Today’s hymn, not set for any particular season, is “Thanks be to God whose love has gathered us today”, with both words and music by Stephen Dean. The theme throughout verses and chorus is simply thanking God, and it is a really uplifting hymn to sing, fulfilling St Paul’s exhortation to “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
At the start and end, thanksgiving is for the things you might expect: God’s love, help and guidance, life and light, protection, creation, and the gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. That reminds me of the now rarely used “prayer of general thanksgiving” in the Book of Common Prayer, which in full reads “Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we shew forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.”
Where this hymn departs from the expected range is in the middle – from the last line of verse 2 to the beginning of verse 4. Here, the text is realistic about the fact that our lives are often in a mess and we often fall away from God. God is thanked in these lines for “keeping in mind us who forget him”, “knowing our secret joys and fears”, always hearing when we call on him, and being the one who “never turns his face away, heals and pardons all who stray.” Perhaps God deserves our thanks for that compassionate, empathetic love more than anything.