Martin Rinkart lived through horrific times in Europe.
Three decades of war and slaughter, of religious hatred and conflict, of famine and plague, from 1618 to 1648, left Europe shattered and exhausted.
Rinkart himself had been pastor in the Saxony city of Eilenburg that was besieged by the invading Swedish army. Fighting and disease wiped out much of the population, pastors were no more immune to sickness and death than anyone else and their numbers were so reduced that at the darkest moment Rinkart was taking fifty funerals a day.
Rinkart left the city to plea for terms with the Swedish forces and they were so impressed by his integrity that they treated the city with greater mercy.
Rinkart was not to live to see much better times, he died in 1649; the year after the Peace of Westphalia marked the end of Europe fighting itself to a standstill, but he led a great celebration amongst the ruins in 1649, for which he wrote a hymn, ‘Nun danket alle Gott’, sung in English as ‘Now thank we all our God’.
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 blessed 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.
Standing in a half full church at harvest festival yesterday, in one of the richest areas of one of the richest countries of the world, I thought about Martin Rinkart.What would Rinkart have made of the people of this parish?
In the midst of death and desolation, Rinkart was able to raise a great song of thanksgiving.In the midst of abundance and affluence, the only sound is that of yet another Mercedes Benz going down our avenue