On occasion I have attended churches where much of the liturgy was sung, allowing the congregation to become more active participants in their worship. I thought that we had been missing out on a rich worship experience by not having this kind of service at Plymouth Heights. After discussions with our preaching pastor and liturgy committee, I was encouraged to develop such a service.
Articles in this issue:
The setting was a campfire on a summer night at church camp. A young lady who had not spoken a single word all week stood up and haltingly proclaimed, "I love Jesus." That was twenty years ago, but I still remember it as the moment I realized that this child (and many others like her), so loved by God, would never be able to join us at the table to celebrate our Lord's Supper. Because of her mental impairments, she would not be able to meet our expectations for those who could make profession of faith and be welcomed to the table.
There is a telling soliloquy in Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins that neatly sums up my concern in this article. Dr. Thomas More, Percy's Catholic protagonist, is having some conflict with his Protestant wife, Ellen, on matters of religious practice.
During the past generation, a wealth of new worship songs have been written. Many were inspired by the reforms of Vatican II during the 1960s, when the Roman Catholic Church translated their liturgy into the vernacular and began to encourage congregational singing. It should come as no surprise, then, that many of those new songs assume both Word and Table every Sunday. Also, since most Protestant churches celebrate the Lord's Supper more frequently than they did a generation ago, most hymnal sections on the Lord's Supper have steadily increased in size.
Every June issue of Reformed Worship is a theme issue, and every year the Reformed Worship staff and editorial council weigh various themes. Some of our theme issues have dealt with "hot button" topics of our time. Last year, when the RW editorial council discussed what the next theme issue should be, the Lord's Supper was clearly at the top of the list.
RECOMMENDED READING ON THE LORD'S SUPPER
- Table and Tradition: Toward an Ecumenical Understanding of the Eucharist by Alisdair Heron (Westminster Press, 1983).
- Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace by James Torrence (InterVarsity Press, 1997).
- Bread of Life and Cup of Joy by Horton Davies (Eerdmans, 1993).
NEW HYMNAL SUPPLEMENT PROGRESS REPORT
WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK
John 20:1-18; Acts 10:34-43
In the movie Before and After, a young girl reflects on a murder that she says divided her family's life into "before" and "after." Nicholas Wolterstorff makes a similar observation in his book Lament for a Son. About his son's death he writes:
The puzzled look in her eyes told me I would have to suspend judgment and get back to her after I had studied the matter.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.