Friday, November 26, 2010

Gathering to Give Thanks

Last year at this time, at the end of Monday Morning Bible Study, we sang several Thanksgiving hymns in preparation for heading out, away from each other and into the Thanksgiving business. And while I loved all the hymns we sang, there is one that remains a constant favorite:

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Written in the 1500s as the Dutch came out from under Spanish rule, it went from being a Dutch patriotic song to being a Thanksgiving song over the course of the next three hundred years. It continues to speak to people who have been oppressed or who have struggled. And, in one way or another, that applies to most of us.

Sometimes sermons or Christian music urges us to be active and to never slow down, as if it's all up to us and that God will forsake us if we let up for even a second. This old hymn tells the truth - it is God who ordains and maintains. The battle was won from the beginning, with the knowledge on God's part that we'd be fighting along side Him.

Having lived through the last couple of months of change and sorrow, I've taken comfort from the knowledge that this is not up to me. That I'm just part of a larger picture painted by God. And so when it came time to give thanks before dinner, at a time when we were missing those who'd gone ahead and grateful for those who hadn't, I was overwhelmingly thankful to belong to a God who forgets not His own.

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