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14,000 Things to Be Happy About

Worship Service for a Day of Thanksgiving - Psalm 103, Luke 17, Ephesians 5

Worship Service

A service plan for a day of thanksgiving. The service and the sermon suggestions will both make clear that giving thanks appropriately isn't always so simple and easy. Some of the most familiar of God's blessings are often overlooked.

Theme of the Service

Both Canada and the US designate a special day for national thanksgiving and the churches of the land gather for worship on that day. This service is designed for such a day of thanksgiving and the theme is, obviously, giving thanks.

The liturgy of the service and the sermon will both make clear that giving thanks appropriately isn't always so simple and easy. Some of the most familiar of God's blessings are often overlooked. Gifts received daily are easily taken for granted. And the breadth of God's gifts in all areas of life calls us to search carefully to identify them.


Prelude: "Triptych on 'Let All Things Now Living' ", Cherwien [organ]
or: "Thanksgiving Suite", Callahan [organ]
"Come, You Thankful People, Come", Boertje [piano]
"All Creatures of Our God and King", Dobrinski [handbells]

The Call to Thanks: The Reading of Psalm 100

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting

Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

*The Worshipers Greet Each Other

*Songs of Thanks:
"Let All Things Now Living" PH554, PsH453, RN48, TH125, TWC53; PsH, RN, TWC have descant
"Praise and Thanksgiving" Lobet und Preiset: PsH 631, SFL83; Bunessan: RL20 (4vv.)
Introduction by bells
v.1 - all
v.2 - three-part canon (only for tune Lobet und Preiset)

Anthem: "Sing to the Glory of God", O'Brien

(Congregation will join the choir on the last two refrains at the cue of the director.)

Song: "For the Beauty of the Earth" PH473, PsH432, RL5 (5vv, desc.), SFL89 (2vv.), TH116 (5vv.), TWC353 (6vv.)
v.1 - all
v.2 - men
v.3 - women
v.4 - all

Bell Anthem: "Dance Africana on 'For the Beauty of the Earth' ", Honoré

Song: "All Things Bright and Beautiful" (vv. 1-4) Royal Oak: PH267, PsH435, RL15 (5vv.), SFL90, TH120 (5vv.), WOV767; Vleugel: TWC57


Sermon: 14,000 Things to Be Happy About
Psalm 103:2
Luke 17:17-18
Ephesians 5:20

The Prayer of Application


A Litany of Thanksgiving

1. Let us give thanks to the Lord our Rock,
our Fortress and our Deliverer.
Let us remember his mercy
for he is gracious and compassionate.
2. We thank you, Lord,
for calling us to faith in Christ,
for putting your Spirit within us,
for giving us the mind of Christ,
for gathering us into your church.
3. We thank you, Lord,
for extending your grace to us,
for calling us to a life of gratitude,
for calling us to service in your Kingdom.
All: Thanks be to God!

Recounting God's Gifts - A Reading (see <href="#liturgy">Liturgy Notes)

A Litany of Thanksgiving (continued)

1. Let us give thanks to the Lord,
for he satisfies the thirsty,
he fills the hungry with good things,
and he heals the afflicted.
Let us celebrate his abundant goodness.
2. We thank you, gracious Father,
that you provide for all our needs,
for food on our tables,
for the clothes on our bodies,
for the beds we sleep in,
for the dwellings that shelter us.
3. We praise you, Lord,
for all your gifts that go beyond our basic needs,
for the things that make our work easier,
for the conveniences of modern life,
for the beauty and pleasure that you bring into our lives.
All: Thanks be to God!

