In the Monday afternoon of Calvin’s final Professional Development Day, the Upper School staff had just finished up a brief meeting before being sent off to complete some of our individual classroom work. I found myself at a point where the whirlwind of information, curriculum-planning, and community-building was finally settling into a still, quiet moment. As the last of the teaching staff made their way out of the Life & Learning Commons, I moved to the piano that sits in the corner, usually untouched during the school day. I find that playing through hymns is a good way for my brain to digest and reset for the next task I set for myself and this moment of quiet seemed a perfect time to do just that.
I sat down at the wooden bench and pulled out the large binder-hymnal that I’m sure had graced any number of church pianos over the course of its life. The pages themselves, though well-kept, had an aged, thinned feel. I flipped through and played song after song. The tunes and words of some of my favorite old hymns “Wonderful the Matchless Grace of Jesus,” “He is Lord,” “O to be Like Thee,” “Be Thou my Vision,” “Make me a Blessing,” “It is well with my soul,” “Nearer, still Nearer,” and a personal favorite of mine, “Abide with Me,” washed over me and filled my head and my heart with wonderful encouragement that I could reflect on for the rest of the day. However, amidst these beautiful melodies and lyrics, another old, familiar Dutch tune came along my path and latched more strongly onto my thoughts in light of the gathering we, as the Calvin Staff, had just shared in.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name; he forgets not his own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side; all glory be thine!
This song, in particular, I’ve always associated with the Thanksgiving holiday despite “gathering” seeming to be the only obvious connection. Maybe it was the special designation and reservation for this one special holiday that gave this song so much value to me, but I couldn’t help but be moved by the words in light of this past year and a half. Even more so, I found greater impact as an educator considering the time we had dedicated that morning in staff devotions to “raise our Ebenezer” in reflection of the Goodness of God in all of our lives.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing; He chastens and hastens his will to make known;
At the beginning of the Calvin Christian school year, there was a large amount of uncertainty surrounding the first-steps into a new year. There was certainly a lot of vision and hope, but not a lot of practical answer, at least not at first. Being a second-year teacher, I have had comparatively minimal experience with Calvin gatherings. In fact, in the last two-years, I’ve probably been a part of a mere fraction of the average number of yearly gatherings for the Calvin Community. Despite the serious infringement on Calvin’s normal routine, I saw one thing remain consistent. No matter the how, who, when, or where, Calvin’s gatherings were always marked with a humble approach to the Throne with eyes and ears for God’s Guidance in the lives of teachers, students, and our school leaders. It is a great blessing to see the contrite hearts of Christian disciples lived out. I am honored to believe that I work alongside those disciples each and every day.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing. Sing praises to his name; he forgets not his own.
One of the ways in which I’ve seen the gatherings at Calvin representing the heart of a disciple is in the posture of worship. Whether in prayer or song, Calvin teachers and leaders dedicate time to give thanks, magnify the Lord, and to raise voices in praise. There have been numerous opportunities to distress; in fact, there have been numerous times we have distressed. Yet, in the turmoil of change, uncertainty, and even deep frustration, Calvin’s return to praise has helped me, and certainly others, to cease from distressing. Not simply as some healthy practice or quiet moment to breath, but an honest realization and celebration of all the ways that God’ has remembered us in these moments.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining, Ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
It should not be minimized the ways in which God has been beside us, guiding us, protecting us, and maintaining us through this difficult last year. What I find even more striking about this line is the conviction with which I, a member of the Body of Christ, can say this line and know that the work I do at Calvin, in cooperation with church and family, is inherently joined to the maintenance of His Kingdom. I don’t know how many of my college friends can come hope from a day at work where their leaders and community are reinforcing and reminding them that the work they do is not reduced to some set of outcomes or number of awards, but a true hope for enrichment, flourishing, and a Divine Kingdom that we could never fully comprehend or achieve on our own.
So from the beginning the fight we were winning; Thou, Lord, wast at our side; all glory be thine!
In light of this previous statement, what a Glorious Victory the year of 2020-2021 has been for Calvin Christian. The prayer from day one of our school year, “Let Love be Genuine,” (Romans 12:9) has been a guiding force for our hearts and our hands and we have seen its fruits! The contrite hearts of our staff and leaders allowing for the release from distress and a turn to praise is a bright symbol of God’s presence and work that he is doing here at Calvin in the hearts of His disciples. Even if not every one of our plans could come to fruition, what a great amount of Glory and Thanks we can give to God knowing that His plans are being accomplished through us.