When this blog was brand new (several months back) our esteemed editor, Paul Cella, posted a piece referring to conservatives as "the party of grateful men." I think that's quite right and have recently been reminded of some perhaps rather unusual things for which to be grateful.
In particular, it occurs to me that I have a special personal duty to be grateful to all the people who created and who continue to maintain the culture of Baptist and other Protestant evangelical Christianity. While I am now a continuing Anglican of low-church sympathies, my upbringing was entirely, even aggressively fundamentalist Protestant, and I've not entirely lost touch with it. As things presently stand, that culture provides me with most of my closest physically-present friends.
Recently we were privileged to have some of these friends over--a very large and very musical family.
The father of the family is a pianist who can improvise and pick up almost any tune. We spent the evening singing everything we could think of, until we had to let them go home, from hymns to folk tunes to gospel. We sang the "Amazing Grace" words that go to the tune of "Danny Boy" and, of course, the real "Amazing Grace." We sang entirely light things like "I'll Fly Away," with jazzy improv from the piano. We sang "Like a River Glorious" and other old hymns, but plenty of gospel as well. (The gospel and contemporary sound dominated that particular evening, because this same family comes to our hymn sings every other month, at which we sing only hymns. So we do something a little different when we have them over alone.) It was a wonderful evening.
At one point the other family sang a number my family has heard only from them, called "So Many Lambs," about Christ as the Passover lamb. And as they finished, the style being similar, I started up the old Andrae Crouch number "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power." It was somewhere along in here that I started to hear, in the back of my mind, the priest saying, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast." I saw him turning around in Easter white with the Host in his hands and saying, "Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who taketh away the sin of the world." And when the other family sang, "His blood was not just blood, it was precious blood," I heard, "The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul into everlasting life."
Now, it would be fatally, horribly easy to feel smug under those circumstances. Ha! I have it all: I can sing gospel songs about the blood, and I go to church on Sunday mornings and believe that I receive grace by drinking a sip of wine. One group of Christians doesn't "get" the other group, but I understand and appreciate them both.
But that wasn't the feeling. Rather, the sense was one of gratitude. Indeed, I have so much. Look what Our Lord has given: He has given music, the talent of so many who have written so many different kinds of songs and can play and sing them, the talent of so many who wrote and translated the liturgy. He gives me friends who humble me by their entire and untainted devotion to Himself and who show by example how to communicate that devotion to our children. He gave us His Son, who was delivered up for our offences and raised again for our justification. And He gives His own strength and grace in bread and wine.
For more hymn and music stuff from time to time, plus other odd thoughts, political and otherwise, see Extra Thoughts (the provisional title of my personal blog)