Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

I attended the Sunday morning service at First United Methodist Church in Lindale a few short weeks ago. Be warned: Methodists are very proud of their eleven o'clock services and I was appropriately dressed in slacks (not a common occurance for me anymore as I now wear jeans to each church service I go to on Saturday nights), and I was seated modestly on the front row with my extended family as any eleven o'clock going granddaughter should be.

I have been attending a contemporary service for the last five or so years of my life, but I am always happy to attend the more traditional service for the sake of my parents or in this case, my grandparents, or occasionally Aunt Ida who invites me to her church in Richardson. Because of my upbringing, I do have a particular respect and reverence for these traditional environments, but I was struck particularly on this Sunday by the anthem. The choir included my grandparents, Yeah and O'boy (Don't ask. That is another blog for another day...), and a remaining 30 or so of every other 70+ person in the congregation with the ability (on a good day) to match pitch.

I expected because of my experience in these environments and my well trained musical ears to receive a tonality of geriatric indifference and was met with something entirely different.

The anthem was an arrangement of Great Is Thy Faithfulness. It was simple and straightforward, with piano accompaniment and lovely harmonies. However, I was overwhelmed as I watched the faces of these men and women singing lovingly of the Lord who has been forever with them and forever faithful.

As I watched them I saw grandmas and grandpas, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. As I looked deeper I saw my own grandparents and thought of each of their stories and began to see much more being expressed from the heart of this song. I saw friends, party planners, practical jokers, listeners, teachers, comfortors, veterans, widows and widowers. But thankfully, more than anything else, I saw worshippers. I saw people, His People, who could sing the text with gratitude and love for Him.

With each new verse, it was obvious that the song had been, whether they knew it or not, a faithful creed of their hearts toward him for the duration of their long lives.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


I have often, as a young person, assumed that my generation is the most enlightened or the most faithful, and then I realize that I don't yet have near as much to be thankful for. These men and women have seen more war, more tragedy, more success, more failure, more joy, and more love than I have ever seen. And they, by the gift of music, attributed all of this to the Lord. I was moved to tears and grateful for their ministry and message. I thank the Lord for keeping me humble in my opinion of music when he can quite obviously use anything to the praise of His Name.