Now thank we all our God is one of my favorite hymns. It became even more of one when I learned the story of its composition. Its author was the pastor of a Lutheran congregation in the 17th century that experienced not only religious warfare, but also the plague. The pastor lost all of his family members in the plague and many of his congregation, and when it ended rather than preaching in bitterness or sorrow he wrote this hymn.
I have had a lot of time while I was away to think about what it means to give thanks when life is hard. Some of you know that while I was away a dear friend and music director in my previous parish died of a heart attack in his sleep at 58. I was filled with sadness and still am, and I tried while I was away to direct that sadness in ways that would help me appreciate life more and in this present moment. In my walks through the beautiful countryside of the Canadian Maritime Provinces I saw more than my share of natural wonders in the autumn colors and the whales that repeatedly breached the waters of the Saint Lawrence River. In those remarkable cities of Halifax, Montreal and Quebec City I saw a celebration of diversity. Rather than being afraid of differences among the various people who have emigrated to Canada, or trying to erase them, Canadians take a great deal of pride and joy in their diversity that is cultural, racial, ethnic and linguistic. What a contrast it was to the nightly news reports about the United States. It helped me to see that the Canadians I met, even when times are difficult, are at heart a very thankful people because of how they respond to life with affirmation and hope.
I have come home thanking God, even amid a new home that is not yet finished, glitches that no one could have anticipated and that only a big rain would show, like a leaky roof! I have come home thanking God for the remarkable leadership that you show again and again, for Joe, Kim, Walt and John Walker a staff who undertook two huge Sundays with joy and gladness, for continuing healing for John Repulski and others, for the way you all celebrate life, here and now. I have so much for which to be thankful. When I am thankful my heart changes to one that is more open to what life is each day and how I am blessed even by what is challenging and sad. Being thankful fills me with hope. That's not a slogan. That's a fact.
--Mary Sulerud, Interim Rector