Week 3: Addressing Others


Now Thank We All Our God

Text: Martin Rinkart (1586–1649), 1636

Tune: Johann Crüger (1598–1662), 1647

  1. It’s interesting to think that this hymn most often associated with times of plenty has its roots in war and famine. What lessons can we learn from the text about how to give thanks in bad times as well as good times?
    • Verses 1 & 2 are loosely based on scripture from the apocrypha, part of the Lutheran bible: Ecclesiasticus (or “Sirach”) 50:22-24
      • Verse 1 gives thanks for God’s past works
      • Verse 2 prays for God’s future help
    • Intended for use prior to mealtime (originally titled “Tisch-Gebetlein”, “a little table prayer”)
      • This is a regular time each day, to give thanks consistently regardless of what life is like
    • Although addressed to the church community (“now thank we”), the focus is on God throughout
      • Thanks are given for God’s spiritual blessings, not necessarily physical ones (his presence, comfort, guidance)
      • These are “gifts of love” – does that mean the gifts are given in love, or that love itself is the gift?
    • Similarly to “All Praise to Thee” from last class, the final verse is a doxology
      • In this case, the text is a fairly straightforward translation of the “Gloria Patri” from the Latin mass

The Church of Christ in Every Age

Text: Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000), 1969

Tune: William Knapp (1698–1768), 1738

  1. Green’s text is not shy about making his point that Christ’s church needs to be an active church. At the same time, there are a number of phrases that need closer inspection to fully comprehend. What do you understand the following phrases to mean?
    • (Verse 1): “test its heritage”
      • Our faith is put to the test when we go out into the world
      • This doesn’t mean testing whether or not to throw out our heritage
        • Though some may be inclined to do so, we must be “spirit-led”, not cater to every whim of society
        • At the same time, our testing also requires flexibility to meet the changing needs of the world
    • (Verse 1): “keep on rising from the dead”
      • Refer to Christ’s ongoing sanctification – although we are saved, we continue to “die” with sin and need constant repentance (Romans 8:6)
      • As in Luke 9:23, we must “take up our cross daily” to follow Jesus
    • (Verse 2): “never live before they die”
      • The implication here is that life on the street is hardly life at all
      • The imagery is one of a life cut off short – a flower withered before it can bloom
      • They may also never live spiritually, if we have not shared the Good News
    • (Verse 4): “fever in our blood”
      • Christ here is the “great physician” who can cure the sickness of sin
      • Why “fever” specifically? It’s a self-consuming problem – high fevers are our bodies’ natural reaction to sickness, but that natural reaction can end up damaging the body itself; much as our natural tendency to sin can corrupt and destroy ourselves

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Text: Henry Alford (1810–1871), 1844

Tune: George Job Elvey (1816–1893), 1856

  1. At first glance, this seems to be a fairly standard hymn of thanks to God, but actually the text is aimed at teaching as well as praise. What is Alford’s main lesson here that he wants us to learn?

    • Alford connects our earthly harvest with God’s work “harvesting” his Kingdom
    • Verse 2 quotes from Mark 4:28: “first the blade, and then the ear / then the full corn shall appear”
      • God has sown the seeds of his word here - but is it us who grow the corn, or Him?
        • We have the “firstfruits” of the Spirit (Romans 8:23) working among us
      • This is also reminder that our “fruits” should be ones of “praise to yield”
        • Recall James 1:17-18; we are modeling the “first fruits” of God’s new creation
        • We yield our fruits to God because the field is His, the first fruits being the finest and best
    • The “tares” in verses 2 and 3 are weeds, referencing Matthew 13:24-30
      • Maybe a little scary, this reminds us that the wicked and impure will be cast aside at the end of days
  2. The culmination of the hymn is found in the last verse, which mirrors the opening verse but recasts it in the light of Christ’s second coming. In what way is our own thankfulness related to the return of Christ?

    • God has already given us the “first fruits” of his salvation in Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23)
      • We’re thankful because of the promise of more to come (the resurrection of us all in the final harvest)