Some preachers are tempted to do as little "doctrinal" preaching as possible. After all, people expect preachers to be relevant, to relate the gospel to the here and now. How does a preacher do that with an old document filled with intellectual statements about faith that seemingly have very little to do with life?
When interviewing James Ward, one is interrupted by children (his and neighbors') running through the room and by a ringing telephone. Thus our conversation about intercultural worship was punctuated with muffled giggles and with talk about concert bookings, mikes, synthesizers, and recording facilities.
Where is the baptismal font in your church? None of us would have any difficulty locating our favorite pews, or the pulpit for that matter. Indeed, most of us know where the communion table is. But where is the font in your church?
Most (Christian) Reformed congregations cannot get many of their members to attend an Ascension Day service on the Thursday evening ten days before Pentecost Sunday. For that reason—and because they are not quite ready to give up—many congregations have begun worshiping with other congregations on Ascension Day. In some areas the churches have even organized Ascension Day rallies.
The visitor was uncomfortable. In his home church, things were fairly predictable. The sanctuary always looked the same—off-white walls, plain baptismal font and communion table, and unadorned pulpit. The only change that took place in that sanctuary had to do with the flowers. Each week the janitor made sure a new pot of flowers was placed in the front near the pulpit. And each Sunday worshipers knew just what to expect: the order of worship had remained the same for the past five years and would probably not be altered during the next five.
Richard Stoll Armstrong. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986, 216 pp., $9.95.
Books about worship rarely mention evangelism; books about evangelism only occasionally touch on worship. In this book Armstrong focuses on the intimate connection between the two. Formerly an Episcopalian, Armstrong is now a Presbyterian and a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Every Sunday morning of Wilbur Faber's youth, his parents took him and his sisters to church three-quarters of an hour—to the minute—before the janitor rang the bell at five minutes of.
Singing Psalms of Joy and Praise.
Fred R. Anderson. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986, 77 pp. $5.95.
A Psalm Sampler.
Prepared by the Office of Worship for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986,44 pp. $4.95.
These two paperbacks join the growing number of publications from the many different traditions that are once again discovering the riches of singing the psalms. Neither one is a complete psalter, but each builds on and expands the long Reformed tradition of psalm singing.
Easter Sunday 1986 was a special day for seven-year-old Kesuke Sakai, a day he will never forget. On Easter Sunday Kesuke was baptized in the Toyoake Church near Tokyo, Japan. As Christians around the world celebrated the risen Christ, Kesuke became part of Christ's family. "Now I am God's child!" said Kesuke.
Preaching Christian Doctrine.
William J. Carl III. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984, 167 pp., $8.95.
A theological identity crisis is, according to the author of this book, the most serious problem plaguing the modern church. Since the cause of this plague is lack of Christian doctrinal preaching, says Carl, the antidote is a renewed commitment to such preaching. In this book the author gives a guide to doctrinal preaching that will fill the void left by years of sermons on marginal issues.
Reformed Christians should celebrate the ascension with verve, with glory, and with full pews. The ascension, after all, is not marked by an isolated Thursday service in which the church tries to come to terms with a gravity-defying miracle. The ascension is rather linked to the sunburst expression of the victory and power of the risen Lord that we celebrate on Easter Sunday. So on Ascension Day we sing songs of victory.
Robert Webber. Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1985, 174 pp., $13.95.
The sound of the handbell is sweet and silvery. At close range it can be amazingly powerful and penetrating—a uniquely happy and ethereal sound that first surprises and then captivates the listener.
Handbells—tuned bells that are rung by holding the bell upright—originated in England hundreds of years ago. However, only during the past few decades have churches on this continent started using handbells in worship. And many—perhaps most —Reformed and Presbyterian congregations have never heard handbells.
If you have never attended a conference on church music and liturgy before, you may not pay much attention to the list of conferences that Reformed Worship provides below. That's if you haven't been.
Rate in the order of appropriateness for public worship:
If Reformed Worship readers were asked this question, my hunch is that the majority would put the organ in first place, the piano in second. (All have been in use.) We'd answer that way because of what we've experienced: in our churches the organ has long been the instrument most used in worship.
Just yesterday I received issue 2 of Reformed Worship and again it was a treat, especially since that same night we had our worship committee meeting. Thanks for giving us some material to really think about as we planned. I especially appreciated the article on planning preaching for Lent.
The preacher apologized. There would be no sermon this morning. It had been a busy week, and he hadn't finished his manuscript until late Saturday night. He'd typed it into his computer, and that's where it was now. By the time he discovered his printer wouldn't work, the repair people were all asleep.
As the preacher stepped down from the pulpit, the people stared, then started muttering…
Easter: This Joyful Eastertide
While most of us know many Christmas carols, we may be less familiar with carols for other times of the year. One of the finest Easter carols is "This Joyful Eastertide." The tune, which originated in a seventeenth-century Dutch love song, came into church use in Joachim Oudaen's David's Psalmen (1685) as the melody for "Hoe Grootde Vreuchten Zijn" ("How Great the Fruits Are")—hence, the tune title VRUCHTEN.
In an attempt to answer that question we asked representatives of various denominations to sketch the history and current practices of psalm singing in their churches. The denominational material presented below is summarized or quoted from Robert Copeland (PCNA), Harry Boonstra (CRC), Norman Kansfield (RCA), Hugh McKeller (PCC), Arlo Duba (PCUSA), and John Frame (OPC and PCA).
The "hymn festival" is rapidly growing in popularity. With the explosion of new songs for worship, the rediscovery of old gems, as well as the joy of singing familiar favorites, the hymn festival provides an opportunity for congregations, choirs, and instruments to join in varied ways of singing hymns together. A hymn festival can celebrate the hymns of a season or of a given tradition, author, composer, or theme. Any good reason will do!
Why does the minister wear a robe? What is justification? Why can't I eat the bread? What is a benediction? You know how many tiles there are in the church ceiling?
Those who sit in church with children will not find these questions unusual. Children often find our worship practices beyond their size: the pews they sit in and the words and concepts they hear are too big.
The Common Lectionary (see REFORMED WORSHIP 1) provides pastors with a guide for preaching on the Christ-centered events and teachings of the liturgical church year. Below are the Scripture passages that year A of the lectionary suggests for the Sundays from Easter to Pentecost. Also listed are hymns and service music that focus on the themes of the resurrection and the presence of Christ in our lives. Hymn page numbers are given for four hymnals:
The Hymnbook (HB)
The organ music suggested on this page is based on hymn tunes in both the forthcoming new edition of the Psalter Hymnal (PH) and the recently released Rejoice in the Lord (RL). All the tune names are listed in alphabetical order, followed by hymn title, composer, publisher, and a letter that will tell you whether the piece is easy, medium, or difficult (E, M, D). We worked by tune names rather than hymn titles, since different texts are sometimes sung to the same tune.
Our Worship Begins(1)
Words of Welcome
*Processional: Psalm 24(2)
Pastor: People of God, receive the greeting from our God, the King of glory: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit.
The people greet each other.
*Hymn: Rejoice, the Lord Is King
We Hear the Word of the Lord
Prayer for Illumination
Scripture Reading: Acts 1:1—11
Word for the Children