Worshiping with the Psalms

The psalms allow us to say and pray pretty much anything we need to. The psalms not only allow us to say things to God and to each other, the psalms are God’s word to us.” (David Vroege, pastor of All Nations Christian Reformed Church in Halifax, NB)

The psalms were chosen as the unifying theme for the morning worship services for the 2015 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church. The overarching beauty and depth in the book of Psalms allowed us some continuity between services. The themes of wisdom, confession and lament, hope and encouragement, praise and prayer, seemed fitting for this body that would be discussing and deliberating decisions that would have future impact on the ministry of the denomination.

Worship makes a difference. The honest language of the psalms gives voice and expression to the thoughts and heart cries of worshipers. But, more important, it allows space to listen to God as he speaks and moves among his people. Multiple styles and genres of music and instruments are used in these services. Praises were spoken and sung, time was spent in confession and lament, affirmations of faith and testimony were given, Scripture was read and preached, and the prevailing prayer was for God’s will to be done.

These worship services were planned by a team consisting of two pastors and two worship leaders in four different locations. The group met for the first time via Skype to choose the themes for the five services, and then each contributed electronically through shared Google Docs to fill in the services. Songs, prayers, litanies, and Scripture suggestions were added. The group leader pulled the ideas submitted for each service into final drafts that were approved by the full group and sent to those who would be participating in each service.

These services were originally intended to be approximately 30-35 minutes in length, as the sermon was a short 5-6 minute meditation. The meditations can be expanded to full-length sermons, and some additional suggestions for use in Sunday worship have been included here. The outlines of the messages are included with the online version of this article. Video links for each service are included at the end of the service. As always, feel free to adapt these service outlines for use in your worshiping community. Four services are included here, with additional services and resources found online.

The sketches that accompany several of the services were created during the worship offered at synod in response to what the Spirit was saying to artist and pastor Randy Beumer. They are offered here for your congregation’s use and reflection but also to serve as an encouragement to use the arts as a means to respond to God’s Word.

Service 1

Theme

Wisdom

Scripture

Psalm 1

Gathering Songs

“Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord” LUYH 537, WR 656, GTG 452
“Send Us Your Spirit” LUYH 228, SNC 163
“Gracious Spirit, Heed Our Pleading” LUYH 320, SNC 166, GTG 287

Call to Worship based on Psalm 124:8; 118:24; 51:15

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O Lord, open our lips,
and our mouths shall declare your praise.

Opening Hymn and Prayer

“May the Mind of Christ My Savior” LUYH 334, PsH 291, SWM 211, TH 644, WR 646

Psalm 1: A responsorial with the singing of “Trees” (see RW 116)

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and they meditate on God’s teaching day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;
everything they do shall prosper.

Sing stanza 1 of “Trees” PFAS 2, RW 116

It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall be destroyed.

Sing stanza 2 of “Trees”

 

Prayer

O Lord, uphold us by your Holy Spirit.
Daily increase in us your gifts of grace:
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord,
the spirit of joy in your presence.
Plant us by the streams of living water.
Amen.

(John D. Witvliet, 2011, © Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, from Psalms for All Seasons 1D)

Sing stanza 3 of “Trees”

 

Scripture Reading

Psalm 1

Sermon

 

Song of Response

“God of Grace and God of Glory” LUYH 926, PH 420, WR 569, GTG 307 new descant available in Praise God in the Heights, for a free download see calvin.edu/worship

Prayer

A Prayer for the Mission of the Church LUYH 265

Closing Song

“Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God” LUYH 746

Benediction/Blessing

May the Holy Spirit fall upon you, encompass you, and support you.
May the Holy Spirit transform you, lead you, and equip you.
May the Holy Spirit give you encouragement, strength, and comfort
to serve and worship our triune God both now and forever. Amen.

(from The Worship Sourcebook, Q.9.2.5)

Passing of the Peace

Video Link to Service 1: https://vimeo.com/144772572

Service 2

Theme

Waiting on God, dependence on God, take courage in God’s strength

Scripture

Psalm 27

Gathering Songs

“Better Is One Day” LUYH 506, PFAS 510
“Dios esta aqui/God Is Here Today” LUYH 522, GTG 411

Call to Worship

God is here today. He invites us to worship with the words from Psalm 27 that will frame this service: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid?”

Opening Song

“The Lord Is My Light” LUYH 431, PFAS 164, SNC 206, GTG 842

Liturgist: As we begin this day, we live into the anticipation of the God-ordained work that is laid out before us. We pause this morning to wait, to listen to God’s Word, and to commit our ways to the Lord.

