“We pray for darkness so that we may see” is one of many provocative lines in Rod Jellema’s poetic litany “Praying for Darkness in a Year of Glare” (p. 16). I wonder about that line. Is it true? Would I ever dare pray for darkness so that I might see? It seems to me that we’ve been experiencing too much of this world’s darkness. We can’t escape it. It consumes news outlets and social media feeds. It fills our workplaces, our homes, our churches . . .
Nicholas Wolterstorff says that Christian worship, like the Old Testament psalter, should include trumpets, tears, and ashes—that is, praise, lament and repentance. All too often, however, tears and ashes are absent from Christian preaching and worship.
Parent God of all of us, hear our prayer
in this disruptive year: Lord, turn out the lights.
Turn out for moments of our prayers
and for moments of our lives
all the lights we see by,
or all the lights we think we see by.
Make it dark in here, even now, in each of us.
The Art Pieces
Celebrate As We Gather
Song: “A Resurrection Declaration” with choir, brass, and bells Roger Thornhill and Victor C. Johnson
For a long time—the thirty years and more that I was the pastor of the same church—I prided myself in never preaching the same sermon twice. There were exceptions, of course. If I went off somewhere on vacation or for some other reason and was given the opportunity to preach, I took with me a sermon or two, usually a recent sermon, adapted it some for the new place, and preached it over again. These occasions were rarely wholly satisfying. The message, usually part of a series, often seemed slightly off in a new context and preached to people I hardly knew.
Lent is a time to refocus and reframe our practices, clearing spaces in our minds and hearts to see and grasp anew the self-giving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But for those involved in preparing worship for Lent this is a busy time of trying to balance preparing for Holy Week with church programs and initiatives that are in full swing. It may seem as though the work is piling dangerously high. We are tired. We are weary. We are worn. Yet week in and week out we find ourselves in the trenches of our busy and relentless church life.
A Scriptural Pattern of Divine Blessing
In the Christian tradition in which I grew up, worship services began and ended with a prayer. The faith-nurturing I received there also included my pastor’s encouragement to read through the Bible every year. I did that several times before experiencing a different worship style that began with a divine blessing and ended with a benediction.
We are struggling in our ministry with many people in our congregation who have mental health concerns. We have responded to this pastorally, but not really in worship. Are there resources for engaging this in worship?
Here you will find two services based on the same prayer outline: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. These services are meant to be fairly simple, with opportunities to pray through Scripture and song. Neither service includes a sermon, but one could easily be added as a reflection on one of the Scripture passages. —JB
Our worship team was brainstorming one night in response to a facilities improvement survey. We talked about the way our sanctuary and the rest of our buildings don’t flow well—they seem strung together. This is true for many churches: Education wings were a second thought after the sanctuary, and additional space—from kitchens to gyms to side chapels—are tagged on as years and needs accumulate. Things change, sometimes without much thought about the overall impact of the build-up of small changes over time.
I tend to be a bit wary of trends that get too popular too fast. Pinterest, the online social networking app for collecting and sharing ideas visually, was one I was certain wasn’t a good thing—especially for “serious” artists working with visuals for worship. Serious artists—that’s us, right?