"Thanks Be to God!"
Back in the 1990s, when UPC was a young church, the movement in evangelical Christianity was, for the most part, away from ancient tradition and toward "contemporary" expressions of worship and faith. It was the heyday of the "seeker church" modeled after Bill Hybels' Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. I was very much a part of this movement. I was happy to see church become more culturally relevant, hymns be sung to new arrangements, and musical gifts broadened beyond choir and organ to include a variety of musical instruments and styles. We are a better faith community today because of the winds of change that blew through the American church at the end of the 20th century.
But the pendulum is swinging back the other way in many evangelical circles, and I'm glad. People young and old are asking that we bring back the baby that was thrown out with the bath water. Like many of you, I like the old hymns and don't want them to become extinct. I also like some of the worship traditions that have survived through the ages. In fact, I'd like UPC to resurrect one of them and make it a standard part of our worship services.
I'm talking about the corporate response that follows the reading of the Scriptures prior to my sermon. After the text is read, the reader should say, "The Word of the Lord." Then the congregation should respond in unison, "Thanks be to God!"
That's it. Short and sweet. Yet I see great significance in such a simple dialogue. First, it acknowledges that the Bible is not just another book. It's the Word of the Lord. It is God speaking to his people. Then, responding with a resounding "Thanks be to God!" is our way of expressing to God our gratitude for his inspired Word.
I know it will take us a while to make this dialogue a habit. But let's give it a whirl. There is great value in raising our voices together in worship rather than being passive observers. And there is also great value in joining with the multitude of believers throughout history to express thanks to God that he has spoken in the pages of his Word.
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