Anthem: "All Good Gifts", Schwoebel

Song: "For the Fruit(s) of All/Your Creation" East Acklam: PH553, PsH455, Ar hyd y nos: SFL235, TWC379, WOV760

Anthem: "Give Thanks", Farrar

Song: "Sing to the Lord of Harvest" (vv. 1, 2) Steurlein/Wie lieblich ist der maien: PsH 458, RL19, TH716, TWC375
or: "Give Thanks" RN266, SNC216, TWC496

Thanksgiving Prayers:
- for health and daily provisions
- for the community of family and friends
- for the hope of salvation and the fellowship of the church

The Report from the Deacons

Intercessory Prayers for the Needy:
- for those who are victims of injustice and oppression
- for those who are in poverty
- for those who are abandoned and abused

Offertory and Offertory Prayer: "Now Thank We All Our God", J.S. Bach, arr. Fox
(see <href="#liturgy">Liturgy Notes)


*Song of Thanksgiving: "Now Thank We All Our God" PH555 PsH454, RL61, SFL33, SNC228 (refrain only), TH98, TWC374

*The Benediction

Postlude: "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow", Burkhardt

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

The rather unconventional title for this sermon comes from a small book by that title written by Barbara Kipfer. She claims this book represents 20 years of recording all the little things that make her happy (a good lesson right there!). She says it started in the 6th grade with a spiral notebook, then to larger notebooks, and finally to a personal computer that now contains more than a million bytes of things that make her happy. I began this sermon by telling about this book and reading some of the listings. The listings are insightful and interesting, but even more important is the encouragement to be a person who notices such things.

This message can then move from Barbara Kipfer to King David, the author of Psalm 103. Though we cannot pinpoint the exact experience out of which Psalm 103 was written, it is clearly a time in David's life when he is (1) recalling the need to give thanks to God ("Praise the Lord, O my soul.."), (2) recounting God's gifts in many different areas of life, and (3) warning himself about how easy it is to forget such gifts ("forget not..").

After spending a little time with David, this message can proceed to the healed lepers in the passage of Luke 17. Ten were leprous, ten were healed, ten went on their way, one returned to give thanks, and he was a Samaritan. The haunting words of this account are those from the lips of Jesus, "where are the other nine?" Does not this story graphically illustrate the danger of the warning that David expressed in Psalm 103:2?

Each of these anecdotes, coupled with our own experiences from the past year, can be brought together by Paul's comprehensive statement in Ephesians 5:20. When he calls us to "give thanks.always.for everything.." he is instructing us to notice, to refuse to forget, and to gratefully express our thanks to God.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

It is always important to remember the congregation's role as primary choir, especially at celebrative services. Always encourage the "voice" of your congregation in litanies and song. Notice the amount of active participation by the entire congregation in this service. Each of the main choir ensembles participate in one anthem each; for the rest of the service, they assist the congregation by leading in canon or adding descants or, in the case of the bells, accompanying particular stanzas of hymns. Alternative harmonizations for hymns can be found in the following sources, but should probably not be used in abundance if your congregation loves to sing in parts. (See John Ferguson's "Hymn Harmonizations for Organ" bk. 2 published by Ludwig O-07 [1983]; Michael Burkhardt's "As though the whole creation cried" published by Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]; John Eggert's "Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ" vol. 2 published by CPH97-6851 [2000]; and Dale Wood's "New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes" published by Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]). If your congregation has high school youth or adults who play trumpet, this is an ideal service for them to assist in accompanying the congregational hymns.

