Welcome to this theme issue on shalom. You may not see that word outside of this editorial, but the whole issue can be summed up in that one Hebrew word. In reality, shalom is more than a word—it’s a concept, a dream, a promise. Whether we are talking about becoming a hospitable community, caring for the needs of people with disabilities, fighting human trafficking, working for immigration reform, or seeking solutions for the conflicts in the Middle East, we are talking about becoming a people of shalom.
Christian worship, especially in the Reformed lineage, has always been about a great deal more than what we do in church on Sunday. “Work is worship” my parents used to say (except on Sunday). Service is worship. And there was a great deal of talk about sacrificing—especially when I became a teenager—referenced to the first verse of Romans 12.
This wide definition of worship, in my experience, has been both a great gift of our tradition and a sorry excuse for impoverished formal worship.
What is worship? Who is it for? Who can attend? In our North American culture often the answer in practice is that worship is for us churchgoers, but of course anyone who wants to can come and participate. Worship is for our enjoyment, amusement, or sanctification. We spend a lot of time and energy on planning our worship; we even have publications, denominational staff, and church staff whose sole purpose is to help with the planning and implementation of worship. And all of it is meaningless. Absolutely meaningless.
Unless . . .
One of the foundations of Christian justice is the recognition that God has abundantly provided for creation. Stated more simply, there’s enough to go around.
In a worship series focused on justice, the best concrete actions are, of course, acts of justice. These stations are not meant to be the end of the response. They are meant to reinforce worship and serve as additional motivation for working toward justice beyond the walls of the church building.
As I write this article the 2014 Winter Olympics have just ended, and the word excellence easily comes to mind. The athletes displayed brilliant excellence on the short track, the half pipe, the slope, and many other venues. After years of intense training with the world’s greatest coaches, these young men and women dazzled us with feats of athleticism that made shockingly difficult maneuvers look easy.
"Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10)
Almost everyone I know owns a digital camera; we live in an age where we want to capture every moment and share those visual moments with others. But we don’t often think about how to incorporate this powerful medium into our worship services.
This is the second of a series of articles by David Music on contemporary American hymn writers. For more of this series, visit ReformedWorship.org.
Many church musicians are familiar with Hal H. Hopson as a writer of choral anthems, handbell music, hymn enhancements, and works in other genres. But he has also made significant contributions to the repertory of congregational song.
Our church puts a lot of effort into making worship more meaningful for kids. While they are more engaged, it’s hard to tell if they are really benefitting from all this effort spiritually. How do we discern what is really formative, and what is just busy activity?
What a challenging and fruitful question—for people of all ages!