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December 2006

A Liturgical Time Warp

Publishing is a strange thing. As I write this editorial it is the end of August. I have survived the heat wave that made its way across the United States and parts of Canada and I am enjoying the cooler temperatures. But when this issue is released it will be November. I can’t help wondering what the world will be like in three months. Will the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah be over? What will be going on in Iraq? How much will gasoline cost?

Rachel's Tears

Maundy Thursday Chapel Service

This chapel service was presented on Maundy Thursday at Unity Christian High School, Hudsonville, Michigan. The service was designed to present a continuation of the Christmas celebration into Holy Week. We wanted students to reflect on the truth of Christmas, that Jesus was born ultimately to die for us. We also wanted students to see the reality of the world into which Jesus was born—a world filled with sin and in desperate need of redemption. The dramatic reading reveals the depth of God’s grace—allowing his only Son to come into a world of darkness and death.

The Ashes of Why

Living with Lament

“Why is light given to one in misery,
and life to the bitter in soul,
who long for death, but it does not come,
and dig for it more than for hidden treasures;
who rejoice exceedingly,
and are glad when they find the grave?”

Job 3:20-22


Crown of Thorns, Crown of Glory

A Lenten Series

Our worship planning team sat around the table, discouraged by the personal suffering and global disasters surrounding us. As we thought about ministering to these needs, we were reminded that God uses suffering to refine our character. What better time than Lent to reflect upon our own hardships in light of Christ’s work on the cross?

Using the Lenten Triad

A familiar feature of Advent and Christmas worship both at home and in church is the Advent wreath. Each Sunday of Advent another candle is lit, culminating in the lighting of the Christ Candle on Christmas Day.

Less familiar to many is the Lenten triad—an adaptation of the Advent wreath that can also be incorporated into individual or family devotions or used in congregational worship.

Ears That Hear and Eyes That See

Seeing In and Through Our Visuals

Eyes to See

Do you ever remember a time, walking in the woods or just looking out your kitchen window, when you saw the sun’s rays filter through the mist, casting a shadow between the branches of a pine tree? And you sensed hope in and through that light?

Do you remember a worship service when, just for a moment, passing the peace became more than a chore and you looked at your neighbor more clearly? And you sensed awe and delight in and through another’s eyes?

Shaping Vertical Habits

Daybreak Community Church, Valparaiso, Indiana

Even here, people come for a church service,” says Pastor Rob Knol, standing at the back of the gym of the Boys and Girls Club in Valparaiso, Indiana, where Daybreak Community Church has just completed its worship service.

Vizualizing the Passion

Creating a Weekly Lenten Display

Lent is a time for reflection on the Passion of Christ as well as on our own lives. As the visual ministry team at St. Timothy, our challenge was to bring the Passion of Christ to our congregation in a tangible, intimate, visual way. We also wanted the message of the Passion to progress weekly, reminding the congregation of the previous week’s message without taking away from the message of the day.

Lift Up Your Hearts

Increasing the Use of the Sursum Corda

Though written from the perspective of Reformed churches that have Dutch roots, the challenges and suggestions found in this article are helpful across denominations.


Lift up your hearts!” “We lift them up to the Lord!”

Liturgical Footwashing

This service was designed to be a full service of Word and sacrament. It was also designed to allow worshipers to share in the intimacy Jesus experienced with his disciples through foot washing and during the meal in the hours prior to his arrest and crucifixion.

Instead of using our more formal communion setting, we used two long, narrow handmade wooden tables that were placed in the space between the chancel and the front pews on either side of the center aisle. Each table was surrounded with chairs and set with a homespun cloth and baskets of grapes and bread.

In Christ Alone

A Profession of Faith Service Using Font, Pulpit, and Table

The following service was planned by David Rylaarsdam for the profession of faith of his 10-year-old son, Andrew. The service clearly connects profession of faith with baptism and uses the font, pulpit, and table to lead Andrew through his profession of faith.




Song: “Be Still, for the Presence” SNC 11

Call to Worship (from RW 27:42)

He Is Risen Indeed!

