March 26, 2024

Held. Blessed. Broken. Given.

Remember and Rest

Remember the Story that We’re Telling Everyone Else

As worship planners and leaders we spend so much effort and time making sure others can dwell in the story of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, to rediscover his mercy and grace through his passion, we sometimes forget the story we’re telling is also for us. It’s true every Sunday, but becomes heightened in the high, holy seasons. Lost in the logistics, scheduling, arranging, rehearsing, special services, and creative stretches, it’s easy for us to create meaningful spaces for others while forgetting God’s invitation is for us as well.

Of course, we all need to be anchored in the Good News of Holy Week, every week. But there’s another reason we must return to that story again and again: in that upper room with Jesus and his disciples, we find a beautiful picture of our call to serve the church .

Like Bread in Christ’s Hands

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body” (Mt. 26:26).

We know the scene well from the communion celebration. Jesus turns the nourishment of bread into something greater, a visible sign of an invisible grace, as Augustine once put it. It’s no longer simply about physical nourishment; it’s sustenance for the soul.

I’ve always found this to be a helpful image for understanding our work in planning, leading, and preaching from week to week. We are, in a small “s” sacramental way, just like the bread in Jesus’ hands. And if this is true, then we are shaped in Christlikeness even as we are held, blessed, broken, and given. Not because of who we are but because of what Christ chooses to do in and through us.

We are held. Before anything else—before we are a great musician, a dynamic preacher, a clear communicator, or brilliant theologian—we are taken into the hands of Christ. Knowing that our faithful savior Jesus is the one who holds us, we can trust his sovereign and beautiful work in what comes next. This means everything for our work in planning and leading worship.

We are blessed. Being held in God’s hands is the start, but not the end, of the blessing. In our unique roles, we get to be the first to adore, first to count our blessings, first to come back to the covenant we’ve broken, first to savor the scriptures, first to name the hurt, first to testify to mercy, first to think clearly about how the gospel story gets to be told when we’re together again this weekend, or in this season. These “firsts” are our response to God’s grace in Christ. We are truly blessed.

We are broken. With the Holy Spirit at work in allowing us perspective, we should constantly be driven to humility as we plan and lead worship. We must decrease and he must increase! Creating the spaces where we gather to exalt the name of Jesus is an exercise in brokenness.

While that can be a scary thought, brokenness in the hands of Jesus is different from brokenness from sin, whether as victim or perpetrator. This is a brokennes that is sacred, God-honoring, shared in community, and with the expectation that God will restore us in his way and his time. It’s holy, and good.

We are given. The Apostle Paul tells us Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, but poured himself out for others. And we’re called to a lifestyle that echoes that. Make no mistake, it is God who does the nourishing work of his church, but God invites us to partner with him in our ministry of worship. Having been broken of arrogance, we are freely given for the sake of the church family we serve, that God might see fit to work in us, and through us, and in spite of us to bring strength and faith to his people. 

That Sacred Sunday Nap

Held. Blessed. Broken. Given.

No wonder it’s so fulfilling! It’s a richly rewarding experience to lead the church in remembering Christ’s death and resurrection week in and week out, but particularly during Holy Week.

No wonder it’s so exhausting! It’s a draining experience to carry the importance of the gospel week in and week out, but particularly during Holy Week.

My family is so gracious with me on Sundays, even when I can’t explain just how tired I am. In my experiences of leading worship, particularly in demanding seasons like Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide, my Sunday afternoons are marked by an exhausted soul and an incredibly full heart.

Which leads me to believe that the Sunday afternoon nap is a deeply sacred way Christ restores us, so we might be held, blessed, broken, and given for his church once again.

Remember and Rest

So here, in the pinnacle of the liturgical calendar, celebrating the most pivotal moment in all of history, please remember that this beautiful, moving, true story is also for you. Tell it with vigor and vitality because you have found yourself within the story already—held, blessed, broken, and given.

And when that last note of the Easter postlude finishes reverberating off of the walls of your sanctuary, bring your exhaustion to the Lord so that he might grant you rest. You’ve earned that nap, and I think God smiles as he sees his worship planners and leaders take their turns dozing off, hearts full of gratitude and the gospel.

A Worship Leader’s Prayer

Nourishing Christ,
work in and through me
so that I may be used by you
to nourish your people.

Hold me close,
so that I may know
I belong to you.

Bless me
with eyes that are open
to the wonder and privilege of my calling.

Break me free
from thoughts of grandeur
so that I may join you in your humility.

Give me grace
to be used as you see fit,
so that the faith of those gathered is nourished,
and your name is glorified.

Grant me rest
in knowing that this is not done of my own hands
but through the power of the Holy Spirit
at work in me.

—Joyce Borger, Chris Walker © 2024 Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. Used by Permission.

Chris Walker is an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church and serves as pastor of worship and the arts at Covenant Life Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, where he has served and worshiped with his family since 2010.