Somewhere inside the busyness of the “real world” there’s “rest,” but it can be hard to find. Although we look for it in various places, it is often elusive or fleeting, at best. Today, I want to introduce you to a man who was forced to learn the hard way to find rest. Zechariah was a priest. You can find the word “rest” inside the word “priest,” but Zechariah had a hard time finding it. His story helps me, and I hope it helps you too. This is the story of Zechariah.
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Twice a year at Redeemer University College we gather together for a time of extended prayer. We are a young university (established 1982), but from our inception we’ve had a strong tradition of seeking to be grounded in prayer. Our small campus includes a lovely prayer room for small group prayer, with two adjoining prayer “cells” for personal prayer. Every fall the student body organizes a 24/7 prayer week during which many students, faculty, and staff sign up for an hour each of continuous prayer.
“Glimpses of Glory” marks the beginning of a new column, Reflections. It is our prayer that Reflections will be a source of spiritual encouragement as you are used by God in the leading of his people in worship. —JB
What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2b).
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Discipleship takes place through dozens of different faith practices. Might the increased isolation due to COVID be calling us to build capacity for significant conversations and quiet times through which we encourage one another and ourselves as we die and rise in Christ together?
Undoubtedly the most profound miracle and mystery about worship is that when Christians gather to worship our Lord, God shows up! He is present within the praises, prayers, and reflections of his people. Paul provides my favorite description of this presence: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3: 16).
It was Wednesday, 6:30 pm, and the worship team was tuning up for rehearsal. Fifteen year old electric guitarist Thomas wandered over to the piano where I was seated and casually remarked, “I’ve got the perfect idea for your retirement. You should get a tattoo that says ‘no regerts.’” We both laughed.
Five minutes later the eight of us were ready for Marja’s opening prayer and her walk through the coming Sunday’s morning service, four teenagers and four of us older folks with many decades of worship leading experience behind us.
A True Story
The youth group had just returned from a week-long mission trip to a large, urban center. While there, they learned a rap-style worship song that beautifully embodied the soul of their week together. Still buzzing with the energy of their trip the Sunday morning after they returned home, they sang that rap-song for the congregation with lively, pre-recorded accompaniment, and then shared a couple epitomizing stories from their week.
One of the themes I loved to stress back in the days when I taught a university course on “Foundations of Worship,” is that worship provides a reality check. I can still hear myself saying to a class, “All week long our understandings of who God is and who we are gets hammered, and gradually becomes more and more out of focus. On Sundays we gather with God’s people to have our communal vision corrected again.”
But what if our worship actually contributes to the loss of focus?
Do you long to see teens and young adults more solidly connected to your church?
Are you a preacher or do you belong to a church that has a preacher?
If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, I invite you to take on the “Preaching Tag-team Challenge.”
The best way to explain the challenge is to tell you this story.
The 30-something pastor sat across from me in our local Thai restaurant, and was clearly too excited to eat.
“When we worshiped yesterday,” he began, “I told the congregation that our ninety minutes together was just the trailer for the movie, a tiny glimpse of the kingdom to whet our appetite, and after our worship was over, the real deal would begin: the full length feature movie that develops the plotline and characters and reveals all the gritty details.”
It was so predictable that it became comical. The third Monday of the term students walked into the “Foundations of Worship” class that Karen deMol and I taught together at Dordt College with their heads hanging, eyeing us suspiciously, holding their worship reflection assignments in their hands.