Those of you who are Lutheran--and even some of you who wear another denominational label--will probably have perceived that the theme of this conference is the second line of Martin Rinkhart's famous hymn, "Now thank we all our God." This hymn was written at a time which deserves more than passing notice. The date is 1636, that is, right in the middle of the Thirty Years War. Rinkhart was pastor in his home town of Eilenberg, Saxony, which for some reason--possibly because it was a walled city--became a place of refuge for people fleeing from the horrors of war. But it became a place of death for many of them, since, having found protection behind the walls, they were attacked by an even worse disaster: the plague. In the year following the composition of this hymn eight thousand people are said to have died in Eilenberg, and Rinkhart buried four thousand of them.
Lindemann, Herbert, "With Hearts and Hands and Voices: Sermon at the Holy Eucharist" (1989). Institute of Liturgical Studies Occasional Papers. 41.