A Service of Restoration and Renewal

We Celebrate Creation

God looked into emptiness and created all that is.
God spread out the earth in its diversity
with mountains and valleys, rivers and fertile plains.
There were patches of flood and fire,
of dryness and of vivid green,
embraced by the wind and sea,
a sun-filled landscape of hospitality.
And threading through it all, like weavings of golden hope,
were dreams of justice and compassion
and gentle streams of peace.
God gathers all repentant people into communion,

Patriotism and Politics in Worship

It is perhaps a sign of the times that I have recently received many questions about worship and politics. We live in an era of divided loyalties and deeply polarized rhetoric on many political issues. As I approach these questions, I am convinced that one of the worst things that can happen to worship is that it becomes politicized in ways that obscure the themes of God’s glory, the gospel of Jesus, and the work of the Spirit. In the United States, newspapers regularly offer us accounts of this happening in congregations on both ends of the political spectrum.

Songs of Searching and Salvation

As the Deer Runs to the River; Lord, to Whom Shall We Go; Surely It Is God Who Saves Me

The three songs chosen for this Lent/Easter issue are all directly taken from Scripture or based closely on it. One is very short; you might call it a refrain. One is in a traditional hymn structure with a refrain, and one follows a more contemporary structure, also with a refrain.

Ideas for Including Lament in Your Worship

Resources Culled from a Blog

There are many worship planning resources available on the Internet—some better than others. One site you may want to spend some time on is (see RW 80). We have culled the following practical ideas from three different blog entries.

Introducing Lent

A Short Drama

This drama was designed to be presented by two middle-school age boys as an introduction to the season of Lent. It was submitted by Tom Vos, pastor of First Christian Reformed Church, Wellsburg, Iowa .

David: Hi, Tom! What’ve you been doing?

Tom: Hey, David! I’m all about basketball right now. You too?

David: Yeah, it’s real exciting: all the games—girls’ and boys’ tournaments, the Big Ten . . .

The Not-So-Comfortable Pew

In this article Matteuci argues that Christian worship ought not to reflect some key aspects of North American culture. Matteucci reminds us that, regardless of our geographical location, the church is called to be in the world but not of it.


American culture is driven and saturated by mass media. Opinion polls and election results reveal a culture deeply divided over political and moral issues, but this divide is rarely found in news reports, movies, or television programs aired on American media outlets.

In Jesus' Name

A Prayer Day Service

This service was submitted by Philip Stel, pastor of First Christian Reformed Church, Lansing, Illinois. It was a joint service of three churches: Bethel Christian Reformed Church and First Christian Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois, and Munster Christian Reformed Church, Munster, Indiana.



Processional and Scripture Readings

The Altar of Incense Prayer: Exodus 30:1-8

“Old Testament” Prayer: Luke 1:8-10; Psalm 141:1-2


The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community
by Robin M. Jensen.
Eerdmans Publishing, 2004.

This book is part of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies Series published by Eerdmans. The series is designed to promote reflection on the history, theology, and practice of Christian worship and to stimulate worship renewal in Christian congregations.

What Jesus Looks Like to Me

How do we use children’s art in worship without the result looking like the local grocery store coloring contest? You know—the ones where the same Easter Bunny is colored a thousand different ways, all of the entries are pasted on the wall, and the winners just happen to be from predetermined age groups and convenient regional representations of the town/city/state/province.

I think we can improve on this idea and incorporate the Crayola contributions of our kids into worship—with dignity!


Letters and E-mails

We want to hear from you! Send us a letter or an e-mail ( with how you have used and adapted ideas and articles from Reformed Worship .

Website Kudos

I love the website. I’ve been a subscriber for many years and to have all of the back issues available on-line is invaluable. Thank you!

Jeff Allred, Macon, Georgia

News and Notes


RW ’s newly redesigned website features thousands of worship planning resources at your fingertips. Log on to access more than 1,700 articles on planning and leading worship from every RW issue since 1986. That’s twenty years’ worth of litanies, meditations, dramas, and other resources.

2007 Conferences

Grand Rapids, Michigan,
January 5-6, Calvin College

A New Commandment

A Service for Palm/Passion Sunday

Seven pod groups from Grace United Church began meeting in June 2003 to plan worship services for Lent 2004 (for more on pods see RW 75). The theme for the season was “Covenants.”