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December 2008

The Wild Olive Tree

An Interactive Visual Metaphor for Lent/Easter

Every time our worship planning team faces another major season of the church year, the same nagging worry creeps into the back of our minds: Can we come up with any new creative ideas for this season? You’ve probably been there too (which is why you’re cruising this periodical for ideas, right?).

Every year I stick to my guns and assure the team that all we need to do is open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit, listen with curiosity to the pastor’s ideas for the next sermon or series, and be faithful in collaboration.

News and Notes

Errata

The copyright information for the song I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light (RW 89, p. 18) failed to credit Greg Scheer as the arranger. Our apologies to Greg for this oversight.

"Who Do You See?"

A Palm Sunday Reader's Theater

Several years ago when I was teaching Sunday school for twelve- and thirteen-year-olds, my class was looking for a Palm Sunday reader’s theater to perform for the congregation. We specifically wanted something that would give worshipers an idea of what people along the route were thinking as Jesus entered the city. After checking out several drama websites and not finding anything, I decided to write a reader’s theater script. We have since performed this drama with both children only and adults only. You may use simple costumes or have all the actors dressed in black.

Letters

Questions on the Apocrypha

The following e-mail exchange took place between an RW reader and James Payton, the author of the article on using material from the Apocrypha in worship (RW 89, p. 40)

Give It Up

When I was growing up, there was no such thing as Lent—at least not in my church. We did know about Palm Sunday. That was the day the Sunday school kids made palm branches out of paper, though we didn’t do the whole processional with palms that is so common today. And of course we went to church on Good Friday and Easter. But I didn’t hear of Lent, Ash Wednesday, Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and the Easter Vigil until my college years.

The Sign of Jonah

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”
—Jonah 2:8-9

“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” “And now one greater than Jonah is here.”
—Matthew 12:39, 41

Jesus' Last Words

A Service of Shadows and Stones

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Fidelia’s Sisters, a magazine for and about young clergy women (www.youngclergywomen.org) and is reprinted with their permission.

Eight Projection Basics

I don’t know if your church has a projection system in the sanctuary, but the questions and comments I’ve received suggest that if you don’t already have one, you may soon. Because these systems can be used well or poorly, here are eight basic rules to keep in mind when preparing visual presentations for projection during worship.

Praying the Psalms in Lent

Resources for Lectionary Year B

In addition to teaching and praise, the psalms can be a great resource for prayer. Those appointed by Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary lend themselves particularly well to that. What follows are examples of the psalms for Year B used as building blocks for prayers of the people for Lenten Sundays.

From Despair to Praise

A Good Friday Reader's Theater

One of the unique things about this Good Friday service is the interweaving of Psalm 22 throughout the account of the crucifixion. By quoting the first verse of this psalm while he was dying on the cross, Jesus was really pointing to the message of the whole psalm. Notice the movement in the psalm from a cry of despair—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—
to a proclamation of praise—“He has done it!” —JB

Opening

Greeting

Singing the Gospel During Lent

See Christ, Who on the River's Shore; What Fabled Names from Judah's Past; The Lord Is God, the One and True God; As Moses Raised the Serpent Up

The Revised Common Lectionary offers a three-year plan of Scripture readings (Years A, B, and C). The Lectionary does this so that once every three years, public worship services can include readings from every book of the Bible.

Who Is Jesus? Who Is Christ?

Worship Ideas for Lent from the Gospel of Mark

Every few years it happens, often around Easter. Questions about the life and ministry of Jesus are still so interesting to so many people that one, two, or even three of the major weekly newsmagazines in America will run cover stories about him. Few celebrities get their faces on the covers of such magazines all in the same week. Yet centuries after his death and resurrection, Jesus still generates a lot of press—not only for what he did or said but for the core question of who he is.

Signs of Hope and Joy

A Dramatic Easter Service

Easter Sunday is usually the day churches are as full as they ever get. So it’s a great opportunity to express the good news of Christ’s resurrection in a powerful way. This dramatic Easter presentation has a strong scriptural foundation and it engages worshipers in a creative, participatory manner. You can and should adapt it to suit your sanctuary and congregation, using, for example, more or fewer volunteers or different symbols. We’ve used this format both as a sunrise/Sonrise service and at the regular worship hour.

Celebrating the Arts

First United Methodist Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan

For a mid-sized city with a thriving downtown arts scene, the annual Celebration of the Arts in Grand Rapids, Michigan, may seem like just one more art show on a busy cultural calendar. But art lovers are often taken aback when they learn who’s behind this event. The Celebration is entirely hosted, promoted, and run by a church—First United Methodist Church, a Gothic church building on Fulton Street in the heart of the city.

Symbols of the Atonement

Five Images for Confession and Assurance

One ordinary Sunday morning, I sat in my pew praying customary words of confession and hearing familiar words of assurance. My pastor announced, as he did every Sunday, “God assures us with these words of pardon . . .” But at that moment, the words surprised me. Immediately, I turned to my wife and whispered excitedly, “Pardon! That’s an image of the atonement!”

Why Bev Called It Quits

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet:
praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance:
praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals:
praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
—Psalm 150:3-5, KJV

Congregational Songs for Weddings

Music and weddings go together hand in hand—in fact, music gives voice to the celebration in ways no other medium can! While the church considers weddings to be private family events, the gathered guests, who function as the congregation, can and should have opportunity to praise God joyously, pray for the bride and groom’s new life together, and encourage them with Scripture. Much of this can happen in song!

Psalm Singing, Discerning the Body, and Projected Song Texts

Q  Some people in our church want to sing more psalms. I often respond by saying that we sing songs with verses from the psalms all of the time. Why doesn’t this satisfy them?

Reviews

Fifty Prayers
by Karl Barth, trans. David Carl Stassen. Westminster John Knox, 2008. 80 pages.

Karl Barth was one of the most profound and challenging Protestant theologians of the twentieth century. He devastatingly critiqued the liberal theology of his day and inaugurated a counter-movement that came to be known as “neoorthodoxy,” forcing the theological world of Europe and North America to consider anew what it would mean to take a sovereign God seriously and respond to him in the present day.