1. Martin Rinkert was a minister in the little town of Eilenburg in Germany some 350 years ago. He was the son of a poor coppersmith, but somehow, he managed to work his way through an education. Finally, in the year 1617, he was offered the post of Archdeacon in his hometown parish. A year later, what has come to be known as the Thirty-Years-War broke out. His town was caught right in the middle.
In 1637, the massive plague that swept across the continent hit Eilenburg... people died at the rate of fifty a day and the man called upon to bury most of them was Martin Rinkert. In all, over 8,000 people died, including Martin’s own wife. His labors finally came to an end about 11 years later, just one year after the conclusion of the war. His ministry spanned 32 years, all but the first and the last overwhelmed by the great conflict that engulfed his town. It was tough for Martin Rinkert to be thankful. But he managed.
Listen to what he wrote:
Now thank we all our God
With heart and hands and voices;
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom his world rejoices.
2. In the midst of darkness Rinkert was able to write these words we will sing this morning. Rinkert knew what it meant to be truly thankful.
3. For thankfulness is not about what it is that we have been given. It is rather an attitude. An attitude of gratitude. An attitude that we as believers should especially be familiar with.
4. We have seen those who have received much but are not thankful. They have an attitude of ingratitude. They are like the nine lepers who received a great gift but do not even take the time to say thanks. The sad part is not that the failed to say thanks, but that they would go through life without realizing how blessed they really were.
5. In some parts of Mexico, there are hot springs and cold springs side by side. Great for washing clothes! Women bring them, boil in hot, rinse in cold. Tourist watching said to guide: "I’ll bet they’re pretty grateful to God for these springs." Guide: "No seÒor, there is much grumbling because He provides no soap!"
6. When I was a controller we used to get annual bonuses. The first year this happened, everyone was very thankful. Whether they got $500 or $10,000. The next year the bonuses were again given. They were appreciated but not as much as the year before. The third year was not as profitable. And so the bonuses were reduced about 20%. Some of the people were unhappy. They had expected more. They had counted on it. It wasnít fair. They had worked just as hard as the year before. It is amazing how this gift which was once unexpected, and on top of what they had agreed to work for became something they expected and felt they deserved.
7. I believe all tend to see things the same way. We live so richly in this land compared to others. But do we really appreciate all we have or is it something we expect.
8. In our Colossians passage, we are told to sing with gratitude in our hearts to God. There is an interesting thing I learned this week as I examined the meaning of the word charis, the Greek for gratitude. This word can also be translated as grace. The KJV says that we are to be singing with GRACE in our hearts.
9. Gratitude is an attitude of grace. It means that we can see Godís grace in all things. That we donít feel that He owes us. That we do not earn what we get. But rather that all we have is by the grace of God. That makes us truly thankful. And that makes us gracious to others as well. Those who are truly thankful usually are more giving and kinder to others.
10. Fulton Ousler, a famous author of many years ago, tells the story of his old Black nurse, Anna Marie Cecily Sophi Virginia Avalon Thessalonians.
She was present when his mother was born; she was there when Fulton Ousler was born. "I remember her," he says, "as she sat at the kitchen table in our house, the hard old brown hands folded across her starched apron, the glistening black eyes lifted to the white-washed ceiling, and the husky old whispering voice saying, `Much obliged, Lord, for my vittles.’ `Ann,’ I asked, `What’s a vittle?’ `It’s what you got to eat and drink, that’s vittles.’ `But you’d get your vittles whether you thanked the Lord or not.’ `Sure, but it makes everything taste better to be thankful.’
After the meal she thanked the Lord again and then said, `You know, it’s a funny thing about being thankful ... it’s a game an old preacher taught me to play. It’s looking for things to be thankful for. Many of them you pass right by ... unless you go looking for them ... Take this morning, I woke up and lay there wondering ... what I got to be thankful for now. And you know what, I couldn’t think of anything to thank him for. ... But then from the kitchen comes the most delicious smell that ever tickled my nose--coffee. Much obliged, Lord, for the coffee, and much obliged, too, for the smell of it.’
Years passed and Ousler grew up, left home, and learned some of the hard lessons of life. One day he was called to Anna’s bedside. She was dying. Ousler noticed her old hands were twisted with pain. He wondered what she had to be thankful for now. Just then she opened her eyes, looked at all the people around her bedside, closed her eyes again and said with a smile, "Much obliged, Lord, for such fine friends.’
11. May we see Godís grace in our lives. And be thankful for even the simple things. With hearts filled with gratitude.