October 2016 General Conference Messages on Joy and Gratitude
Many of us may still be on a spiritual high, having experienced an uplifting General Conference weekend just a few days ago. How wonderful it is to hear from our leaders – good men and women who care so deeply about the gospel and about us – and want us to succeed happily in our lives. We are very blessed.
A prevalent theme in the conference was joy and gratitude. President Monson spoke on “The Perfect Path to Happiness.” That perfect path is, of course, the gospel path. Following it will lead to happiness here in this life and in the life hereafter.
President Russell M. Nelson spoke on “Joy and Spiritual Survival.” He encouraged us to recognize the joy in our lives, no matter what our circumstances may be. There is always some joy to find when our focus is on God’s plan of salvation. “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives,” he said. Joy can be a powerful force in our lives.
Bishop Dean M. Davies reiterated that theme in his talk, “The Blessings of Worship,” as did President Henry B. Eyring in his talk, “Gratitude on the Sabbath Day.” President Eyring told us that the Sabbath Day allows us so many opportunities to be grateful and to serve others. As we serve, our gratitude increases.
History of NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD #95
Canadian Thanksgiving next weekend gives some of us another opportunity to consider our blessings and cultivate our attitude of gratitude. Our hymn of the week, NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD, is a very stately and moving hymn of thanks. Martin Rinkhart (1586-1649), the writer of this hymn text, would have agreed with President Nelson about finding joy and feeling gratitude even under the most trying conditions. This is what he did as a Lutheran minister in the city of Eilenburg, Saxony (Germany), during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). The Thirty Years War was a horrendous time for the German people, as you can imagine living through thirty straight years of war would be. Eilenberg in particular was hard-pressed to maintain its existence and the existence of its people. Because it was a walled city, a flood of refugees had poured through its gates seeking protection. Toward the latter part of the war, the Swedish army laid siege to the city so food was in very short supply and, coupled with so many extra people, the situation was dire in terms of disease and famine. All the pastors in the city except Martin Rinkhart had fled or died. He alone was left to perform up to 50 funerals a day, including that of his own wife. So what was there to be thankful for, you wonder?
Eventually, the Swedes outside the gates of Eilenburg (Germany) demanded a huge ransom. Martin Rinkhart left the safety of the city walls to plead for mercy. The Swedish commander, impressed by his faith and courage, lowered the demands and the period of suffering soon ended. Rinkhart wrote this hymn to celebrate the end of the Thirty Years War. It is a testament to his faith that he could write such a hymn of gratitude to God after what he had experienced. The first line tells us that we should thank God “with hearts and hands and voices” – in short, with everything we are and everything we can do. That is certainly what Martin Rinkhart did, and I’m sure he would agree with President Eyring on the point that service increases gratitude. Martin Rinkhart gave service in huge measure, and undoubtedly saw miracles and felt the hand of God many times during the suffering of the Thirty Years War. Like the one leper of ten (Luke 17:17), he remembered to say thank you.
Congregation Choir Arrangements of NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD
Our Congregation Choir arrangements add a beautiful, alternate accompaniment to the original SATB found in the hymnbook. This alternate accompaniment could be used with the SATB for a piano/organ duet accompaniment for the entire congregation or for a large choir. It could also be used alone as a more embellished accompaniment for a solo singer or group, or just to enjoy as a piano solo.
Listen to our arrangements below. You will first hear just the organ doing the introduction. The piano joins in on the first verse and then the countermelody (vocal in one; violin in the other) joins in for the second demonstration verse.
With Vocal Countermelody: PURCHASE HERE
With Violin Countermelody: PURCHASE HERE
Suggestions for Use of These Arrangements
Since there are only two verses, the countermelody, whether vocal or instrumental, could be used to add to the length of the hymn.
v. 1 – SATB voices with organ accompaniment
v. 2 – Countermelody (vocal or instrumental) with enhanced piano accompaniment
v. 2 again – SATB voices, Countermelody (vocal or instrumental) with enhanced piano and organ SATB
We have the magnificent example of Martin Rinkhart to show us that we can be grateful and find joy even in times of extreme distress. In NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD, he encourages us to have “ever joyful hearts” and to thank our God with “hearts and hands and voices.” Through word and deed, we can thank our God. Three hundred and sixty-eight years later, President Nelson and President Eyring clearly agree with Martin Rinkhart’s advice. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!