In the fall of 1996 my wife and I traveled to Korea to pick up our daughter Gina Soo. While we were there, friends from our church also got the call that their daughter Mia could be picked up. So on the day before we were scheduled to return to the United States, they arrived to pick up their little girl. A few weeks later both Gina and Mia were baptized together at First Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. To celebrate that event I wrote a prayer that all four of us did as a liturgical reading.
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Earlier this year, an elderly member of our congregation died. She had been prepared for many years and had spoken frequently about her readiness for death. Her legal and medical documents were in perfect order. Her funeral was prepaid and prearranged with the local funeral director; she had chosen her casket, flowers, and, presumably, everything else related to the “final disposition” of her body. Her preparedness was well known to her family, her pastors, and her friends.
Preaching “is a process of transformation for both preacher and congregation alike, as the ordinary details of their everyday lives are translated into the extraordinary elements of God’s ongoing creation” (Barbara Brown Taylor, The Company of Preachers, Richard Lischer, ed., 2002). Preaching not only helps us understand God’s Word but to see and interact with God’s world as his representatives. The following article is excerpted from a speech given by Linda Larson at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Why should the devil have all the good music? This pithy question is often used to justify the introduction of “secular” musical styles into the church service. Variously attributed to Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Salvation Army founder William Booth, the saying cannot be documented in any of their writings. Indeed, whatever Booth’s views might have been, the question most certainly does not reflect the ideas or practices of Luther and Wesley.
It happened again this past Sunday. A great worship service, including baptism. Wonderful singing—of hymns. No psalms, not one. This is a church that stands in the Reformed tradition known for its singing of the psalms. Whenever I go to ecumenical conferences, I’m identified as one who comes from a psalm-singing heritage. I smile wanly, agreeing. But that heritage is too often missing on Sunday mornings.
These excerpts from my LOFT notes indicate that sometimes the synergy promised by team-based worship planning goes unrealized. On the other hand, there are times when efficiency isn’t necessarily a virtue—when a little team-based diversity of opinion might be welcome.
Keeping Paul’s missionary journeys straight can be tough. The stories are brief and many involve mostly preaching. It is hard to remember what happened. Our challenge was to communicate the information about Paul’s first missionary journey to our congregation in a way that was interesting, memorable, and brief. We wanted to present information about cities as well as people.
Q. What should we call the piece of furniture we use for the Lord’s Supper? An altar? A table? I’ve even heard it called an altar-table? Why that?
A. An altar is furniture for a sacrifice. Altars in the Old Testament temple and tabernacle were the place for the sacrifice of animals. In the medieval church, the Lord’s Supper or mass was celebrated at an altar. Correspondingly, the Lord’s Supper was understood to be the enactment or re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice.
Our worship planning team wanted to create a Maundy Thursday worship service that would provide historical and cultural context to Christ’s final hours before his crucifixion and offer an opportunity for the congregation to experience the symbols in a fresh way. I was challenged by our team to develop a vigil with a celebration of the Lord’s Supper as the centerpiece. In preparation, I immersed myself in the Passion narratives, commentaries, and historical accounts.