We were just finishing a ten-week series on “the big words” of Reformed doctrine. The word for Thanksgiving Day was providence, God’s continuing care for the world. As we started putting the service together, it became clear to us that we could sing practically the entire message. The idea of having a “lighter” service after all of the heavy doctrine was appealing. But how could we get all of the songs we wanted to sing into a one-hour time frame? And how much of the spoken Word should the pastor deliver in addition to the singing?
We settled on breaking up the theme of providence into three divisions: (1) God’s care for creation, (2) God’s care for our physical needs, and (3) God’s care for our spiritual needs. Our service ended with our response of thanks for God’s care.
We opened and closed each section with a hymn or medley of hymns. The songs at the end of the sections led into the next section. For each of the three sections, the pastor had a short (less than five minutes) meditation. We also included one or two appropriate readings and prayers read by members of the congregation.
During the section where we remembered God’s care of our physical needs, the people were invited to bring forward canned foods and other foodstuffs. The offering of money was taken during the “Our Response” section of the service. This last section also included a congregational prayer of thanks, incorporating items that had been submitted by members the week before.
Songs listed all together and separated by a slash were done in medley form, transitioning from one to the other, usually in one or two measures that were written out for the instrumentalists and the praise team to follow.
“Come, You Thankful People, Come” PsH 527, PH 551, RL 18, TH 715, TWC 381
Call to Worship
“This Is the Day” PsH 241, SFL 3, TWC 801 (piano)
God’s Care for Creation
Medley of Praise
“For the Beauty of the Earth” PsH 432, PH 473, RL 5, SFL 89, TH 116, TWC 353 (st. 1, piano)/“All Things Bright and Beautiful” PsH 435, PH 267, RL 15, SFL 90, TH 120 (refrain, st. 1, piano with organ doing bass lightly on the stanza, perhaps flute)
A Child’s Prayer (read by a child)
Heavenly Father, thank you for the beauty and wonder of your great creation. We praise you for the wonderful things you have given to us:
for the beautiful sun,
for the rain, which makes things grow,
for the sea and the sky,
for the flowers and the birds,
and for all your gifts to us.
Everything around us rejoices.
Make us also to rejoice, and give us thankful hearts.
“Beautiful Savior” PsH 461(st. 2, a cappella; st. 3, piano; st. 1, piano, organ, trumpet)
Consists of the following readings plus brief comments on God’s care for creation.
Our world has fallen into sin;
but rebellion and sin can never dethrone God.
He does not abandon the work of his hand;
the heavens still declare his glory.
He preserves his world,
sending seasons, sun, and rain,
upholding his creatures,
renewing the earth,
directing all things to their purpose.
He promised a Savior;
now the whole creation groans
in the birth pangs of a new creation.
—stanza 4, Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony (© 1988, CRC Publications)
Reading 2: Psalm 147
Our world belongs to God—
not to us or earthly powers,
not to demons, fate, or chance.
The earth is the Lord’s!
God directs and bends to his will
all that happens in his world.
As history unfolds in ways we only know in part,
from crops to grades,
from jobs to laws—
are under his control.
God is present in our world
by his Word and Spirit.
The faithfulness of our great Provider
gives sense to our days and hope to our years.
The future is secure, for our world belongs to God.
—stanzas 7, 13, Our World Belongs to God
“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” PsH 457, SFL 198, TWC 518 (st. 1, 2, 4, 5, piano)
God’s Care for Our Physical Needs
Scripture (read by a teen)
“We Plow the Fields and Scatter” PsH 456, RL 17, TH 714, TH 716 (st. 1)/“Sing to the Lord of Harvest” PsH 458, RL 19, TWC 375 (st. 1)/“We Plow the Fields and Scatter” (st. 3)
(This group is all organ/piano. Builds in volume and intensity from the first to the last.)
A reading of Matthew 6:25-34, followed by a series of “I wonder . . .” questions on God’s care for us (“I wonder what would happen if all the dentists suddenly quit—and the doctors and nurses?”).
Offering of food
“O Worship the King” PsH 428, PH 476, TH 2, TWC 29 (st. 1, organ, trumpet, piano; st. 3, piano)/“To God Be the Glory” PsH 473, PH 485, TH 55, TWC 72 (refrain only, piano, organ light bass on “Praise the Lord” and full on “O come to the Father . . . ,” piano makes transition to next song)/“Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” PsH 475, PH 478, RL 144, TH 76, TWC 26 (st. 1, organ, piano)/“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” PsH 486, PH 356, RL 449, TH 457, TWC 45 (st. 1, organ, piano; st. 3, a cappella)
God’s Care for Our Spiritual Needs
A reading of Romans 8:31-32, followed by a testimony (a story of a seven-year-old boy whose dad gave up much to help him get well).
“You Are My Hiding Place” SNC 180/“There Is a Redeemer” SNC 145 (st. 1, refrain sung twice, piano, maybe flute as well)
“Let All Things Now Living” PsH 453, PH 554, TH 125, TWC 53 (piano, flute)
Offertory: “Simple Gifts”
“We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise” SNC 12/“Give Thanks” SNC 216, TWC 496 (piano)
Prayers of Thanks
“Now Thank We All Our God” PsH 454, PH 555, RL 61, SFL 33, TH 98, TWC 374 (st. 1, 3, organ, piano, trumpet)
Postlude: “My Tribute”