From Pastor Claude Taylor
Dear New Hope Family,
This weekend marks the 85th Anniversary of our congregation and of our denomination. 85 years ago—almost to the day—our congregation voted to leave West Presbytery of what is now the PCUSA and to help form a new denomination called the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Interestingly, this year also marks the 60th anniversary of worship in our current building, as well as the 15th anniversary of Faith Church sending families to help revive and rejuvenate our congregation–so, we have much to celebrate!
Normally, we don’t talk a lot about our history (either as a congregation or a denomination); after all, we gather to praise the Lord, not ourselves. Also, our desire is to preserve and promote the unity of all God’s Church, and not to emphasize one denomination or group over another. However, on an occasion like the anniversary of a church, I think it is fitting to take time to recognize and appreciate all that the Lord has done to bring us to this place and to this particular point in time (1 Samuel 7:12). In fact, later this year—perhaps in the fall—we hope to celebrate the occasion with a dinner and possibly a presentation or display of some sort.
In the meanwhile, tomorrow we will be acknowledging the occasion in our morning service. We have been working our way together through Psalm 119, which is a beautiful (and lengthy!) tribute to the importance of God’s Word. Fittingly enough, it concludes with the recognition that even God’s people sometimes wander, and yet “The Lord teaches His straying servants to love His law!” You’ll notice that the psalm alternates between crying out to God—“Let my cry come before You, O Lord….Let Your hand be ready to help me…, etc.”—and statements regarding the psalmist’s spiritual state—“My lips will pour forth praise…My tongue will sing of Your word…” Also notice that the descriptions of the psalmist’s spiritual condition move from “My lips will pour forth praise…” to “I long for Your salvation…” to “I have gone astray like a lost sheep…”—acknowledging his sinful condition—so that the psalm concludes with both a cry to God and a personal statement of faith: “Seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.” The Lord Teaches His Straying Servants to Love His Law!
Cry to God: Let my cry come before You, O Lord; give me understanding according to Your word! Let my plea come before You; deliver me according to Your word.
Personal Spiritual Condition: My lips will pour forth praise, for You teach me Your statutes. My tongue will sing of Your word, for all Your commandments are right.
Cry to God: Let Your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen Your precepts.
Personal Spiritual Condition: I long for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your law is my delight.
Cry to God: Let my soul live and praise You, and let Your rules help me.
Cry to God and Summary Conclusion: I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments. (Psalm 119:169-176)
We will continue with a Hymn of Worship and Praise (“Thine Be the Glory”), giving God the glory for all things that He has done, before we sing “For All the Saints,” which recognizes and celebrates the people of God throughout history. We’ll have a special Prayer of Gratitude Upon the 85th Anniversary of Our Church, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer (which of course includes the petition, “Thy will be done”). After the offering, we will then sing, “For All the Saints” in preparation for hearing the message on “Courage in the Face of Persecution,” from Revelation chapter 2, verses 10 and 11. Hopefully, this will be a fitting way to mark the occasion of our anniversary while also doing justice to our Scripture text this week on facing persecution.