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Harvest Festival 2006

Christian and Susannah – pastors from Ransdorf, just outside Berlin in Germany have been staying with us this weekend. And at breakafast yesterday we spoke about about their “Harvest Festival” in Germany

And the German word for “Harvest Festival” is “Erntedankfest” which literally translates as Harvest Thankssgiving Festival.

And we have lost the word “thankfulness” from the title of our Harvest Festival. And I am reminded that in all things we are called to be thankful.

Harvest Festival is – as our OT reading reminded us – a good 3-4,000 years old. We stand in a long tradition. In Moses’ day it was called the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of the Ingathering.

Our forefathers were not so much thankful FOR something as they were thankful IN something.

When they had a lot, or when they had a little they were thankful. It was just a way of thinking!

At the time of festivals or in famine they were thankful. In joy or in misery they were thankful.

There is a big difference between being thankful FOR things and being thankful IN all things.

The hymn "Now Thank We All Our God" was written in 1637 by Martin Rinkart (1586-1649).

Rinkart was a Lutheran minister, was in Eilenburg, Saxony, during the Thirty Years’ War.

The walled city of Eilenburg saw a steady stream of refugees pour through its gates and soon the Swedish army surrounded the city.

Famine and plague soon broke out.

It is said that in 1637 when Rinkart wrote his hymn, he buried 4480 people in Eilenburg, including his wife and his children, who had died of the plague

The death toll placed a tremendous strain on the pastors who had to conduct dozens of funerals daily.

Finally, one after the other of the pastors succumbed to the plague, until Rinkart was the only one left—doing 50 funerals a day.

When the Swedes demanded a huge ransom, Rinkart left the safety of the walls to plead for mercy.

The Swedish commander, impressed by his faith and courage, lowered his demands.

It is a testament to his faith that, during such misery, he was able to write a hymn of abiding trust and gratitude toward God.

Let me read the words to you:

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.

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!

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 Heaven adore;

For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

The Christian faith affirms that in the midst of everything--in death, in loss, in hardship--we are to be thankful to.Lo

And although we no longer live in such an agrarian society as Rinkart – and indeed as Jesus lived, we have much to thank God for.

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