When liturgy meets Murphy's Law

Allow me to introduce myself. I'm the rookie theological editor at CRC Publications. Apart from sending our authors' occasional doctrinal slip-ups into cyberspace (and unwittingly appending my own), I also get to join the editorial staff of RW. That means I now have opportunity to watch these gifted people work their magic. I come at this after twenty years in the parish ministry. What credentials do I bring to my new role?

  • I'm the guy who knocked over the flowers, forgot to serve communion to the elders, and dropped a live microphone on the floor, all in a single worship service.
  • I mixed up the names at a double baptism even though Baby Susan was clearly identified with a pink ribbon and Jason with a blue one.
  • I forgot to give the parting blessing; half-way down the aisle remembered an announcement I was supposed to make; got back on the pulpit; made it; and again walked away without giving the benediction.
  • In a community-oriented worship service I tried twenty times to raise the overhead screen with no success only to witness a young lad come forward and nail it the first time. I headed for the pew, figuring he might as well take the rest of the service.
  • In a multimedia approach to a message on Genesis 1, I started with the sanctuary in total darkness, read as dramatically as I could the majestic words "... and there was light," hit the switch to the slide projector, blew the breaker, and instantly perceived that in my particular recreation there wasn't going to be any light.

I suppose I would feel more worthy of my new role if that last-mentioned worship service was the only one in which I cast no light. But more than once I've co-opted the grocer's role: I've prepared God's people for Thanksgiving by delivering a turkey. At least I could comfort myself with the knowledge that we have a God who patiently accepts our best worship efforts even when they aren't very good.

Service planners, worship leaders, and ministers really believe that. Otherwise we'd never dare to tackle our job. How else could we presume to address people with God's Word and lead them in a fitting response, week after week, century after millennium? This is God we're talking about! This is God we're talking to!

I found the highlights of the church calendar the most difficult. How can we begin to do justice in our worship to what happened in the virgin's womb, on that cross, and in that tomb? The gospel is good news, but it's old news. God's people ask us worship leaders to help them celebrate that familiar message in a vitally fresh way. What a challenge!

This issue of RW offers many useful ideas to support you in preparing meaningfully rich Lent, Holy Week, and Easter services. From Gerald Zandstra's suggestions for worship centered on the "I AM" sayings of Jesus, to Carla Brouwer's seamless blending of contemporary and traditional selections of Songs for the Season—we can energize each other's worship by sharing dynamic ways of enjoying the good news. I take that to be RWs mission.

But just in case, the gospel writer Matthew offers us an intriguing note of consolation if this year's Lent and Easter services fall short of being our most compelling, dramatic, and engaging encounter ever with our risen Lord. Matthew records Jesus' own speech at the very first meeting with his followers after he so dramatically burst forever the surly bonds of death. Considering the fact that he's just turned the whole universe everlastingly on its ear, it's decidedly underwhelming. It consists of a single word. In the Greek it's Chairete. It means "Hello." That's it. Nothing more spectacular than the most common, simple word of gospel greeting: "Good day." And it was.. . and still is.

The thrilling exuberance of the eternally ordinary has begun. God has come into our everyday lives to stay. Eternal life has become blessedly normal and natural. Jesus adds, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee [that's Hicksville, not Hollywood]. There they will see me" (Matt. 28:10).... and we do.


The RW staff is getting ready to say farewell to Harvey Smit, who is retiring at the end of 1996. He has served not only as executive editor of RW from its inception, but has also been the much loved and respected editor-in-chief since 1977 for the entire Education, Worship, and Evangelism Department here at CRC Publications. We will miss his wisdom and insight. Thanks, Harv!

Robert De Moor is editor of The Banner. He has also sered as theolgoical editor for RW.


Reformed Worship 42 © December 1996 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.