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:
You go for the kids. At least that’s what you tell yourself. You know the story, and though the songs may change from year to year, little else does. It’s not that it’s not enjoyable; it’s just that it’s so predictable. The story doesn’t change, and you don’t expect it to change you—not after all these years.
I’ve been planning and looking forward to this issue for some time. And now it’s finally in your hands! I feel a little selfish in dedicating this entire theme issue to the psalms because part of the impetus for it was my own desire to learn. Why is it that people are attracted to the psalms? What do we make of the current trend of increased psalm singing?
- Hymn Contest Winners
These days we’re connected to people all over the globe. The Internet and other electronic media allow us to be as “plugged in” as we want to be: websites and e-news blasts provide us with up-to-date information on what’s happening in the world (see sidebar).
As Christians, this awareness informs our personal devotions and our corporate worship whenever we intercede on behalf of those suffering from injustice in our own communities and around the world. It’s a natural step to put those prayers to music so that they may be sung by God’s people.
Disturbing.” “Odd.” “What does it have to do with worship?” These are just a few responses I’ve heard to the cover image of this issue. What does The Eyes of Gutete Emerita by Alfredo Jaar have to do with worship?
When we look into Gutete’s eyes, what do we see? Anguish? Despair? Christ? Do we see a child of God? Our sister? She has a name; she has no voice. Will we speak and pray on her behalf? Will we sing the songs she needs to hear?
Imagine you are Job. What are you thinking, feeling, and experiencing as you live through the loss of your property and your family? How do you experience the grief and then the questioning of your friends? How do you relate to God?
Imagine you are the centurion watching yet another crucifixion. But this one is different . . . why? How does it feel to be forgiven by the one you have put to death? What do you make of the eerie darkness and the earthquake?
Imagine you are Mary. Your heart is crushed by the sight of your son dying. How do you bear it?
I admit it. I’m a self-professed worship nerd. I’ve been known to match the color of the runner on my office table to the current season of the church year. In fact, just about all the décor in my office and home is liturgical in nature. I like to surround myself with reminders of who I am in the much larger scheme of God’s plan of redemption. At Christmas, of course, the décor includes a nativity set.
Sometimes my three-year-old daughter wants to join me for worship instead of attending her Sunday school class. On one such Sunday, I ran down the litany of things she would not be allowed to do during worship if she stayed. I told her she wasn’t allowed to walk around, crawl on the floor, or talk; she would need to sit still and listen. Innocently she looked at me and asked, “Am I in time out, Mama?”
Is it possible that my desire for the logical, the factual, and the easily comprehensible has kept me from seeing, experiencing, and maybe even believing that God is at work here and now? That’s the question that arose in my mind (or was it my soul?) as I read through the articles in this issue.
When I was growing up, there was no such thing as Lent—at least not in my church. We did know about Palm Sunday. That was the day the Sunday school kids made palm branches out of paper, though we didn’t do the whole processional with palms that is so common today. And of course we went to church on Good Friday and Easter. But I didn’t hear of Lent, Ash Wednesday, Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and the Easter Vigil until my college years.
If you’re like me, you find the cover of this issue of RW thought-provoking. Chris Stoffel Overvoorde’s That Glorious Form stops us short and makes us think. The Christ child in a crown of thorns? It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not the typical picture of Advent and the Christmas season. If given the choice, we would rather focus on the perfect, beautiful baby in the manger with the loving gaze of his mother and father falling upon him. We prefer the pretty picture.
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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