Responsorial with Psalm 37

Sing: Wait for the Lord LUYH 480, SNC 96, WR 166, GTG 90
Read: Psalm 37:1-5
Sing: Wait for the Lord
Read: Psalm 37:6-9
Sing: Wait for the Lord
Read: Psalm 37:10 & 11, 39 & 40
Sing: Wait for the Lord

Silence

 

Prayer of Confession (adapted from LUYH 653)

Almighty and loving God,
we confess that we put our trust in our own wisdom and our strength.
We have placed our agendas, our desires ahead of yours.
By the Holy Spirit’s power, help us to know you, the only true God,
as you have revealed yourself in your Word,
to trust in you alone,
to look to you for every good thing,
humbly and patiently,
and to love, fear, and honor you with all our hearts.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Song

“We Need the Power of the Holy Spirit” LUYH 321

Children’s Message

“The Lord Is My Light,” based on Psalm 27:1

Visual aid: a flashlight. Ask the children why light is important? Responses: so that we can see, so that we don’t fall, so that we aren’t afraid, so we know where to go, etc. Craft a short message that leads into the reading of Psalm 27 and the message (sermon) that will be delivered.

Scripture Reading

Psalm 27

Sermon

 

Song of Response

“I Surrender All” LUYH 739, TH 562, WR 474; a new descant is available in Praise God in the Heights, free download available at calvin.edu/worship

Prayer

Loving God,
may our words be simple,
our hearts humbled,
our attention focused,
and our thoughts pure.
Thank you that we may lean upon you.
You are our hope, and we praise you now and forever. Amen

Song

“God Is Here” LUYH 246, PH 461, PsH 516, WR 1, GTG 409

Benediction/Blessing LUYH 954

The same voice that speaks over the waters and shakes the wilderness,
the same voice that says, “I am your God, you are my people,”
the same voice that said, “This is my beloved Son,”
now blesses you with peace:
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

(based on Psalm 29:2, 9; Ex. 20:9; matt. 3:17; Is. 41:10)

Closing Song

“How Firm a Foundation” LUYH 427, PH361, PsH 500, TH 94, WR 411, GTG 463; a new descant is available in Praise God in the Heights, free download available at calvin.edu/worship

Passing of the Peace

Video Link to Service 2: https://vimeo.com/144772573

Service 3

Theme

Confession/Lament—How Long?

Scripture

Psalm 13

Gathering Songs

“God Be Merciful to Me” LUYH 622, PFAS 344, PsH 255, TH 486
“Somos uno en Cristo/We Are One in Christ Jesus” LUYH 255, SWM 235, SNC 179

Call to Worship

Psalm 95:6

Opening Song

“Give Us Clean Hands” LUYH 628

Reading from the Belhar Confession LUYH 259

This is a translation of the original Afrikaans text of the confession as it was adopted by the synod of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa in 1986.

We believe in one holy universal Christian church,
the communion of saints
called from the entire human family.

We believe that Christ’s work of reconciliation
is made manifest in the church
as the community of believers
who have been reconciled
with God and with one another.

We believe that this unity of the people of God
must be manifested and be active
in a variety of ways:
in that we love one another;
that we experience, practice, and pursue
community with one another;
that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly
and joyfully to be of benefit
and blessing to one another;
that we share one faith,
have one calling,
are of one soul and one mind;
have one God and Father,
are filled with one Spirit,
are baptized with one baptism,
eat of one bread
and drink of one cup,
confess one name,
are obedient to one Lord,
work for one cause,
and share one hope.

That together we come to know
the height and the breadth
and the depth of the love of Christ;
together are built up
to the stature of Christ,
to the new humanity;
together know and bear
one another’s burdens,
thereby fulfilling the law of Christ
that we need one another
and upbuild one another,
admonishing and comforting one another;
that we suffer with one another
for the sake of righteousness;
pray together;
together serve God in this world;
and together fight against all
which may threaten or hinder this unity.

—Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa, 1986, trans. Office of Theology and Worship, PCUSA

Prayer for Peace and Justice

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
We come before you, Lord,
crying out in a violent land,
crying for peace.
Conflict is tearing people apart.
We confess sinful attitudes and deeds that contribute to conflict.
Our brothers and sisters suffer around the world.
We share their pain.
As refugees search for a home in foreign lands, guide them.
As world leaders try to dialogue peacefully, give them wisdom.
As strangers knock on our doors, help us to welcome them.
You are the Almighty, the Prince of Peace!
Give us hope for tomorrow.
May your peace flow like a river through a dry land.
Amen.

