Christian worship, especially in the Reformed lineage, has always been about a great deal more than what we do in church on Sunday. “Work is worship” my parents used to say (except on Sunday). Service is worship. And there was a great deal of talk about sacrificing—especially when I became a teenager—referenced to the first verse of Romans 12.
This wide definition of worship, in my experience, has been both a great gift of our tradition and a sorry excuse for impoverished formal worship.
Cultural forces can sometimes affect how we “see” the Bible, how we approach the Scriptures. So we receive the Bible as a sort of divine encyclopedia full of revealed “facts,” or we treat it as an abstract rule book, or we revere it as merely a historic relic of a past when people seemed to actually encounter God. What gets lost in these functional “pictures” of the Bible is something central to the Scriptures themselves: the fact that the Bible is a story. God reveals himself to us in a narrative.
The function of hymnals in the life of the church has changed dramatically over the past thirty years. Many congregations rarely use them. Thousands of Christians seldom, if ever, open one. When people hear of the publication of Lift Up Your Hearts (LUYH), it’s natural for some of them to ask, “Why would you ever want to publish another hymnal?”
At breakfast recently, my two-year-old, Maggie, was having an animated conversation with a sausage. When I asked her with whom she was talking, she held up the link and told me it was Olivia, the precocious pig who is the subject of her favorite books. While the irony of pretending that a sausage was a pig was lost on Maggie, the joy of imagination was not. Her “Olivia” went on an adventure around her plate, chatting with strawberries, playing in the oatmeal, and finally suffering a tragic end, eaten by a “Maggie-monster.”
Over the past fifteen months, it has been my joy to worship with more than forty congregations from twenty different denominations as part of our family’s sabbatical in southern California. It would take a book to unpack all the things we experienced. For now, here is a brief report on eleven things that we noticed—some to celebrate, some to ponder, some to lament.
There are many different ways to tell the story of the Protestant Reformation. A favorite centers on the heroic tale of Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk newly convicted by his discovery of Paul’s forensic
gospel, furiously hammering his ninety-five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. The Reformation is thus launched by a kind of medieval blog post about justification by faith that becomes the catalyst for a theological
Have you ever been in a worship service where the spoken, sung, or visual message was transformational? You leave convicted that the old way of doing, believing, or speaking was wrong and it is replaced with a new way. Such was the experience of the writer of Psalm 73.
In this article John Witvliet explores Psalm 73 and what it might teach us about worship today—and how it might provide an example for future issues of Reformed Worship. —JB
This litany was used for the 2010 Pentecost worship service at our church. That service was held the same weekend as the local high school’s graduation ceremony, making the theme especially meaningful as graduates seek God’s guidance for the future.
Song: “Dwell in Me, O Blessed Spirit” PsH 427