I’m old enough to remember worship without projection or large displays. Oh, there were times when a really progressive pastor would lug a clunky overhead projector upfront and supplement his message with rough words or pictures drawn on clear sheets of plastic called “transparencies.” The bulbs were hot, and the fans keeping them cool were loud. And then there was the problem of the transparencies sliding off the glass at precisely the wrong time.
Growing up in the countryside five miles outside Ada, Michigan, Roman Catholics were largely unknown to me. When I was about ten, my parents sold off a small chunk of the farmland they had bought some years before, and the Smith family built a house half a mile up the road from us. They went to St. Robert Catholic Church.
Incorporating evolving technology has been an ongoing theme in Christian worship for two thousand years. From the use of scrolls to the invention of the printing press, from the use of lanterns to the invention of electricity, and from use of a pipe organ to the invention of electric guitars, worshipers have always been adopting new technology in worship.
Fasting is a practice that some people incorporate into their spiritual lives on a regular basis—even weekly. Scot McKnight defines fasting as “a whole-body response to a grievous sacred moment” (Fasting: The Ancient Practices, Thomas Nelson, 2009). But why should we fast? McKnight’s definition helps us understand why: to respond to something that is spiritual enough, and grievous enough, to merit such an action.
Worship from the Heart to the Heavens” has been a frequent and fertile theme over the many years that I have planned and led worship services with a focus on congregational song, both in North America and beyond. This theme is a testimony that we’re never alone when we worship God. We always worship in community as part of the body of Christ, not only when we are in a congregation with others, but also by ourselves, in our “closets.” That is a comforting truth!
Approximately 2,016 years ago, God couldn’t walk. He had to be carried everywhere, like most babies.
2,015 years ago, God took some staggering first steps, fell, and scraped his knee. He cried, and his mother wiped away his tears and told him to try again. Or maybe he still crawled everywhere. Some toddlers are late bloomers.
2,010 years ago, God ran across the street in a small town with the other kids, perhaps playing a version of soccer. He might not have been very good at it.
Holy Week at Covenant Life Church, a Christian Reformed church in Grand Haven, Michigan, has taken on a very distinct shape over the last twelve years. Prior to celebrating the glory of the resurrection, we create space to dwell with Christ by way of an immersive Stations of the Cross experience. The Stations of the Cross have a long, storied history within the Christian faith. For us, our goal is to create an interactive, meditative, and multi-sensory journey with Jesus, walking with him in the final hours of his life, leading up to his death and resurrection.
Freedom from Fear” is a Lenten series created by Pella Reformed Church in Adams, Nebraska. Throughout the gospels Jesus tells his followers or those around him, “Do not be afraid.” Yet today fear plays an enormous part in our lives. We spent the season of Lent looking at the times where Jesus says, “Do not be afraid” and discovering what fears Jesus is releasing us from today.
A song you may choose to use for the whole series is “Don’t Be Afraid” LUYH 429 by John L. Bell of the Iona Community
“Weep not for me, Mother,
in the grave I have life.”
So begins the poem “Crucifixion” by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966). “In the grave I have life.” “Yes, but . . .” we want to argue. We feel compelled to interject that “but.” But Christ didn’t stay in the grave; we don’t stay in the grave; there is life on the other side of the grave, not in it. This is all true. Yet maybe Akhmatova was correct in calling our attention to the grave itself.
Adam Merrill Longoria Tice was born in western Pennsylvania on October 11, 1979, and was raised in Alabama, Oregon, and Indiana. He is a graduate of Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, (2002, major in music composition), and the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana (2006, M.A. in Christian formation). From 2007 to 2012 he served as associate pastor of Hyattsville Mennonite Church in Hyattsville, Maryland (near Washington, D.C.), and since 2012 has lived with his family in Goshen, Indiana.
Over the last few years, and particularly in the last few months, I have noticed an increase in the discussion about and desire for more times of confession in worship. There was a time when churches were discouraged from “airing their dirty laundry” during worship because confession wasn’t seeker friendly. The corporate act of confession also didn’t seem to fit with our individualistic ideas of sin and responsibility.
If you peruse the most popular Christian book titles, or if you check out what pastors and church consultants are blogging about, or if you read the titles of plenary speeches and workshops at Christian conferences, then you will quickly discern one of the hottest current topics in Christian circles: leadership. Everyone wants to be a leader. Everyone wants to be an effective leader.
The Lord's Supper on Good Friday: YES
It had been nine months since I had arrived at Ancaster Christian Reformed Church, and I was still walking that fine line between “that’s how we’ve always done it” and “that sounds like a great idea.” This was to be the first time I would travel the Lenten journey with my new congregation, and I was looking forward to celebrating with them that capstone of our faith: Easter morning.
Few sounds are as evocative of contemplation and prayer in the Christian imagination as the sound of plainchant, the music that was born in the ancient church. Its purpose was to glorify God, lifting up the hearts of those who sing and of those who hear it. Just as the Western church has inherited a vast legacy of Gregorian chant, which is the basis of written Western music as we know it, rich traditions of cantillation as a spiritual practice also exist in many other faith traditions.
This service was planned using art by John August Swanson as described below. More information about purchasing, rights, and the works themselves can be found at johnaugustswanson.com. A CD called “What Wondrous Love” with these images and more is available at eyekons.com/church_image_banks/cd_collections.
“When Jesus expressed his anguish on the cross with the words of Psalm 22, he highlighted one of the precious facets of the psalms in general, namely, that as songs they uniquely convey the inward depths of the soul, and especially of Christ’s soul. Not only do the psalms help shape our response to God in the trials and joys of life, they also reveal to us something of the inner life of Jesus Christ, glimpses we do not have through the gospels alone.”
(L. Michael Morales, Jesus and the Psalms)
Giving up sweets, deleting social media accounts, vowing to exercise more—these are trendy Lenten practices to adopt. Kicking off the season with a paintbrush and scrap pieces of fabric in hand? That one might be less familiar.
Smocking up to get your hands messy with paint and glue may not be your go-to spiritual practice. But for a few members of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, diving deep into the creative layers of Lent is exactly how they chose to enter the season.
People both inside and outside of the church often have a view of Jesus that is too small. Some of those outside the church reduce Jesus to a zealot or a moral teacher, while some Christians view him only as a necessary sacrifice or a helpful example. In order to truly worship Jesus as Lord, we need to see him in his proper place as the Son of God.
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