—adapt., Erica VanEssendelft, Office of Social Justice (use in worship permitted)

Song

“Pelas dores deste mundo/For the Troubles” LUYH 663, GTG 764

Song

“Kyrie Eleison” LUYH 637, WR 377

Liturgist: Gracious God, we pray for the faithful all over the world, that all who love you may be united in your service. Hear our prayers for the church. . . . (allow a time of silence for people to fill in their prayers)

Song

“Kyrie Eleison” LUYH 637, WR 377

Liturgist: We pray for the peoples and leaders of the nations, that they may be reconciled one to another in pursuit of your justice and peace. Hear our prayers for the world. . . . (allow a time of silence for people to fill in their prayers)

Song

“Kyrie Eleison” LUYH 637, WR 377

Liturgist: We pray for all who suffer from prejudice, greed, or violence, that the heart of humanity may warm with your tenderness. We pray especially for all prisoners of politics or religion, and for all refugees. Hear our prayers for all who are oppressed. . . . (allow a time of silence for people to fill in their prayers)

Song

“Kyrie Eleison” LUYH 637, WR 377

Liturgist: We pray for all in need because of famine, flood, or earthquake, that they may know the hope of your faithfulness through the help of others. Hear our prayers for the people of these countries, regions, or situations. . . . (allow a time of silence for people to fill in their prayers)

Song

“Kyrie Eleison” LUYH 637, WR 377

Scripture Reading

Psalm 13 (can be read responsively from Psalms for All Seasons, p. 58)

Sermon

 

Song of Response

“Jesus Lover of My Soul” LUYH 424, PH 303, PsH 578, TH 508, WR 439, GRG 440 (tune by Greg Thompson, © 2000 Greg Thompson Music. Listen to the song here: tinyurl.com/JesusLoverSoul)

Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Pardon (from LUYH 636)

Gracious God,
our sins are too heavy to carry,
too real to hide, and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name,
what our hearts can no longer bear,
and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment.
Set us free from a past that we cannot change;
open us to a future in which we can be changed;
and grant us grace to grow more and more
in your likeness and image;
through Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
Amen.

(Book of Worship, United Church of Christ © 1986, 2002 United Church of Christ)

Statement of Assurance

This saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
He bore our sins in his body on the cross,
so that free from sins,
we might live for righteousness.
By his wounds we are healed.
Alleluia! Amen.
(1 Tim. 1:15; 1 Pet. 2:24)

Closing Song

“My Jesus, I Love Thee” LUYH 366, PsH 557, TH 648, WR 468

Benediction/Blessing

Jude 24, 25

Passing of the Peace

Video Link to Service 3: https://vimeo.com/144772574

Service 4

Theme

Praise, comfort, encouragement, hope, unity

Scripture

Psalm 62, Psalm 30; Psalm 33; Romans 8

Note: This was a service of Scripture, prayer, and song, and did not have a sermon. A sermon could be written on any of the four Scripture passages above.

Prelude

“Tell Your Children” LUYH 314, PsH 588
“Variations on Old Hundredth” (John Knowles Paine, with chorale by J.S. Bach)
“All People that on Earth Do Dwell/Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”

Call to Worship

Psalm 33:1-3

Opening Songs of Worship

“Holy, Holy, Holy” (st. 1, 3, 4) LUYH 538, PH 138, PsH 249, SWM 28, TH 100, WR 136, GTG 1
“Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (st. 1 and 8 only with four languages on the screen: one line at a time) LUYH 590, PH 466, PsH 501, SWM 42, TH 164
“Total Praise” LUYH 420, PFAS 794

Scripture

Psalm 62:1, 2

Song

“Kwake Yesu nasimama/Here on Jesus Christ I Will Stand” LUYH 708, GTG 832

Scripture

Psalm 62:3-8

Song

“I Cry Out” LUYH 620, PFAS 688, SNC 71

Scripture

Romans 8:18-25

Song

“My Soul Finds Rest” LUYH 370

Catechism

Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1

Liturgist: People of God: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

All: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul,
in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life and makes me
wholeheartedly willing and ready to live for him.

Song

“I Will Rise” LUYH 468

A Brief Statement of Faith

All: We trust in God the Holy Spirit,
everywhere the giver and renewer of life.
The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the church.

Liturgist: The same Spirit who inspired the prophets and apostles
rules our faith and life in Christ through Scripture,
engages us through the Word proclaimed,
claims us in the waters of baptism,
feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of salvation,
and calls women and men to all ministries of the church.

All: In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

Book of Confessions, 2014, “A Brief Statement of Faith” (10.4–.6, Lines 52–80), Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Used by permission.

Song

“Let Justice Flow Down” LUYH 295

Sermon/Message

 

Response

Liturgist: In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying, Come, Lord Jesus!

All: With believers in every time and place,
we rejoice that nothing in life or in death
can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Book of Confessions, 2014, “A Brief Statement of Faith” (10.4–.6, Lines 52–80), Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Used by permission.

