A news story I read today about a popular picture-sharing smartphone app included this quote: “People wonder why their daughter is taking 10,000 photos a day. What they don’t realize is that she isn’t preserving images. She’s talking.” This struck me. It’s common knowledge that pictures speak louder than words and that vision is one of the strongest of our senses. Why then do we have such trouble including pictures in our worship? Certainly it can’t be a carryover from the fifteenth-century Reformation, can it?
If you can’t hear the Word clearly, how can you worship effectively? If the worship sound is distracting, how can we join with others in worship?
While how microphones are used doesn’t affect the spiritual quality of worship, it makes a great difference in its technical quality and, if done poorly, can impede worship. To have the most technically excellent worship service, one must understand how microphones work and how to use them effectively.
When a new pastor is ordained or installed in a congregation, much celebration usually occurs. Several ordained people might take part in the service. Councils of neighboring churches are invited to send representatives to witness the occasion. The official installation and/or ordination form is read and sometimes embellished with ministry symbols and several readers. Perhaps the choir presents music, or congregational singing time is enlarged. To add to this celebration, cake or even a meal may be served after worship!
In Psalms 42 and 43 the psalmist speaks of his anxious soul that is disturbed and would rather retreat than encounter the Lord God who is most worthy. The psalmist is assailed with doubts and confusion. His resolve is weak. Yet the psalmist has heard God’s call, and the deep longing of his heart is to hurry to worship the God who he knows loves him.
And so the two psalms oscillate between a confident approach and a doubting retreat. This shows itself in a kind of liturgical stammer, a conflicted hesitation that is not readily resolved.
Twenty years ago I adopted my daughter from Russia. While I was there I had the opportunity to visit several Russian churches with their golden onion-shaped domes and altars covered in icons. Icons are paintings of biblical characters, and the artists over the centuries were careful to keep the style and form of each character as consistent as possible. I asked our tour guide a question that betrayed my ignorance. “Why icons?” She quickly reminded me that most of the peasants in those days were illiterate, and the icons were there to help them “read” the Bible.
During three of my four years as a student at Calvin College I served on the Knollcrest Worship Service Committee. This was a group of about a dozen students who were advised by the two college chaplains. It was our job to plan and help lead the two worship services held every Sunday during the school year. We were also supervised by a consortium of local church councils that sent elder representatives to every service.
At least three thousand miracles happened at the festival of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. Three thousand people put their faith in Jesus Christ. Each of those miracles involved three people: an apostle who preached in an intelligible language; a festival-goer who heard the gospel message in his or her own language; and the Holy Spirit, who produced faith. As the apostle and the festival-goer come together through the work of the Holy Spirit, we see the mission of God and his church. Pentecost especially is about those three-person missional miracles.
This service was developed as a result of our church council’s desire to build congregational awareness of the persecuted church. Pentecost, when we remember Jesus’ apostolic charge to “make disciples of all nations,” seemed to be an appropriate service in which to do this.
We are excited about a vision of “vocational discipleship,” the idea that faith shapes how we engage in the workplace. We are starting to think about setting aside a Sunday to focus on this. What advice do you have?
When “faith and vocation” books speak of “connecting Sunday worship to Monday work,” they often mean overcoming the false dichotomy between individual Christians’ personal, private faith and their public lives. This is captured, for example, in the subtitle of pastor Tom Nelson’s book Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. From this perspective, the primary task of integrating faith and work is to instill a biblical worldview in Christians on Sundays and encourage them to make connections to their weekday work.
As I reflect on this issue the word that comes to mind is expansive. This is the issue for Ascension and Pentecost, two days that are all about expanding. When Christ ascended into heaven his work did not end; it expanded. Christ now sits at God’s right hand ruling the world. Christ is the sovereign Lord, and not just of those who recognize his lordship. He is Lord of all. At Pentecost we see the expansive grace of God in the giving of the Holy Spirit.
It is getting near the end of the school year, which also seems to mark the end of choir rehearsals and other regular rehearsals to prepare for worship. As you think of the many people involved with worship over this past season, consider how you might recognize the gifts they have given the church. One idea is to write them a letter, maybe even publishing it in your church’s newsletter. Roger Hicks has provided this one for the faithful choir member.
Dear Choir Member,
A Psalm Prayer and Blessing for Children
Note: Words in bold type indicate congregational response.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold
against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger. (Ps. 8:1b-2)
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.
Instead, be filled with the Spirit,
speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,
always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s safe to say that most Christians have memorized the Lord’s Prayer. But when we do so, we often become attached to the wording of a specific Bible version. As a result, some of us find it distressing when we hear a different reading of the Lord’s Prayer. When planning worship you might have been surprised by the strong response of some when you use an unfamiliar version. “What next?” they say. “Is nothing sacred?”
Mary Kay Beall and John Carter are a husband-and-wife hymn-writing team. Mary Kay was born on August 16, 1943, in Akron, Ohio. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University (B.M.), Ohio State University (M.A.), and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio (M.T.S.). An ordained minister in the American Baptist Church and United Church of Christ, Mary Kay and her husband have served in a variety of positions in numerous churches of different denominations.
At Thornapple Covenant Church in Grand Rapids, MI, in the summer of 2014, our preaching pastor, Rob Peterson, planned a worship series on the book of James entitled “A Word to the Wise: Exploring the Themes in James.” The book of James is full of godly wisdom, wisdom that is needed today especially in order to develop Christian maturity and a healthy Christian community. Some of the questions addressed in James include these:
We are very grateful to Dr. Amos Yong for allowing us to share his insights with you. This article, based on a talk given at the National Worship Leader Conference in Dallas, Texas, on October 2, 2015, is a bit more academic than most that are found in Reformed Worship. But after reading it you will be rewarded with a deeper understanding of the Pentecost event and its implications for our lives and worship today. —JB
The coming liturgical season is one in which we reflect on the mystery of the Easter event, witness Christ’s ascension, and participate in the stirring day of Pentecost. It is a time focused on the departure of the Christ, whose earthly ministry turned lives and prophecies upside down and who reigns as the sovereign Lord of all.
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