A Thanksgiving Message from Peter Holmes

We are told that Thanksgiving this year is going to be different.
Thanksgiving in many families is a homecoming with three or four generations of the extended family from near and far feasting not only on a delicious meal with all the trimmings, but above all on each other's company. On Thanksgiving Day the problems of the world are set aside as we offer our gratitude to God for all that is good.

However, due to rising Covid-19 numbers it is just not going to be the same this year. The border is still closed and the bubble is back. The focus for some will be on the empty chair of the loved one who passed away this year without a proper farewell. Others have lost significant income and can't get beyond the worry. Many too will be feeling very lonely this Thanksgiving being unable to get home, or living behind the walls of a nursing home. How do we suspend our thoughts about the problems of the world when those troubles are screaming in all the headlines?

Thanksgiving is definitely going to be different this year, but why not make it better than ever? To do that we can take a page out of Martin Rinkart's book. Rinkart was a Lutheran pastor called to serve the church in his hometown of Eilenberg, Germany in 1617. A year after his arrival at the church, the brutal Thirty Years War broke out. He stayed at the church until the war's end, but during those thirty years, Eilenberg was devastated by three cruel invading armies. In 1637, with the war still raging, the bubonic plague attacked Rinkart's town and claimed 40,000 lives.

At the peak of the pandemic Rinkart was the only pastor left in town and he was being called on to conduct forty to fifty funerals a day. And following the plague, as was often the case, came a famine. Yet through it all Rinkart's faith and witness only grew stronger and though there was probably no national day of thanksgiving, gratitude sang out from his heart. In the midst of all the strife, pestilence and famine, Rinkart wrote perhaps the most well-loved Thanksgiving hymn in the world, "Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done..." In that hymn he focussed on the many blessings of God, but also prayed those powerful words in verse two, "And keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed, and free us from all ills in this world and the next." Though surrounded by the ills of the world, Rinkart chose to keep the song of gratitude and faith alive in his heart. And his life itself reflected the love of Christ as this pastor daily visited the sick and made great sacrifice to feed the hungry.

The challenges we face today pale in comparison to what Rinkart and his church were up against, but the opportunity to care for the sick, feed the hungry and keep the song of thanksgiving and faith alive in our hearts is no less important. As I reflect on this challenging year I can't help but give thanks to all of you for your prayerful support of me and your generosity to the church as we continue to offer ministry and service in the name of Christ in the heart of our city. We give and we serve in gratitude for what Rinkart referred to as "God's countless gifts" of love that still are ours today. Indeed they are. Let's make this Thanksgiving the best ever!

Happy Thanksgiving,
The Rev. Dr. J. Peter Holmes

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