In addition to taking thousands of lives across the world, COVID-19, has changed the way we interact with each other. Social distancing has become the norm as we hunker in our homes to avoid contact with others who may be infected. We can’t go to work, except for jobs deemed essential. Sports of all kinds are cancelled. Ditto for enjoying a meal with family and friends in a restaurant. Even beaches are closed during spring break!
Economic losses are staggering. Businesses are closing right and left. The uncertainties of employment invoke wide-spread fear in many over payment of bills for rent and food. No one is sure how long these conditions may last or if they may get worse before improving.
Jeremiah 6: 14
In Jeremiah 6: 14, the prophet laments, “’Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”
Jeremiah, as depicted by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, created 1508-1512.
Churches Suspend Gatherings
How can we find peace when there is no peace? In tough times, believers historically seek solace in churches. But this pandemic has caused churches to suspend all gatherings, even to the point of cancelling Easter services. This is perhaps, the only time in Christian history this has happened. In times of extreme political persecution, Christians find a way to gather “underground,” as in the catacombs of Rome.
Almost four centuries ago, in Eilenburg, Germany, Lutheran pastor Martin Rinkart gathered his family for a meal. As he looked out the window of his dwelling, he noticed carts carrying away victims of the plague. This dreaded scourge took the lives of 40% of the citizens of Eilenburg, including the pastors of the three other churches. Fear and despair were everywhere.
But Martin Rinkart did not give in to fear or despair. Somehow, he found peace when there is no peace. Perhaps he remembered the following verses.
Philippians 4: 5b-7
"The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." –Philippians 4:5b-7
Sudden Inspiration and Thankfulness
Suddenly, Martin Rinkart was inspired to write what has become one of the greatest hymns of thanksgiving. English scholar Catherine Winkworth translated it into English in the 19th century. “Now Thank We All Our God” continues to inspire and remind us that God is near in the most difficult of times. A spirit of thankfulness—perhaps the key to finding peace when there is no peace.
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Click below for The Hymn of the Week Radio Show Episode of Now Thank We All Our God