What do Lent, Good Friday, Easter, the psalms, and caring for God’s creation have in common? Two things: they are all themes present in this issue of Reformed Worship, and they all have to do with living “in the tension.”
In some circles this tension is articulated as the “here but not yet” phenomenon: the kingdom of God is here and present in this world, but it’s not yet fully realized. We all experience that tension—in the world but not of it, saved but still a sinner, rejoicing in the midst of grief, hope in the face of death.
In worship this tension plays out in various ways. For example, Sundays are not counted among the days of Lent because they point to the resurrected Christ, serving as mini-Easters amid a season of penitence. During Lent we walk with Christ to Jerusalem and remember the events of Holy Week, all the while knowing the reality of Easter. On Good Friday we are not a people without hope because we know that the resurrection has happened. On Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Christ even as we yearn for the day when all will be made new.
And so we preach like Leonard J. Vander Zee has done in “He Showed Them His Wounds” (p. 18)—acknowledging that even though “we experience great joy and deep faith, and we know that we can never be separated from God’s love . . .we still bear the scars of human life.” And we speak of and through the psalms the way Walter Brueggemann does in Part 2 of his series “Psalms: Voicing a Counter-World” (p. 22), teaching us again that the psalms provide us with the tools we need to live honestly in a world in tension.
Living in this tension, the knowledge that we are called to bring forth the kingdom of God ought to impact all we do. Consider these words from the contemporary testimony Our World Belongs to God:
41. Joining the mission of God,
the church is sent
with the gospel of the kingdom
to call everyone to know and follow Christ
and to proclaim to all
the assurance that in the name of Jesus
there is forgiveness of sin
and new life for all who repent
The Spirit calls all members
to embrace God’s mission
in their neighborhoods
and in the world:
to feed the hungry,
bring water to the thirsty,
welcome the stranger,
clothe the naked,
care for the sick,
and free the prisoner.
We repent of leaving this work to a few,
for this mission is central to our being.
51. We lament that our abuse of creation
has brought lasting damage
to the world we have been given:
polluting streams and soil,
poisoning the air,
altering the climate,
and damaging the earth.
We commit ourselves
to honor all God’s creatures
and to protect them from abuse and extinction,
for our world belongs to God.
In worship we are instructed by God’s Word and challenged to go preach the gospel as we farm, grow gardens, plant trees—all in the name of God and for the expansion of God’s kingdom. To help us focus on our task to be caretakers of the world around us, we are grateful for the worship plans provided by Verlan Van Ee (“The King of Creation in the Gardens of Redemption,” p. 36), Sharon Veltema (“God’s Marvelous Creation,” p. 40), and Christine Jerrett (“Praising God the Maker,” p. 44).
During this coming Lent and Easter season let us, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, help our congregants live more fully into the tension. For indeed, the closer we walk to God the more intensely we feel the pull of the sin-filled world around us.