There is a time to laugh and dance in the life of the individual child of God. God’s own Wisdom teaches this in Ecclesiastes 3:4. When a child marries in the fear of the Lord, the godly parent laughs with a joy that draws from the glad heart of God. As the joy of the laughing Israelite manifested itself in a merry skipping and leaping before the Lord, so does the joy of the thankful parent necessarily show itself in the various activities of the wedding reception, among family and friends: the greetings, the fellowshipping, the singing, the eating and drinking.
At such times, joy and its exuberant expressions are proper for the Christian. They are right. They are called for. On such an occasion, to weep and mourn, or even to sit by with a morose face, would be wrong. God would be offended. For it is God who arranges these times in our life. He has decreed them. He brings about the circumstances by His marvelous providence. And He works by His Spirit in our souls, that spontaneously we recognize the time for what it is and live in it appropriately: laughing and dancing.
For the church, too, there is the time to laugh and dance. There is the time appointed by the law. This is the weekly sabbath. In the house of God, in communion with Christ by the gospel and sacraments, we rejoice in the God of our salvation. This is our holy laughter. And we worship—believing, praying, singing, giving. This is our holy dancing.
God also creates a time to laugh and dance by arranging the church’s circumstances in His sovereign providence.
Such a time is the 75th anniversary of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Our celebration on June 19-23 of this year will be the laughter and dancing of Ecclesiastes 3:4.
Our uncontainable joy and our exuberant celebration will be legitimate. We will laugh and dance before the face of God. Joy and celebration are necessary. God wills them. The 75th anniversary of our history is God’s time for laughing and dancing.
There have been times of weeping and mourning. There have been these sad days for every one of the congregations. There have been times of sorrow for the denomination. Such a time was that of the grievous schism only a few years after our 25th anniversary celebration in 1950. So closely does God mingle our joys and sorrows in this life. This is true also of our personal lives. Also the times of weeping came from our God. He tried us; He chastised us; He disciplined us; He purified us. Then we did not laugh and dance. That was not appropriate. To have done so would have angered Him. He would have increased the strokes. He wanted us to cry. And we did. We never thought of laughing.
But the 75th anniversary is a time of joy and celebration. Seventy-five years ago, God said “Live!” to a small, despised group, “cast out in the open field,” and that group became true, Reformed churches of Jesus Christ, the Protestant Reformed Churches (Ezek. 16:5). For 75 years, God has preserved us as a denomination of Reformed churches that are faithful to the Word of God as confessed in the Three Forms of Unity. For 75 years, God has kept among us, in all the congregations, on our mission fields, and in our seminary, the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel of sovereign, particular grace. For 75 years, in these churches believers and their children have enjoyed fellowship with the triune God and with like-minded brothers and sisters in His covenant of grace. For 75 years, parents and grandparents have witnessed the salvation in these churches of their (and the churches’) children, confessing their faith and walking in God’s ways.
For 75 years, the Protestant Reformed Churches have been graced with God’s truth in the midst of appalling and widespread apostasy.
Still today, after 75 years, His truth abides with us. Every congregation faithfully confesses the Reformed faith as defined by and contained in the creeds; there is no “liberal” congregation, not one. All proclaim grace; none teaches free will, works-righteousness, or conditional salvation. All teach the unconditional covenant of grace with the elect alone; none argues for a universal covenant whose efficacy hangs upon the fulfillment of a condition by the sinner himself. All honestly believe the inspiration and historicity of Genesis 1 (and 2 and 3 and 7-9 and 11); none is open to replacing God’s “days” with Charles Darwin’s billions of years. All have a zeal for the holy walk of thankfulness that glorifies God in the covenant; none yields to the pressure of the world by approving sexual promiscuity, unbiblical divorce, remarriage after divorce, or homosexuality.
In a time of schism and fighting in many churches—over sheer modernism, over the acceptance of free-willism as a valid form of the gospel, over denial of the authority of Scripture, over the corruption of the worship of God; over deep inroads into the churches of worldliness of life and refusal to discipline, over the toleration of the mysticism of the charismatic movement, and more—the year of our Lord 2000 is for us a time of unity. We are one in doctrine. We are one in life. We experience that we are one. We are working at expressing this unity by loving each other and receiving each other.
Surely, this is a time of laughter and dancing.
As if this were not enough, our God, who is liberal in His grace and goodness (as He can be severe in His anger and chastisement), gives us numerical growth, vastly extended witness by publications and radio, new mission fields at home and abroad, and the earthly peace and prosperity to carry out our privileged, exciting calling. In addition, our precious Christian day schools also flourish.
Let us then laugh and dance!
Let us gather for the celebration of our 75th anniversary!
The committees appointed by synod on behalf of all the churches have done and are doing splendid work in planning a lively, edifying, enjoyable, and God-glorifying celebration. The site, the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which we will have to ourselves, is a lovely, spacious, and altogether suitable place.
Let as many outside of Western Michigan who can, make the trip. Let as many in Western Michigan who can, lay aside their private work and recreations for five days to join in the celebration. Now is the time. The 75th anniversary of one’s denomination of churches in circumstances of joy and gladness happens only once. The opportune time of God for laughing and dancing must be entered into at God’s time. We know not what will follow in the history of our churches, in the history of our country, or in the history of the world.
Let us laugh and dance together.
We celebrate a goodness of God that we share. At the heart of the celebration will be the fellowship. Now is the opportunity for the man from New Jersey to meet in the flesh the man from Alberta whom he has never seen before. Now the family from Lynden or Redlands can meet the family from South Holland or Roselle whom they may never visit again.
In this way, too, we strengthen each other’s hands for our common work and, perhaps, for the times of weeping that lie before us.
Come to the celebration. It is the time for it. Send in the registration forms. And then come.
I extend a special invitation to the friends of the Protestant Reformed Churches in other denominations. I do not refer now to members of sister churches and of other churches with whom we have official contact. Synod has already warmly invited them. Some are coming, and we are delighted.
But we have friends in other churches in various parts of North America and throughout the world. They are one with us in the truths of the sovereignty of God. In spirit they join themselves with the Protestant Reformed Churches in the great battle that the Protestant Reformed Churches fight on behalf of Christ’s kingdom in these last days. Some we have helped, spiritually.
Now is the time for you to come, to laugh and dance with us. Do not suppose that this is a family-affair and that your presence will be an intrusion. You will be welcome. Your presence will be good for us. And our joyful celebration in the Word will be good for you.
What a heart-warming, thrilling experience that will be when, on the first night, two or three thousand or more of us will join in singing the Psalms that magnify God, that express the deepest desires of our soul, and that we love. As we sing, we will be reflecting on the goodness and faithfulness of God to us hitherto. That swelling sound of singing will be a prelude to the voice of many waters and great thunder on mount Sion in the Day of the Lamb.
All our celebration will be the praises of God. Not of ourselves. Not of the men who figured large in our history, although we will remember them with honor and thanks, as well as the others who believed and worked and suffered and sacrificed to give us what we have.
The Lord maintains our lot. We know this.
Just for this reason, we may laugh the louder and dance more vigorously.