Larry Sibley (firstname.lastname@example.org) teaches courses in worship and pastoral care at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, and at the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga, Latvia.
Articles by this author:
When the prayers of the worshiping community, the small group or family, and the individual are formed and guided by the psalms, the result is a balanced, God-centered, complete diet of prayer. People grow in grace and God hears what God is waiting to hear. Here are some examples and suggestions for including this diet in Sunday worship and throughout the week.
Note: All Scripture quotations in this article are from the NRSV.
People often ask, “How can we improve or renew our worship?” My response is that we should restore the central things and practice them robustly, using contemporary forms rooted in the practices of John Calvin, a sixteenth-century pastor and liturgical reformer. Even though Calvin is most widely known as a systematizer (Institutes, 1536-1559) and exegete (Commentaries on almost all the books of the Bible), the twenty-first century church should not ignore his leadership in liturgical renewal.
- Keeping Word and Meal Together
One fall day in the fifth century before Christ, the people of Israel gathered at the Water Gate in Jerusalem (Neh. 8:2-12). Ezra and several assistants read and interpreted the Book of the Law in a festive setting. As the meaning of the text began to sink in, the people wept. But Ezra told them that this was a day for a feast, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v. 10).
- Where Pastoral Care Begins
It’s about halfway through the Sunday morning service, and Pastor Tim is standing at the communion table holding a loaf of bread in his hands. He is about to bless the bread, break it, and share it with God’s people. He is feeding the flock of God.
Earlier in the service he fed the congregation by reading and expounding on God’s Word. After that he invited them into prayer for the church and the world. Word, prayer, and meal—these are food for the flock, means of grace. And they are the place where pastoral care begins.
The meal that we know as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist is derived from a rich background of meals—meals and meal customs recorded in Scripture. Traces of these meals can be found in the sacrament.
Edited for Jubilate Hymns Ltd. by Michael Baughen (general editor), Michael Saward (chair for hymn texts), David Illiff (chair for hymn music), and David Peacock (chair for songs). Stowmarket, Suffolk, UK: Kevin Mayhew, Ltd., 1999. Full music edition $29.95 (ISBN 1 84003 419 X); words only $5.95 (ISBN 1 84003 450 5). Available in North America from email@example.com.
The three songs chosen for this column all come from England and are found in a new hymnal, Sing Glory, produced by Jubilate Hymns, Ltd., the publishing arm of a group of about sixty British clergy, authors, and musicians that have been active in preparing new songs for the church since the 1960s (see box on p. 31 and a review of Sing Glory on p. 47). The first song predates the formation of the Jubilate Group; the other two are by active members of the group.
When Andy and Sarah Kim bought a row house on Wingohocking Street in the Hunting Park section of North Philadelphia a few years ago, they did so because they wanted to be a part of the community and ministry of Spirit and Truth Fellowship. They are raising their three children among neighbors who are mostly Puerto Rican and African American. Andy, a graduate of nearby Westminster Seminary, is a social worker in the city, serves as an elder at the church, and leads one of the Wednesday night “growth cells” at his home.