The legend began on a Good Friday in Bermuda, sometime before the turn of the century. A Sunday school teacher was having a difficult time explaining Christ's ascension to his students, but he finally had an idea. He took his class to the beach, where he launched a large kite on which he had painted a likeness of Christ. When the kite reached its maximum height, he snipped the string, allowing the kite to ascend even further and become lost in the clouds.
My first impression of John Bell was that of a modern-day John the Baptist. From his piercing eyes down to his sandal-clad feet, he projected the intense charisma I've always associated with that desert prophet.
In every March issue, Reformed Worship offers resources and reflections to celebrate the ascension of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Those festival days are worth celebrating by offering joyful worship to the Lord. We also reflect on the implications of those feast days for doing the work of the Lord, to exercise the power given us by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Connections Between Worship and Evangelism
Go Now in Peace
June is often a month of partings. Children finish another school year, families leave on vacations, and many young couples get married, leaving their parents' homes to begin new homes. This little parting song of blessing would be appropriate in a number of these settings.
In the last several years I've visited a number of different churches and heard a variety of children's sermons. Some of them were really good, even outstanding. But, unfortunately most were not. In fact, many of them failed miserably.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.
Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Go and make disciples of all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, to the end of time.
—Matthew 28:19a, 20b
In this mini-musical drama, Helen Walter tells the story of Abraham—how he left his country and traveled to the promised land, and how God kept his promises to Abraham.
What's unique about Reverend Gordon Martin—and his whole congregation at Snowhomish Church recognizes it—is his penchant for doing meaningful baptisms.
N. Lee Orr. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1991.144 pages.
Questions are powerful. Ronald Reagan may have won an election simply by asking, 'Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" Wendy's Hamburger chain may have propelled itself into major contention with giant McDonald's by asking a simple three-word question: "Where's the beef?"
And consider this: When Adam and Eve fell into sin, God responded not with charges, accusations, or pronouncements, but with questions ... one after another. Listen:
Edward Foley. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1991.206 pages.
This fine book would be improved by a more clear subtitle. In the old-fashioned tradition of long book titles, it should go something like this: A Brief but Accurate History of Roman Catholic Worship, with a Brief Glance at Some Protestant Worship Traditions.
This service was originally held with the congregations of Pleasant Street and Fahiawn Christian Reformed Churches, Whitinsville, Massachusetts. It was submitted by Wilma Vander Baan, organist at Fairlawn Christian Reformed Church.
Prelude: "Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord"
[arr. G. Winston Cassler]
"Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid"
[arr. for brass, Vaclav Nelhybel]
The Question that Haunts Us
"However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
Scripture: Luke 18:1-8
Old Testament: Deut. 32:48-52
Psalter: Psalm 62
Epistle:! Peter 1:3-9
The question for this first week is very instructive, because it reveals the first thing Christ will be looking for at the great moment when history reaches its climax, and he returns to sift the hearts of all peoples.
Culture Shock: Redefining the relationship between church and mission now that we've lost the home-field advantage
The day of the professional minister is over. The day of the missionary pastor has come.... The day of the churched culture is over. The day of the mission field has come.... The day of the local church is over. The day of the mission outpost has come.
The Question that Arrests Us
"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?"
Scripture: Matthew 16:21-28
Old Testament: Daniel 5
Psalter: Psalm 73
Epistle: Philippians 3:4b-16
In this pair of articles, we looked over the shoulders of a worship coordinator and a worship consultant as they together planned a congregational worship seminar in 1992. After the seminar, Edith Bajema agreed to share with RW the materials she had prepared for it, including this letter. We were impressed with her letter, and asked Dave Beelen to write his response for RW so that other congregations could also "attend" the seminar and perhaps gain insights into similar questions they are asking.
The Question that Focuses Us
"Do You Love Me?"
Scripture: John 21:15-19
Old Testament: Deut. 13:1-5
Psalter: Psalm 86
Epistle: Revelation 2:1-7
What all human beings long for is the manifest presence of God in worship. Psalm 139 teaches us that God is present everywhere, but we can also experience an intensification of that presence among us in worship. Real worship happens when God's people are sensitive to this intensified presence and enter into it with abandon and reverence—a most holy and glorious combination.
You describe such real worship in your letter when you passionately portray your congregation's hunger:
The Question that Challenges Us
"Who do you say I am?"
Scripture: Luke 9:18-27
Old Testament: Malachi 3:14
Psalter: Psalm 45
Epistle: Revelation 1:9-18
Simply put, this is the single most critical question Jesus Christ ever asked. Our answer to it reveals nothing less than our very destiny itself. In judging him, we are judged.
I have never visited your church, but I know a lot about your ministry and worship. Your congregation has a well-developed vision for ministry, and you make worship a priority. You plan your weekly services carefully and creatively. You place a priority on member participation in worship as well as in ministry, with balanced emphasis on youth and adults, men and women, singles and couples. The Word, music, prayers, and giving are well integrated in your services. Your congregation is also sensitive to visitors.
The Question that Delivers Us
"Do you want to get well ? "
Scripture: John 5:1-15
Old Testament: Exodus 15:1-13
Psalter: Psalm 103
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Do we really want visitors to our "church to come back?
What a silly question. Of course we do. We spend a lot of time talking about how to attract new people and make them feel welcome. Our evangelism committees discuss that challenge every month.
Sunday November 1, was beginning to loom large on the horizon. I was scheduled to occupy a nearby pulpit. Reformation themes were already crossing my mind. I was bracing myself more than usual, for this promised to be a rather unusual weekend. Instead of Saturday leading up to Sunday, Sunday would likely draw heavily upon Saturday. For that Saturday was clearly marked: October 31. Every year on that date, loyal heirs of the reformers faithfully relive the sounds of Luther's hammer blows centuries ago in Wittenberg.
The psalmist encourages us, "O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!" (Ps. 98:1). In recent years, more and more Christians have been taking this encouragement to heart. Their "new song" often takes the form of the praise choruses that are taking many congregations by storm.