Songs

“All People that on Earth Do Dwell” (st. 1 only) LUYH 1, PFAS 623, PH 220, PsH 100, TH 1, WR 661, GTG 385
“Praise God” (st. 1 only, with five languages on the screen: one line at a time) LUYH 965, PH 591, PsH 638, TH 731, WR 34, GTG 606

Benediction/Blessing

Romans 15:13

Passing of the Peace

Video Link to Service 4: https://vimeo.com/144773071

Service 5

Theme

Rejoicing, thanks, blessing the nations, and preparing our minds for action

Scripture

Psalm 67; 2 Peter 3:18

Prelude (sung)

“Mayenziwe/Your Will Be Done” LUYH 909, SNC 198

Call to Worship (sung)

“Come, All You People”/Uyai mose LUYH 496, PFAS 406, SWM 4, SNC 4, GTG 388

Song

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” LUYH 348, PH 276, PsH 556, SWM 194, TH 32, WR 72, GTG 39

Psalm 67: A Prayer for the Church

All: May God be gracious to us and bless us, may the light of God’s face shine on us.

Liturgist: You have been good to us, God. You have blessed us and brought us this far. You have claimed us and our children in this family called (name your church or ministry). You have reached many people through us, through (name ministries of your church). We stand on the shoulders of your faithful servants who have gone before us. Thank you for blessing us. May the light of your face continue to shine on us.

All: Let your way be known upon the earth, your saving health among all nations.

Liturgist: We want to be part of making you known to all people everywhere—to the people of the nations here at home, to the people of the nations everywhere. Give us a fresh vision of our future hope—worshiping together—all languages—new languages—unique, yet blended together—one in Christ. Show us what it means to see your saving health among all nations!

All: Let all people praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you.

Liturgist: Begin with us—your Church—may our worship and our praise be contagious and unashamed, so that all will join in.

All: Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations on earth.

Liturgist: All of us are “the nations” together; let us be glad and sing for joy! Help us be truly joyful in you while we hold the reality of suffering and injustice in our hearts. We will let you judge the peoples, Lord— only you can see it all clearly. Guide us in your truth.

All: Let the peoples praise you, O God, let all the peoples praise you.

Liturgist: The earth has brought forth its increase,

All: God, our God, has blessed us.

Liturgist: The earth, your creation—beautiful and life-giving—growing—sustaining—increasing—bringing forth—we celebrate and give thanks. Show us how to love creation as you do.

All: May God give us blessing, and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe.

Liturgist: We confess, we don’t know for sure how to pray this with a humble spirit. Grant us humility and blessing. Move mightily, Holy Spirit, so that all will know that you alone are God.

All: Amen.

—Psalm 67 prayer by Diane Dykgraaf, © Creative Commons

Song

“God, We Sing Your Glorious Praises” LUYH 519 (alternate tune: NETTLETON)

Scripture

2 Peter 3:18

Meditation/Message

May You Grow in Grace

Song

“I Love to Tell the Story” LUYH 262, PsH 530, SWM 240, TH 478, WR 560, GTG 462

Closing Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God,
We pray for the church we love, your church, and for all those who labor in it.
Holy Spirit, increase our faith, grow us in grace and knowledge, and fill us with all that we need to keep serving you.
As we leave this place, keep us from falling into sin or running into danger.
Guide us to do what is right in your sight.
May your kingdom come, and your will be done, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Song

“Abana/The Lord’s Prayer” LUYH 911, PFAS 1049

Benediction/Blessing

Philippians 4:7

Song

“My Friends, May You Grow in Grace” LUYH 938, SWM 234, SNC 288

Video Link to Service 5: https://vimeo.com/144772570

Designing PowerPoints to Accompany the Series

When preparing PowerPoint slides, we chose to use one image throughout the entire series to bring a sense of continuity and purpose. This image of a tree seemed to represent many of the themes of the series: rootedness in God’s Word, healing, growth, unity. The entire image was on the screen at the beginning and the end of the service and several times in the middle when appropriate. This image was fun to work with because it contains plenty of color and interest.

At the beginning of the service, as people entered, the entire tree was presented, along with the theme of the service.

The slice of the original artwork was kept consistent throughout the entire service.

Then, each slide following had a slice of that image on the slide and the words to be read or sung either above or next to it. If the art slice was horizontal and placed on the bottom of the slide like this, then this became the template for the rest of the PowerPoint, and the words were placed above the color. This slice was created by taking a snapshot slice of the original artwork and placing it over the blank slide. Then duplicate slides were made for the rest of the presentation.

For variety, some services had a vertical slice of the artwork along the side of the PowerPoint, with the words to be read or sung presented on the slides this way.