Sunday, March 25, 2007

Faithful Over a Few Things

This morning's worship service was one of the most inspiring I have ever attended. Our church celebrated the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade by Great Britain. Of course the congregation sang Amazing Grace! Then our anthem was the old gospel song "Faithful Over a Few Things".

The lyrics previewed the scripture for the day--the parable of the talents (Matthew 15:14-30). Words can't describe the experience of being in the choir singing backup to the fabulous soloist who could really wail. And yes, wail is the right word. We wailed, we swayed, we got down with it! The entire congregation erupted afterwards with applause and cries of "amen"! This is not the usual response to an anthem in a PCUSA church, let me tell you.

There were a number of references in the service to the movie Amazing Grace, which tells the story of William Wilberforce's campaign to outlaw the slave trade in the British Empire. Providentially, El Jefe and I went to see the movie last weekend. It is a great, great movie.

The late, great African-American composer Moses Hogan's "I Surrender All" was the offertory. It's a prayerful, contemplative piece that set the tone for the sermon.

Taking the parable of the talents as his text, the senior pastor tied the anthem and the movie Amazing Grace together by noting that Wilberforce continued to be faithful in his long effort to abolish the slave trade, learned from his mistakes along the way, and that his persistence and faithfulness were ultimately rewarded with success. He reminded the congregation that faithfulness in a few things means that God will set before us greater tasks to accomplish for the kingdom.

That last point is a scary thought. I tend to focus on the details of completing the work that I think I'm called to do now. I don't anticipate God sending me more difficult or larger tasks in the future. Yikes! You mean there may be more?

In the words of today's anthem, "be thou faithful unto death, and God will give you a crown of life." I guess that is the message for today--be faithful over the tasks set you today and trust God when he calls you to new work in the future. I'm going to try not to worry about what may be coming up next and have confidence that God will help me with it.

Update: Thanks to Stushie for correcting my earlier error. This was the 200th anniversary of the Act abolishing the slave trade. Slavery wasn't abolished in the British empire until 1833. I've corrected the post accordingly.


zorra said...

(wistful sigh...)

jledmiston said...

This sounds great. I heard Brian McLaren preach on Wilberforce a couple of years ago and was embarrassed I didn't know more about him (Wilberforce).

Glad you are inspired in new church.

annie said...

My sister was telling me about that movie. I am glad you reminded me of it. Somehow I mistakenly thought Fannie Crosby had written Amazing Grace.

Interesting thoughts on the parable of the talents. They have been on my mind since I posted my "Parable of the Heart" post.

Thank God, He helps each of us do what we need to do.

Stushie said...

Jody, this year's anniversary in Britain was about the abolition of the Slave Trade.

Slavery wasn't abolished by Britain until July 1833, one month after Wilberforce died.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

That must have been a wonderful service!

Quotidian Grace said...


Thanks for the correction. I'll update the post accordingly.

Lorna said...

wonderful QG.

waiting for the film here. I did an assignment on wilberforce in junior high and it really changed me.

It is ironic that slavery was abolished just after he died - he didnt' see the final fruit of his labour - but I think that's so often how God works.

The film isn't on here yet - but I'm waiting :)

Presbyterian Gal said...

Sounds like a great service.

Re: the God setting before us greater tasks - I blanche at this as well. The saying "God never gives you more than you can handle" annoys the bajonkas outta me. God's idea of what we can handle and our experience of what we can handle are often very divergent things. It's on my "what was that about?" list for when I get to heaven.

Quotidian Grace said...

PG--It's on my list as well! That phrase also drives me nuts.

Gruntled said...

I was privileged to see the film, along with the Centre College chaplain, in a preview through an Asbury College connection. As a result, when the film opened, we took two vanloads of students and faculty, then took them out to dinner to talk about it.

Eric Metaxas, he of "Veggie Tales," wrote a companion book, also called "Amazing Grace." Mrs. G. and I read it on a long road trip last week, and it is a pretty good introduction to Wilburforce (including clarifying some compressions in the film.)

Reformed Catholic said...

YIKES!! Amens and Applause from the Frozen Chosen???

What next ... drums and guitars ???


Quotidian Grace said...

Well, we did have a big bass cello accompanying us and the pianist ;-)