Joyce Borger (firstname.lastname@example.org), an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, is editor of Reformed Worship and Lift Up Your Hearts, and director of Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.
Articles by this author:
- A Three-Part Series Appropriate for Ascension and Pentecost
By the time you start thinking about Ascension and Pentecost services Easter will have passed. Pastors and worship leaders are giving a collective sigh of relief that they have reached this stretch of Ordinary Time without any great expectations for special services. But wait—the gospel story isn’t over yet. Christ has been raised from the dead, but the story continues through Christ’s ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and beyond. It is with the giving of the Holy Spirit that we join the story.
Storytelling is a universal phenomenon playing a significant and revered role in all cultures before our modern western age. Through the passing on of stories, history was learned and remembered, children were educated, truths were passed on, and hope was given. Listeners learned about good and evil, about perseverance in the face of all kinds of trials, and that ultimately good wins over evil. Many stories portrayed a simple dichotomy of good versus evil, but more complex stories showed that most of the world had a propensity for either, and it was up to us to choose to do right.
We are a culture that fears the uncomfortable, looks for the easy option, and is quickly distracted by the latest shiny bauble. We are a culture that does whatever it can to avoid being confronted by the darkness and evil that surrounds us, to live in denial of the atrocities occurring even in our own communities. We are a culture that is quick to lay blame for the struggles of other humans at their feet rather than consider our own part in supporting systems that have created and maintained injustice. We don’t want to see or feel truth.
- A Five-Part Series on Baptismal Remembrance
In this issue one of our focuses is older adults. Sometimes younger folks think faith comes easily and somewhat naturally for those of more advanced years, not realizing that the faith of older adults is tested just as their own—yet they still believe. But how does one endure? What is it that has sustained these living saints? Though they might not answer those questions this way, I would argue that it is their baptism that has provided the sustaining power needed to endure.
It isn’t fun or exciting to talk about aging or death. So we don’t. Maybe we think that by ignoring it we can pretend neither reality exists. North American culture has been particularly adept at sanitizing death and coming up with any number of products to disguise the reality of aging. The result is that we aren’t honest with others, ourselves, or God about the challenges and fears that surround either aging or death. It also means that we often don’t honor or celebrate the older adults in our communities.
- A Prayer for Ascension Day
People often wonder what difference Christ’s ascension makes. The Heidelberg Catechism, written to answer this and so many other questions of the faith, teaches us about the ascension in Q&A 49. Though written in 1563, its summary of Scripture rings as true today as it did then, regardless of our particular denominational affiliation.
Growing up we always celebrated Ascension Day on Ascension Day, which meant gathering for worship on a Thursday night. Interestingly, we did little for Pentecost and never even mentioned Lent. These days Ascension Day services during the week are fairly rare, and sometimes the ascension gets little more than a passing reference the Sunday before or after even while Pentecost has gained in significance. While I applaud the increased attention Pentecost receives, I think we lose out by lessening emphasis on Ascension Day. We need both, equally.
- Share stories of God’s grace: For ideas on how to do this, see crcna.org/FaithFormation/toolkits/faith-storytelling-toolkit.
- Symphony of praise: Invite children (and children at heart) to come forward and choose either a small percussive instrument, a flag, or a ribbon to use during a sung time of praise.
Blogs by this author:
Worship practices during the COVID-19 pandemic have opened up opportunities for worship leaders to reflect the principles and the most important elements of corporate worship.
The anti-idolatry response [to worship’s “de-Christianizing of God’s people] is to make sure that our worship leaders and planners from pastors to musicians, artists, tech, liturgists and elders, and yes also those gathered, understand that it is God who calls us to worship, it is the Holy Spirit who enables our worship, and it is Christ who perfects it.
I am excited that Reformed Worship is beginning a weekly blog and absolutely thrilled at the group that we have gathered to write. They are a diverse group of practitioners, academics, musicians, and theologians; what connects them all is their love for the church and worship that is thoughtful, relevant, rooted, innovative, global, contextual, creative, and disciplined.
-Rev. Joyce Borger, editor