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 guard us through all ills in this world, till 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 Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.”
- -Martin Rinkart, 1636
On this Thanksgiving Day, may you notice your cornucopia is overflowing….be thankful for it and not spend your time looking to see how the cornucopia of your neighbor compares. May you pause and reflect and be thankful for your blessings, the things you have, and not give a thought to those things you don’t. Because no matter your circumstances, there’s something good going on right in front of you. You may need to squint, you may need to open your eyes wider, but if you do you’ll find reason to be awed. Let that spirit of awe come inside of you and change you and make you thankful and useful. You have reason to celebrate…..happy Thanksgiving!
“Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son
And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich”
Because of what the Lord has done for us