  1. The prelude music can be found in the following sources:
    - "Triptych on 'The Ash Grove' " by David Cherwien, published by Augsburg 11-10971 [1999] (M-D). This fine set of variations also includes an introduction and alternative harmonization for congregational singing.
    - "Thanksgiving Suite" by Charles Callahan, published by Morningstar MSM-10-600 [1988] (E-M); includes three pieces based on 'St. George's Windsor', 'Bunessan', 'Kremser' and 'Nun Danket'.
    - The setting of "Come, You Thankful People, Come" is found in "Piano Improvisations for the Church Year" by Barbara Boertje, published by Unity Press 70/1194U [1998] (M).
    - "All Creatures of Our God and King" for 3-5 octave handbells by Cynthia Dobrinski, published by Agape 1737 [1992] (M).
  1. The bell introduction on "Praise and Thanksgiving" (Lobet und Preiset) can be a simple reading of the music as found in the hymnal, a extension of that setting by incorporating more octaves into that setting, or the bells could play the hymn in octaves as a round, beginning with the highest octave and moving through the lower octaves.
  1. "Sing to the Glory of God" is a responsorial anthem based on Psalm 100 by Francis Patrick O' Brien, published by GIA G-3773 [1992] (E). Don't be scared off by the mixed meters - it sings easily.
  1. The bell anthem is entitled "Dance Africana on 'Dix' " and is published by CPH 97-6745 [1999] for 3-5 octave handbells and percussion (M).
  1. The SATB anthem "All Good Gifts" by David Schwoebel is published by Hinshaw HMC-1101 [1990] (E-M).
  1. "Give Thanks" by Sue Farrar is a two-part anthem for children's voices published by Beckenhorst BP1317 [1989] (E).
  1. The offertory music is an arrangement by Virgil Fox of J.S. Bach's setting of "Now Thank We All Our God." It is published as part of the St. Cecelia Series by H.W. Grey 868 [1959]. This piece has been played for nearly all of the Thanksgiving service offertories at the church I serve for the past 20 years. Certain things can become tradition and that can be a good thing! This particular pairing of music and action is a wonderful way to bring to mind blessings from the past as well as the present.
  1. The toccata on "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow" can be found in "Praise and Thanksgiving set 2" by Michael Burkhardt, published by Morningstar MSM-10-752 [1989] (E-M). This great piece sounds more difficult than it really is!

Liturgy Notes:

1. Often children become familiar with Psalm 100 either in school or church school at this time of the year. We like to include them and the psalm at the beginning of a Thanksgiving service, so we usually invite a couple of children to either read or recite it at the opening of the service as God's call to us. If several children participate, they can read/recite it responsively, or the psalm can be divided into sections.

2. You will notice that the structure of this service is largely in three parts, followed by the departure. The first and third are dominated by the expression of thanks in song, readings and prayers. It's good to sing a lot on Thanksgiving! The middle section of the service is the preaching of the Word.

3. When the worshipers greet each other near the beginning of the service, we prefer to give them encouragement to make it more than "good morning". Because it is Thanksgiving Day, they can be encouraged to say "God is good", "Thanks be to God" or "Give thanks to God" to each other.

4. The Litany of Thanksgiving in this service is divided into two parts and can be used in a number of ways, which will determine the printed format. It can be a responsive reading: between the worship leader and the congregation; between several persons; or between sections of the congregation. In any case, the final "Thanks be to God!" should be exclaimed by all.

5. "Recounting God's Gifts" can be a reading between the two halves of the litany, though you may choose to place it elsewhere. Preparation for this reading begins several weeks ahead of time when a sheet is given to each worshiper asking him/her to jot down some of God's gifts for which they are particularly thankful this year. Encourage children and youth to participate also. These are collected and put together to form a list of such expressions. We've often included 20 to 30 of them that are representative. Then two or three members of the congregation read the list responsively and it becomes the "voice of the people" publicly remembering the gifts of God. Such a reading fuels and enlivens both the Litany and the prayers of thanksgiving.

6. Thanksgiving Prayers can be structured around a variety of topics. The three included in this service are only suggestions of possibilities. Lay persons may lead in this prayer, with a different person for each topic. Those who lead these prayers should also receive the complete list of ideas contributed by the congregation so they can express the praise of the people (see #5 above.)

7. Giving our thanks can be incomplete if it is not coupled with a genuine concern for others who are in need. In this service the deacons can take time to explain their current efforts in helping the needy, thank the congregation for their generosity in aiding others, and describe continuing needs around the world. These needs can form the basis of the Intercessory Prayers for the Needy which can be led by deacon(s) or others.

8. The presentation of offerings has special importance on Thanksgiving. We've usually had worshipers individually bring their offerings forward on this day. Offerings may take the form of money for the deaconal ministries, or it may take the form of food offerings for the needy through a local food panty. It can be a beautiful visual symbol of both bounty and generosity to see food packages spilling over in the front of the sanctuary. In the event that food gifts have already been placed on tables in the narthex, we've encouraged representatives to take baskets of them forward during this offering. Those who are unable or prefer not to come forward may have others, particularly children, go forward for them.