No, I am not 3 years old, but Easter, 1968, will be my third year with you, the Protestant Reformed Churches of America.
In some ways I feel as if I’ve already been here for years and years. But when questions arise and I must struggle to find answers to them I think . . . ‘Has it been 3 years already that I have been a member of a Protestant Reformed Church? How can it be when I still know so little?
Easter carries many marks each year. Usually the land has begun to show signs of life, the birds can be heard any time of the day, the sunshine is warmer, the school season is close to an end, and you will find that the unfolding mystery of it all will give you a jaunty, happy step. This and much more is associated with this time of year. Everything from the mystery of life returning to the land to the church bells that ring across America to beckon your presence within the church sanctuary.
I would like to do something different today. I would like you to come with me and let’s turn back to some pages in my life. Only 5 years will be just fine. This is Easter morning, 1963, at 9 a.m. So come, grasp my hand, for we must haste to church. As we enter the door numerous people gather around us, shake hands, pat you on the back, quiz you as to your church home and that you are very welcome to return, thrust a pen in your hand so that you can sign the guest register, then shake your hand some more. How do you like that for a warm welcome!
I am a teenage Sunday School teacher so you will soon become aware of numerous teens sitting all around us when we go in to sit down. This morning there will be no classes. Instead, the Sunday School will present a program. Suddenly it is 10:45 and everyone is dismissed. Such a lovely program wasn’t it!
How everyone reassembles to prepare for the 11:00 a.m. morning worship services, today is Easter so we’ll not only have some favorites sung by the congregation but also be favored by special numbers from the choir and individuals. Before we know it 11:45 has arrived. All quiets down because now the sermon begins. Suddenly the noon whistle blows from the nearby fire station and everyone begins to look at watches and shift around restlessly. Come on, pastor! We have places to go today and dinner to fix yet! Two minutes after 12 we close in prayer and depart. Oh, well, only fifteen minutes today. Usually it’s about twenty- thirty minutes though!
After more hand shaking, smiles, and chatter you are invited to this evening’s service. It will consist of a cantata by the choir and a brief Bible reading by the pastor.
Yes, that was only 5 years ago! How different it will be this Easter, Lord willing. When I walk through the church doors the only one to greet me will be an usher. He will lead me to my seat among a congregation that is peacefully silent, even the children. Services will be conducted as usual with the greatest length of time centered around the preaching of the word. The sermon will probably deal in some way with the resurrection doctrinally and conclude with an application of comfort to God’s people.
The departure after services will have some hustle and chatter with a dispersing into a group here and there in front of the church. Some groups will be discussing the sermon just heard and some will busy themselves with everyday happenings. Coffee dates are made and everyone goes their way.
Quite a contrast isn’t it! Ask me —’Do you miss it? isn’t it a rather harsh change? Wouldn’t you feel more at ease to return? Don’t you find the people cold? Isn’t the preaching hard to understand?’
By the grace of God I can answer no to all of these and other such similar questions. This is where 1 find my home, my joy, and spiritual growth in big and small ways. The only thing I find that really sets me back on my heels is that enormous mountain of unlearned truths of God’s word. My background left me completely unprepared for this challenge. I did not go to a Christian school. I had no catechism, church life was regular but shallow, and home life had almost no Bible use or conversation at all. But discouraged I am not, for one thing I continually learn anew, my God will never leave me nor forsake me but will lead me one step at a time.
Protestant Reformed young people, I wish to tell you this. My prayers go with you that as you reach adulthood and take over the responsibilities of the church and home, do not be awed and led away by the shaking hand, friendly smile, and pat on the back. That is really all they have to give you.
Do not ever be ashamed of your Reformed heritage. Instead, cherish it, defend it, and seek with all of your heart to continue in it: by the grace of God. Great is your heritage and great your responsibility toward it, but remember, our God is greater than these. He will both keep you and establish you, even in your generations.