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!
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.
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.
On April 17, 2007, a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, which was the deadliest school shooting in United States history. This article tells how Blacksburg churches, who had been working together to make ecumenical connections with the help of a Worship Renewal Grant, were able to respond to the tragedy as a community.
I called my pastor, Gary Schroeder, early on a Saturday morning before leaving for my son’s soccer game. “Sorry to bother you at home,” I said, “but I have some good news. We got the grant!”
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.
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?
One fall day in the fifth century before Christ, the people of Israel gathered at the Water Gate in Jerusalem (Neh. 8:2-12). Ezra and several assistants read and interpreted the Book of the Law in a festive setting. As the meaning of the text began to sink in, the people wept. But Ezra told them that this was a day for a feast, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v. 10).
When our congregation changed its method of choosing elders and deacons from election to the casting of lots, we searched for a liturgy to use in the new process. Finding none, we created our own, borrowing heavily from the rich text of Worship the Lord: The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America (Order for the Ordination and Installation of Elders and Deacons). We followed this process:
Robert Nordling (see his article on p. 32) tells a story about taking his five-year-old son, Jackson, to a young friend’s birthday party: All dressed up, brimming with enthusiasm, Jackson rushes into his friend’s house to join the festivities. But when his father arrives to pick him up after the party, Jackson looks dejected. “What’s the matter, Jackson?” asks his father. “Didn’t you enjoy the party?” The answer is a terse no. “But you were looking forward to this party so much!
“Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!” (1 Kings 18:38-39).
Is this unique and potent passage familiar to you? Can you imagine singing it during a weekly worship service?