Word and Sacrament

I was startled. The preacher announced that for the first three Sundays of Advent he would preach on the second coming. I felt a rustling of discomfort around me. Don't we have enough to think about in Advent without worrying about the second coming?

After all, Advent is the time to soberly and joyfully prepare once again to receive God's gift of Christmas. Advent is the time to remember the ancient promises to Abraham, David, and the prophets. Advent is the time to ready our hearts to celebrate once again the joy of God's incarnation.

Easter Sunday 1986 was a special day for seven-year-old Kesuke Sakai, a day he will never forget. On Easter Sunday Kesuke was baptized in the Toyoake Church near Tokyo, Japan. As Christians around the world celebrated the risen Christ, Kesuke became part of Christ's family. "Now I am God's child!" said Kesuke.

Why does the minister wear a robe? What is justification? Why can't I eat the bread? What is a benediction? You know how many tiles there are in the church ceiling?

Those who sit in church with children will not find these questions unusual. Children often find our worship practices beyond their size: the pews they sit in and the words and concepts they hear are too big.

The preacher apologized. There would be no sermon this morning. It had been a busy week, and he hadn't finished his manuscript until late Saturday night. He'd typed it into his computer, and that's where it was now. By the time he discovered his printer wouldn't work, the repair people were all asleep.

As the preacher stepped down from the pulpit, the people stared, then started muttering…

Christians who are searching for a Reformed tradition of celebrating the Holy Week may be disappointed by what they find. Although the Reformers observed parts of the Christian year, they left us no precedent for worship during the Holy Week except the celebration of the Lord's Supper on Easter Sunday. Not surprisingly, the contemporary Reformed church has experimented with many types of liturgies in an attempt to fill that void.

Few churches place as much emphasis on preaching as we in the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition do. A worship service without a well-developed sermon leaves many, perhaps even most, of our seasoned members feeling empty. And in many of our churches one carefully prepared sermon a Sunday is but half of what members expect. When Sunday comes, congregations look forward to hearing two carefully thought-out expositions of God's Word.