I know that we are all feeling exhausted and scared as we continue to navigate through the painful realities of this year in the midst of the surging COVID pandemic, all the economic repercussions that make people’s lives less certain, cries for racial justice in our streets, and a divisive election season that just does not seem to want to end. As we enter the winter months, beleaguered and COVID-fatigued, with the prospect of more “Zoom and Doom,” can we in the midst of all this find something to be thankful for?
One of my favorite hymns for this time a year is by Martin Rinkart: “Now Thank We All Our God.” The power of this song, for me, is the story behind it. Rinkart was an ordained Lutheran minister in the 17th century. At the age of thirty-one he was called to be the pastor in his native town of Eilenberg. He arrived just as the Thirty Years’ War began. As a walled city, Eilenberg became a refuge for political and military fugitives and through the years, waves of pestilence and famine swept through the city. The Rinkart home served as a sanctuary for the afflicted, even though he had difficulty providing food and clothing for his own family. The plague of 1637 was particularly severe. As it surged, Rinkart was the only remaining minister in the city, often conducting as many as forty funeral services a day, including his wife’s. And yet in the middle of all that, he composed one of the most beloved Thanksgiving hymns to date: “Now thank we all our God; with hearts and hands and voices; who wondrous things hath done; in whom this world rejoices. Who from our mother’s arms, has blessed us on our way, with countless gifts of love and still is ours today.”
In this season of Thanksgiving, with all that is happening in our communities and world today, my prayer is that you may find the grace and strength to sing your deepest thanks to God. We do have much to be thankful for as a church as well. This coming year will be our 150th year as a congregation. Our church is planning huge things for 2021: a year where we will “Remember our Past & Reshape our Future.” Perhaps you can take a few moments over this holiday weekend to savor the sacred memories of your past (your faith journey and those who helped form it in you) and let that help you reimagine and reshape your future (your hope in living out God’s desire for you).
Have a Happy, Safe, and Meaningful Thanksgiving,
I preached on Jesus’ parable of the “Talents” this past Sunday (Matthew 25:14-30). This is that famous story where “the Master” leaves town, but before he does, he gives over his “talents” (or large amounts of money) to three of his servants. One gets five talents, another gets two talents and the third gets one talent. After a long time, the master returns and inquiries about his talents that he entrusted to the servants. The first two have doubled their talents while the third servant had dug a hole and buried his talent to keep it safe and returned it back to the master. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
Jesus is telling this story during his own high risk venture in the week leading up to his arrest, torture and execution. You see, he is the master of the story and is about to “leave”. He is imparting to his disciples his “talents” of a powerful and radical message of love and compassion, forgiveness and justice. The problem with the third servant’s response is that he didn’t share, invest, or take any risks with the talent he was given. Faith is a risk taking venture. He didn’t do that, he buried it similar to their burial of Jesus on that Friday.
The greatest risk, as it turns out in the parable and in the life of faith, is to not risk anything at all! What if the first two servants had lost their talents? Of course, Jesus doesn’t tell the story this way, but even if it was, I can’t imagine that the master would be angry with them – he might have even applauded their efforts. This parable is not about a prosperity gospel where God blesses people with wealth, but about what Jesus hopes and expects from his followers after he is gone from this world. He doesn’t want us to play it safe. He wants us to get out there and use the gifts we have already been given to invest in the reign of God in our world. Notice, we don’t know how the first two servants doubled their talents, but that is also instructive because there is no one way to participate in the Kingdom of God, but as many ways as there are people. We are freed to use our gifts and collaborate with the master to invest faithfully. Faith is a high risk venture, but incredibly liberating. This parable is inviting us to the high-risk adventure of being a servant of Christ. Let’s invest in God, together!
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)