Praises of a Thousand Generations
September 28, 2017
I was born with an overabundance of words. They bubble up inside of me and ooze out of every pore. I can’t help it.
I even coach myself on self-control in social settings, yet inevitably walk away thinking, “Why did I just talk so much?”
It’s a blessing or a curse, depending who you ask and when. (If you asked my mom circa 1993 after one of her “Sarah, sweetie, mommy’s ears are tired.” schticks, she probably would’ve voted the latter.)
But it’s also a blessing.
In the past several years, I’ve gotten to use my words across amazing, humbling platforms.
In a blog post that reached millions of people.
Across states, schools, and organizations (stemming from said blog post).
And in my favorite place, our church.
Teaching in the student ministry, emceeing women’s conferences, serving on the prayer team, hosting worship for multiple services and an online campus.
It’s incredible how far reaching words can be today.
Because of the internet, because of the size and location and resources of our church, the platforms through which I am able to use my gift of communication are visible and wide-reaching.
And, in many ways, gratifying.
We have explicit feedback to tell us how many people read a message or viewed a video. Statistics to tell us where across the globe podcasts are being downloaded from.
Spreading the gospel is seemingly quantifiable.
It’s an amazing time.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
Close to a century ago, a man named Clarence Smith saddled up his horse and traveled across the south to lead singing at tent meetings.
Clarence and his wife, Blanche, had 12 children.
#11 of 12 was the one nearest and dearest to my heart: Von Warren Smith.
To me and the other grandkids, he is known simply as “Papa”.
As Papa grew up, he watched his dad travel to teach and sing. As he got older, he followed in his father’s footsteps.
He started leading singing at a church in St. Louis, Missouri in 1957. Several years later, he helped form an a cappella gospel quartet, The Silvertones, that recorded 8 albums and traveled extensively across the United States during the 70’s and 80’s.
Over the past 60 years, he has taught Bible classes, led worship, and served as an elder. Twice a month for the past 32 years, he has visited the nursing home in his small Arkansas town, singing to and encouraging the residents.
There’s a song I adore by Bethel Music called “Be Enthroned”, and it goes like this:
We’ve come to join the song
Sung long before our lives
To raise our voice along
Heaven and earth alike
Be enthroned upon the praises
Of a thousand generations
You are worthy. Lord of all
Like these lyrics, Papa’s life song has been adding to the praises of a thousand generations.
A symphony of voices has been building since the beginning of time.
Starting with the song of Moses after God led the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 15), growing with Hannah’s song of joy when the Lord gave her a son (1 Samuel), intensifying in strength and volume with all the lyrics of David in the Psalms, crescendoing with a verse from Lord himself (Zephaniah 3)…
the praises circle the throne of God.
The song has no end, no time limit.
It grows in complexity and beauty with each generation.
And with unwavering passion my Papa’s life adds to this chorus.
His song, his passion, his leadership, enhancing the foundation on which we all stand today.
On Wednesday night, Papa was honored publicly.
The man who lives in a town whose population is marginally larger than our church’s membership – this man who has been serving the Lord faithfully, without pomp and circumstance, for over 80 years – was honored for his Christian service in front of thousands of people.
I couldn’t be prouder of him or the legacy he is leaving. Of the heritage he has continued in our own family.
Without his leadership and passion, my mom wouldn’t be who she is.
I wouldn’t be who I am.
It’s incredible to think that my great-grandfather advanced the gospel town-by-town on horseback. And my grandfather advanced the gospel state-by-state on bus. And I can now advance the gospel globally from a computer.
I’m proud of the ministry God is calling me to right now, in 2017, with my words.
I’m even prouder to be adding my praises to the praises my Papa has been singing his entire life.
I don’t have a cool plaque for you like they did, Papa, but I do want everyone to see – on the platforms I’ve been given – the face of a man who helped shape and bring our churches to where they are today.
You have run your race well.
And because of your faithful obedience and example, we are now picking up the baton and taking Jesus even further.