When we gather together to worship, something wonderful is happening in us. While opening the Scriptures, singing, praying, and giving our offerings, a formation is underway: God is performing the slow and steady work of making us a thankful people.
Is your worship of God marked with open-eyed thankfulness?
Various churches offer thanksgiving during its services in various ways. Some show thanks through songs of praise. More liturgical churches will have a time of thanksgiving (spoken or sung) following an assurance of pardon. Still others sing the Doxology together as a moment of collective thanksgiving.
Whatever the practice of your local church, thanksgiving likely serves as a significant part of our gathered worship, and we should take fresh notice, and not simply go through the motions.
Kindling for Our Hearts
Have you ever walked into a church gathering when your heart is lethargic or your mind is foggy? We all have. In these moments, we have the opportunity to acknowledge our condition, admit the inadequacy of what we are thinking or feeling, and choose still to worship our Maker along with his people.
We are a people plagued with gospel-amnesia, and we often forget the riches we have been given in Christ. It is in the remembering of God’s great works that our hearts are stirred with fresh affection for Jesus.
We need regular time to cultivate thankfulness in our hearts. In the hurry and rush of our modern society, corporate worship serves as a time set aside to remind us of who we are as the people of God. As John Broadus said (more than a century ago!), “We are so taken up with the affairs of the present that we don’t have time to give thanks for blessings of the past.” Is it not even more true today?
One of the means of grace that God has given us as his people is the gift of one another. When we gather together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, songs and sermons remind us of the good news of the gospel. Our tired hearts are refreshed and renewed when we hear truth.
Practicing Thanks Together
The practice of thanksgiving is faithful kindling for the fire of worship. In corporate worship, we are retelling the faithfulness of God in the gospel and throughout history. Together we give thanks to him, in the words of Joachim Neander, for wondrously reigning over all things, for sheltering us under his wings, for being our help and defense.
In the practice of thanksgiving, our hearts are lifted as we recall and give thanks in corporate worship. It is when we “ponder anew what the Almighty can do” that our hearts are enlarged to run in the ways of God (Psalm 119:32).
Gratitude can be practiced at various points in a worship service:
- In singing, we can thank God for his ways (Ezra 3:11; Psalm 69:30).
- In Scripture reading, we can thank God for revealing to us his perfect word (Speaker: “This is the word of the Lord.” Response: “Thanks be to God!”).
- In confession, we can thank God for his mercy (1 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 4:15).
- In observing Communion, we give thanks (Mark 14:23; 1 Corinthians 11:24).
- In times of corporate prayer, we give thanks (Ephesians 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; Philippians 4:6).
- In a benediction, we can thank God for the joy of being gathered with his people (Psalm 111:1).
Fuel for Living Worship
Thankfulness is the fuel for living worship. While our gatherings are a theater for our thankfulness, our entire lives should be marked by gratitude. As we allow the truths of the gospel to enlarge our hearts, we find ever-increasing room for thankfulness to God.
This weekend, as you gather together with your church to worship, be reminded of the role of thanksgiving in your heart. We are tired and forgetful people, who need to be once again gripped by the glory of God. And all of us have much to be thankful for. In the midst of this collective work together in worship, stoke the flame of thankfulness in your own heart.