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March 2017

Expansive

As I reflect on this issue the word that comes to mind is expansive. This is the issue for Ascension and Pentecost, two days that are all about expanding. When Christ ascended into heaven his work did not end; it expanded. Christ now sits at God’s right hand ruling the world. Christ is the sovereign Lord, and not just of those who recognize his lordship. He is Lord of all. At Pentecost we see the expansive grace of God in the giving of the Holy Spirit.

The Heart of Worship

Learning to Inhabit the Liturgy for the Life of the World

When “faith and vocation” books speak of “connecting Sunday worship to Monday work,” they often mean overcoming the false dichotomy between individual Christians’ personal, private faith and their public lives. This is captured, for example, in the subtitle of pastor Tom Nelson’s book Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. From this perspective, the primary task of integrating faith and work is to instill a biblical worldview in Christians on Sundays and encourage them to make connections to their weekday work.

Sunday’s Prayer and Monday’s Work

Praying for Discipleship in the Workplace

Q

We are excited about a vision of “vocational discipleship,” the idea that faith shapes how we engage in the workplace. We are starting to think about setting aside a Sunday to focus on this. What advice do you have?

A

Beauty Behind Bars

The Transforming Power of God’s Word

Sometimes we don’t know we have something until it is taken away. Sometimes we don’t value something until it’s gone. Sometimes we fail to recognize the significance of something until we try to imagine our lives without it.

A Service for Pentecost and the Persecuted Church

This service was developed as a result of our church council’s desire to build congregational awareness of the persecuted church. Pentecost, when we remember Jesus’ apostolic charge to “make disciples of all nations,” seemed to be an appropriate service in which to do this.

Pentecost and Missional Worship

At least three thousand miracles happened at the festival of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. Three thousand people put their faith in Jesus Christ. Each of those miracles involved three people: an apostle who preached in an intelligible language; a festival-goer who heard the gospel message in his or her own language; and the Holy Spirit, who produced faith. As the apostle and the festival-goer come together through the work of the Holy Spirit, we see the mission of God and his church. Pentecost especially is about those three-person missional miracles.

Holy Wings

During three of my four years as a student at Calvin College I served on the Knollcrest Worship Service Committee. This was a group of about a dozen students who were advised by the two college chaplains. It was our job to plan and help lead the two worship services held every Sunday during the school year. We were also supervised by a consortium of local church councils that sent elder representatives to every service.

Visual Worship

Light Boxes

Twenty years ago I adopted my daughter from Russia. While I was there I had the opportunity to visit several Russian churches with their golden onion-shaped domes and altars covered in icons. Icons are paintings of biblical characters, and the artists over the centuries were careful to keep the style and form of each character as consistent as possible. I asked our tour guide a question that betrayed my ignorance. “Why icons?” She quickly reminded me that most of the peasants in those days were illiterate, and the icons were there to help them “read” the Bible.

Approaching the Altar of My God

A Choral Reading Based on Psalm 42 and 43

In Psalms 42 and 43 the psalmist speaks of his anxious soul that is disturbed and would rather retreat than encounter the Lord God who is most worthy. The psalmist is assailed with doubts and confusion. His resolve is weak. Yet the psalmist has heard God’s call, and the deep longing of his heart is to hurry to worship the God who he knows loves him.

And so the two psalms oscillate between a confident approach and a doubting retreat. This shows itself in a kind of liturgical stammer, a conflicted hesitation that is not readily resolved.

Saying Goodbye to a Pastor

A Litany of Farewell

When a new pastor is ordained or installed in a congregation, much celebration usually occurs. Several ordained people might take part in the service. Councils of neighboring churches are invited to send representatives to witness the occasion. The official installation and/or ordination form is read and sometimes embellished with ministry symbols and several readers. Perhaps the choir presents music, or congregational singing time is enlarged. To add to this celebration, cake or even a meal may be served after worship!

A Primer on Microphones

If you can’t hear the Word clearly, how can you worship effectively? If the worship sound is distracting, how can we join with others in worship?

While how microphones are used doesn’t affect the spiritual quality of worship, it makes a great difference in its technical quality and, if done poorly, can impede worship. To have the most technically excellent worship service, one must understand how microphones work and how to use them effectively.

Chasing the Ghosts of Worship Past

Losing its roots: the dilemma of “contemporary worship”

Strongest of the Senses

A news story I read today about a popular picture-sharing smartphone app included this quote: “People wonder why their daughter is taking 10,000 photos a day. What they don’t realize is that she isn’t preserving images. She’s talking.” This struck me. It’s common knowledge that pictures speak louder than words and that vision is one of the strongest of our senses. Why then do we have such trouble including pictures in our worship? Certainly it can’t be a carryover from the fifteenth-century Reformation, can it?