The following is the first of a three-part series based on a transcript of a lecture given by Dr. N. T. Wright at Calvin College on January 6, 2007. Much of this lecture is based on his previous writings, especially Simply Christian (HarperCollins, 2006). We are grateful to Dr. Wright for allowing us to share this lecture with our readers over the next three issues. In this issue the focus will be on the sacraments in general; RW 90 will focus on baptism; and RW 91 on the Eucharist.
One Sunday I (Steve) served as visiting preacher at a church that had planned a mission emphasis service. As I took a seat near the front, I was impressed by a colorful display of flags representing the countries touched by the congregation’s missionaries. The music carried the energy of the large and growing majority-world Christian movement. A little later in the service, a PowerPoint presentation projected scenes of Christians from around the world gathering to worship the crucified, risen, and reigning Christ.
Snow falls gently outside the window. Inside, the fireplace spreads its mellow warmth through the family room. Firelight plays on the walls and ceiling as the children snuggle around you on the couch. There are cookies and milk, your favorite tattered Bible, and expectant eyes and ears. It’s time to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 again. What a beautiful family tradition!
If you build it, they will come.” This familiar quote from the film Field of Dreams has often been associated with church building projects—probably too often. We usually think that the words “they will come” refer to people. But at our church we discovered that “they will come” actually refers to a limitless set of questions about how to build and furnish a worship space. If you build it, they—that is, ideas, questions, options, choices, decisions—definitely will come. So how do you legitimately address all those issues?
The following teaching service was originally used on a Reformation Sunday, but it could be used in many other contexts. Your service may not include all the elements referenced here, or it may use different names for the elements or include them in a different order. We encourage you to adapt this service to fit your own context.
If you do not want to do an entire teaching service, consider adding one of these “teachings” in each service throughout a month-long period or including them in your bulletin or church newsletter.