A Thanksgiving Surprise

by Rev. David Nuottila

As with most experiences during my first year as pastor, our Thanksgiving Eve service was a source of great anticipation for me, and also a source of some anxiousness. Our church had not had such a service in several years, and given that we are a small congregation, I couldn’t help but wonder how many folks would come. I can remember being a member of such a church where during evening services the number of folks in the choir outnumbered the people in the pews.

Ever the optimist, when I printed up the bulletin I made plenty of copies. Perhaps only a handful of folks would attend, but I would be ready in any case. When the volunteer came to set up for communion, she asked “How much bread; how much wine?” We decided to set the table for 50, just so there would be enough for everyone. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but Christ never skimped on anything, so why should we? She set the table and I set out the bulletins. Our music director settled in and finally we were ready.

As I put on my vestments in the sacristy, I said one more prayer. I prayed that even though we would be a small group, our worship would be lively, our voices strong, and our gifts of worship, money, and food would be pleasing to God. After all, our worship is the first fruits of our labor that we offer in thankfulness to God, and Jesus promises to be with us no matter how small in number we are. For the first time in about a week, I was very glad I didn’t give in to naysayers. We were having a Thanksgiving Eve service.

God has provided me with many exciting ministry moments, and just when I think I have it figured out, God’s always ready to surprise me again. Following my prayer, I walked through the sacristy door and into our sanctuary. As I made it to the foot of our chancel, I was again blessed with one of God’s surprises. Our church was not full, but there were a good number of folks who put their busyness aside in order to worship God and give thanks. But the best surprise I could imagine wasn’t our good crowd but that we had visitors!

God calls us to be a beacon pointing to Christ, to open the doors of our church and invite those who are seeking God’s love and fellowship to come in and see that the Lord is indeed good. We did not publicize our service other than in our Sunday bulletin and we made no special effort to invite the community. Yet strangers in our midst became friends and together we experienced the perfect love of God in Christ Jesus.

David Nuottila is a Lutheran Pastor in South Carolina

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