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December 2016

Contemplate the Grave

“Weep not for me, Mother,
in the grave I have life.”

So begins the poem “Crucifixion” by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966). “In the grave I have life.” “Yes, but . . .” we want to argue. We feel compelled to interject that “but.” But Christ didn’t stay in the grave; we don’t stay in the grave; there is life on the other side of the grave, not in it. This is all true. Yet maybe Akhmatova was correct in calling our attention to the grave itself.

Freedom from Fear

A Series for Lent

Freedom from Fear” is a Lenten series created by Pella Reformed Church in Adams, Nebraska. Throughout the gospels Jesus tells his followers or those around him, “Do not be afraid.” Yet today fear plays an enormous part in our lives. We spent the season of Lent looking at the times where Jesus says, “Do not be afraid” and discovering what fears Jesus is releasing us from today.

A song you may choose to use for the whole series is “Don’t Be Afraid” LUYH 429 by John L. Bell of the Iona Community

The Final Hours

Experiencing the Stations of the Cross

Holy Week at Covenant Life Church, a Christian Reformed church in Grand Haven, Michigan, has taken on a very distinct shape over the last twelve years. Prior to celebrating the glory of the resurrection, we create space to dwell with Christ by way of an immersive Stations of the Cross experience. The Stations of the Cross have a long, storied history within the Christian faith. For us, our goal is to create an interactive, meditative, and multi-sensory journey with Jesus, walking with him in the final hours of his life, leading up to his death and resurrection.

Walk in His Steps

A Good Friday Liturgy

Approximately 2,016 years ago, God couldn’t walk.  He had to be carried everywhere, like most babies.

2,015 years ago, God took some staggering first steps, fell, and scraped his knee. He cried, and his mother wiped away his tears and told him to try again. Or maybe he still crawled everywhere. Some toddlers are late bloomers.

2,010 years ago, God ran across the street in a small town with the other kids, perhaps playing a version of soccer. He might not have been very good at it.

Called to New Life

A Service for Easter

Responsive Call to Worship: Psalm 150

The Light Dawns

An Easter Monologue

Scene 1

[If desired, you could have an individual or small group humming “Were You There?” underneath the monologue until the phrase “Lazarus! Come out!”]

Please step back with me to the first Easter morning. [head scarf on]

Worship From the Heart to the Heavens

A Song Service for Use between Ash Wednesday and Ascension Sunday

Worship from the Heart to the Heavens” has been a frequent and fertile theme over the many years that I have planned and led worship services with a focus on congregational song, both in North America and beyond. This theme is a testimony that we’re never alone when we worship God. We always worship in community as part of the body of Christ, not only when we are in a congregation with others, but also by ourselves, in our “closets.” That is a comforting truth!

The Holy Spirit in Worship

Beyond a “God of the Gaps”

Q

I hear a lot of colloquial language about the Holy Spirit that doesn’t feel right to me. For example, one of our leaders likes to say, “I didn’t have time to plan—what a great opportunity for the Holy Spirit.” What do you think?

A

A Primer on Congregational Fasting

Fasting is a practice that some people incorporate into their spiritual lives on a regular basis—even weekly. Scot McKnight defines fasting as “a whole-body response to a grievous sacred moment” (Fasting: The Ancient Practices, Thomas Nelson, 2009). But why should we fast? McKnight’s definition helps us understand why: to respond to something that is spiritual enough, and grievous enough, to merit such an action.

On Worship Technology

Incorporating evolving technology has been an ongoing theme in Christian worship for two thousand years. From the use of scrolls to the invention of the printing press, from the use of lanterns to the invention of electricity, and from use of a pipe organ to the invention of electric guitars, worshipers have always been adopting new technology in worship.

Celebrating the Reformation Graciously

Growing up in the countryside five miles outside Ada, Michigan, Roman Catholics were largely unknown to me. When I was about ten, my parents sold off a small chunk of the farmland they had bought some years before, and the Smith family built a house half a mile up the road from us. They went to St. Robert Catholic Church.

Worship Projection Update

I’m old enough to remember worship without projection or large displays. Oh, there were times when a really progressive pastor would lug a clunky overhead projector upfront and supplement his message with rough words or pictures drawn on clear sheets of plastic called “transparencies.” The bulbs were hot, and the fans keeping them cool were loud. And then there was the problem of the transparencies sliding off the glass at precisely the wrong time.