Each issue of Reformed Worship has its beginning in a brainstorming meeting that takes place more than a year before readers hold the printed copy in their hands. Yet I am always amazed by two things: how certain topics pop up that were never part of our original plan, and how the individual articles, when placed side by side, tend to create an overarching theme for the whole issue. So, for example, in this issue the unexpected topic that took shape is prayer, and if I had to name an overarching theme, it would be that worship involves all of life.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that unplanned topics arise with each issue. After all, if we leave room for the Holy Spirit’s leading we will experience the unexpected. I am certain, though, that these topics are a result not only of the Holy Spirit at work in our offices but also in the churches. These topics arise because several unsolicited articles or services arrive around the same time on the same topic.
When we were planning this issue I spoke with Ron Reinstra about a particular experience of leading prayer in worship service. What I thought would be a single article on the topic grew when we received several other articles on prayer. Knowing how the Spirit works, it is my guess that prayer, both corporate and individual, is becoming a greater focus in many of our churches. So I’m eager to see what additional prayer resources and services come across my desk in the next year as together we follow the Spirit’s leading.
At first glance, some of the articles in this issue may seem to have less to do with corporate worship than usual. But from the perspective of worship involving all of life, it makes sense to include resources that encourage prayer outside of corporate worship (“How to Spend an Hour with God,” p. 31 and Richard Foster’s ten counsels on spiritual formation, p. 10).
There is a definite correlation between our increased attention to the theme of worship in all of life in RW and what is happening in church communities. For too long we have assumed that people knew how to worship and that they regularly practiced the disciplines used in corporate worship in their daily living. But as North American culture loses its Judeo-Christian values and many more of our congregants are new to the church, we find ourselves needing to be more intentional about teaching spiritual disciplines, or vertical habits (see RW 84), and pointing out how corporate worship is a culmination of worship in our daily living.
All of these insights feed directly back into the planned topics for this issue: Ascension and Pentecost.
On Ascension Day we celebrate Christ’s ascension into heaven, where he sits at God’s right hand ruling the universe and interceding on our behalf. Christ is Lord of all; he is sovereign, whether or not the world recognizes his rule. As Christians we daily declare our allegiance to Christ; we worship him by following his example in our daily life rather than following the way of our culture. We worship Christ in the choices we make as much as in the prayers we say. We can say that all of life is worship because Christ is Lord of all.
Pentecost is the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is as present and active in the mundane as in the miraculous. As Christians we rely on the Spirit’s leading, prompting, and correcting every day. Sometimes our dependence on the Spirit is very clear—as in a prayer service for healing. Other times our dependence is less obvious—when we’re putting together an issue of Reformed Worship, for instance. But whether the Spirit’s presence is palpable or subtle, the Spirit is at work in our lives and in the world around us.
So here I sit—curious about and eagerly anticipating what the Holy Spirit will be doing in our lives corporately and individually over the next year and beyond. If you share my curiosity, I hope you’ll continue to read Reformed Worship to see what expected and surprising things the Spirit is doing. I am looking forward to hearing from you!
to check out back issues of Reformed Worship for additional resources. We like to think that these issues have already found a permanent home on your bookshelf. But if not, they are available online at www.reformedworship.org. If you’d like to order a hard copy of a back issue, check our website under “Back Issues” to see if it’s still in stock and available for purchase. And don’t forget: the content of the two most current issues is password protected. Subscribers will find the password for each issue printed on the inside front cover at the bottom of the right-hand column.