Leonard J. Vander Zee

Leonard J. Vander Zee is pastor of South Bend (Ind.) Christian Reformed Church.

Articles by this author:

  • The Hymnal as Teacher

    Part of my job at Faith Alive Christian Resources and on the editorial committee for the new hymnal Lift Up Your Hearts was to be one of the “theological police.” But is it truly important to make sure hymns pass theological muster? They’re only songs, after all.

  • He Showed Them His Wounds

    We all have scars, from the unsutured nicks of our childhood to long gouges left on a chest from bypass surgery, to the empty rippled space from a mastectomy. Some scars are readily visible; others are hidden and remain hidden from embarrassment or reticence.

  • A Litany for the Sick or Dying

    Using Psalm 102 in a Pastoral Setting

    The biblical heading for Psalm 102 is “The prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.” In the honest and vivid language typical of the psalms, the writer expresses a cry of pain and desolation, coupled with a poetic and, strangely, almost clinical description of the emotions, thoughts, and physical symptoms of a dying person. So how might we use this psalm in pastoral ministry and worship?

    I suggest using the adaptation of Psalm 102, found on the next page, in at least two pastoral settings.

  • A Cloud of Witnesses

    Why We Should Celebrate All Saints Day

    An acquaintance who has two sons in the Marines marveled at their loyalty and commitment to the unit and the Corps. One of his boys recalls the whole barrack yelling in one voice at bedtime, “I want to be a Marine like Chesty Puller.” General Puller, a veteran of WW II and Korea, is one of the Marines’ greatest heroes.

  • A Tale of Two Churches

    For various reasons I now live in two cities. My wife and I have our home in South Bend, Indiana, and I work in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We usually spend about three weekends a month in South Bend and one in Grand Rapids.

  • Book: Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

    Walter Brueggeman. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2003. 173 pp. $12.00.

    Anyone at all familiar with Walter Brueggemann’s work will note his characteristic offbeat style already in the title of this book (awed to heaven). Brueggemann, an Old Testament theologian, is here the theologian at prayer. This collection of prayers brings together his prayers (no more than a page each, often less) from such diverse occasions as opening a class to leading a worship service.

  • Too Spiritual for Our Own Good: Why we fail to see God acting in the sacraments

    There is a telling soliloquy in Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins that neatly sums up my concern in this article. Dr. Thomas More, Percy's Catholic protagonist, is having some conflict with his Protestant wife, Ellen, on matters of religious practice.

  • The Three Days: Celebrating the summit of Holy Week with four services and two sacraments

    I remember when I was a kid and sometimes Christmas and New Years Day fell in a particular year on a Saturday Because we were a pious church-going family, we would attend all the services the church offered. That meant worship on Saturday morning for Christmas service, and then again on Sunday morning and evening. But the real kicker came the next weekend.

  • Cultivating Faith: Godparents in the Reformed tradition?

    Though it has faded in importance over the last few decades, the godparent relationship has had a long and distinguished history in the church. Traditionally chosen by the parents of a child and present at baptism, godparents played a number of roles in the life of a baptized child. Sometimes they even assumed the parental role when the parents were unable to for some reason. Perhaps most important, godparents were responsible with the parents to insure that a child received the proper spiritual training.

  • When Someone Dies . . . A pastor answers some common questions about funeral practices and traditions

    Weddings and funerals are the two major rituals in contemporary culture in which virtually everyone participates. Both involve families, and both are often held in church.

    Unlike weddings, however, funerals are seldom anticipated or planned for. They often come on us suddenly, giving us little time to prepare. Overwhelmed by grief, we are inclined to simply follow custom and tradition in planning the funeral service.