This Thanksgiving Day I have a particular thing for which to give the Lord thanks.
We decided to try to find a worship service to attend, either Wednesday night or Thursday morning, and discovered a Christian Reformed congregation just 30 minutes away that was holding an actual, increasingly rare, Thursday morning Thanksgiving service. (As an aside, I’m now sitting down to a juicy turkey, at 1pm, in a house with no time bake oven – this is do-able, people!)
On the way I told the kids I wasn’t sure what to expect. My wife was raised in the CRC, and while we are thankful for their heritage, plenty of liberalism has creeped in lately. I was hoping for a traditional service with hymns, confession of sin and an expository sermon, but that was a long shot. More likely we’d get an open mic time and songs we didn’t know.
The long shot came through, and I was pleasantly surprised and blessed by the Lord. Not only was the service reverent and edifying, but the people were warm and friendly, the music was a discrete blend of hymns and the best thanksgiving choruses, the pastor referred to my seminary alma mater, and the sermon was Christ-exalting and edifying. Instead of taking an offering they had a card to write a few things you were thankful for, and come up and put them in the offering plate. My kids took part from the heart and with no prompting. The church is almost done preaching through the Heidelberg Catechism in a year, and they hold a weekly evening service.
Over the last year one thing the Lord has shown me is how easily discouraged I can get. The message this morning was on Psalm 13 and seemed tailor-made for me. In a time of crying out, “How long, O Lord?” He intervened this morning, feeding, comforting, and strengthening my spirit. I have often felt this receiving the ministry of the Word while sitting in the pew in my own church, too, but it just seemed especially strong on this holiday, when it was less expected.
So, I am thankful to know of another faithful congregation near me, its connections familiar from my childhood and professional education, and to be fed by them on this Thanksgiving Day.
One other thing I noticed was the music. With just a piano player, one song leader, and a screen, ordinary people faithfully praised their God. It struck me how the Christian music industry out of Nashville has (probably inadvertently) grossly distorted the normal church-goer’s expectations of what to expect from church music. If believers (or church musicians?) can just set aside their radio and concert experience, expecting a level of professional that ordinary people can’t meet; or their nostalgia of music from their childhood, or their pet peeves against screens - then when we come before God in worship one more obstacle to pure worship would fall. I experienced that this morning. Of course, it didn’t hurt for me that the old blue Psalter was in the pew, though we didn’t use it.
I could be all upset about how they don’t share some of my theological distinctives, and prideful about how we’re the only church in the area to do and believe x, leading me to dismiss and ignore such a church. But that would not be an appropriate act of thanksgiving to God on this day. So, thank You, Lord, for your faithful remnant in every city and nation, who look in faith to Your Son Jesus Christ.
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4 Lest my enemy say,
“I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.