Each issue of Reformed Worship has its beginning in a brainstorming meeting that takes place more than a year before readers hold the printed copy in their hands. Yet I am always amazed by two things: how certain topics pop up that were never part of our original plan, and how the individual articles, when placed side by side, tend to create an overarching theme for the whole issue.
Q As our worship services have evolved over the past few years, intercessory prayer seems to get less and less attention. What can we do about that?
Pentecost is a season of senses—everything is alive and there is an air of mystery that can be visually and physically shared with the congregation. Pentecost is brimming with sights and sounds we can use in our worship as we recount the amazing events of the first Pentecost and reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives and in the world.
When our congregation changed its method of choosing elders and deacons from election to the casting of lots, we searched for a liturgy to use in the new process. Finding none, we created our own, borrowing heavily from the rich text of Worship the Lord: The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America (Order for the Ordination and Installation of Elders and Deacons). We followed this process:
The Day It All Comes Together
We mourned our sin during Lent, commemorated Christ’s death on Good Friday, and celebrated his resurrection on Easter. But this is the day it all comes together—this is the day we celebrate the coronation of the King!
One fall day in the fifth century before Christ, the people of Israel gathered at the Water Gate in Jerusalem (Neh. 8:2-12). Ezra and several assistants read and interpreted the Book of the Law in a festive setting. As the meaning of the text began to sink in, the people wept. But Ezra told them that this was a day for a feast, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v. 10).
What does spiritual formation have to do with worship? Everything. Our dialog with God in worship moves us through the same formation, conformation, and transformation process as Richard Foster suggests takes place in spiritual formation. As you read the following article, consider how your worship supports spiritual formation. Brainstorm with your worship committee or another group about how your worship can better lead congregants through the process of formation, conformation, and transformation. —JB
Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community
by Simon Chan. InterVarsity Press, 2006. 160 pages.
Simon Chan, an Assemblies of God minister with a Ph.D. from Cambridge who teaches at Trinity Theological College in Singapore, maintains that we cannot fully comprehend the richness of worship without basing it firmly in the doctrine of the church; conversely, we cannot understand the church apart from its life of worship.
“A Global God, a Global Task” is the theme Christian Reformed World Missions has chosen for celebrating the Holy Spirit and Missions for Pentecost Sunday 2008. See the “Series for the Season” article by Gary Brouwers (p. 4) for a Pentecost Sunday service outline. —JH
Reader 1: In the beginning was God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In RW 86, Curt Gesch was incorrectly identified as worship director of Telkwa CRC. It should have read, “Curt Gesch is a member of Telkwa CRC.”
What Resources Do You Use?
Have you found a particular resource helpful for your worship planning? A book of prayers, a music resource, a website? Let us know and consider writing a review of that material.
For various reasons I now live in two cities. My wife and I have our home in South Bend, Indiana, and I work in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We usually spend about three weekends a month in South Bend and one in Grand Rapids.
It was his first church service since World War II. Two weeks earlier Danny had buried his wife of fifty years. The family had searched the Internet for a church that might host her memorial service, choosing Granite Springs Church because it was close. Now he was attending worship. As the congregation stood and began to sing the opening song, I noticed him near the back. He selected a seat on the outside edge, the perfect place to make an early exit. As the congregation sang, “He gives and takes away . . .” tears were streaming down his cheeks.
Pastors know that one of the most significant things they do in their ministry is pray for and with their parishioners. When the sorrow of a recent loss, or the fear of what a cancer may do, or the joy of two lives joined together compel people to ask their pastor (or anyone else!) to pray for them, the one sitting in the living room chair or beside the hospital bed is, in fact, standing on holy ground.
We all know Pentecost is important—after all, living a Christian life would be impossible without the Holy Spirit. That said, Pentecost barely causes a ripple in many churches. There’s no week of preparation the way there is in Lent. No slow unwrapping of Advent to prepare us for celebrating Christmas. Pentecost simply comes and goes.
Here’s a visual idea using God’s original Pentecost symbol to help highlight the significance of Pentecost in the church year.
This service was submitted by a pastor who created the service for a specific situation in his congregation: a young mother who was dealing with cancer. He writes, “Her recent chemotherapy treatments were not working. We talked about having a special prayer service and how that was to be an expression of trust, not desperation. . . . The service was a powerful experience of God’s presence for everyone.”
Muskegon Christian School, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, is a pre-K through 8th grade school serving the greater Muskegon area. Last year it was the recipient of a worship renewal grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, (funded by the Lilly Foundation) to teach kids about Vertical Habits. (For more on Vertical Habits, see RW 84.) We asked Tara Macias, who developed the curriculum used by the school, to tell us about the project.
Who comes to mind when you think of prisoners and prisons? Perhaps violent criminals—murderers, rapists, child molesters—and you’re thankful they are locked up. On the other hand, you may think of prisoners, past and present, who have been unjustly imprisoned for their faith: heroes like Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Germany, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, or the apostle Paul in Rome.
Imagine yourself into this scenario: the New Year’s Day prayer vigil you planned for your congregation last year was a disappointment. The only people who signed up—besides you—were three faithful ladies and the youth pastor, who owed you for chaperoning the Christmas teen event. It’s taken you three months to figure out that the idea of spending a whole hour in prayer is intimidating to your congregation. Spending that much time in prayer seems an impossible and unspeakably boring prospect.
For trumpet, clarinet, and French horn players, transposing is a normal part of playing their instrument. For singers, violinists, pianists, and flute players, on the other hand, it may seem like some strange secret code. Instruments that have their notes written differently than they actually sound? Up a step? Down a fifth? What’s that all about?
Faith formation is an important part of church ministry. This is the third article in a series on how to encourage faith nurture in your congregation’s worship.
“Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!” (1 Kings 18:38-39).
Is this unique and potent passage familiar to you? Can you imagine singing it during a weekly worship service?
Robert Nordling (see his article on p. 32) tells a story about taking his five-year-old son, Jackson, to a young friend’s birthday party: All dressed up, brimming with enthusiasm, Jackson rushes into his friend’s house to join the festivities. But when his father arrives to pick him up after the party, Jackson looks dejected. “What’s the matter, Jackson?” asks his father. “Didn’t you enjoy the party?” The answer is a terse no. “But you were looking forward to this party so much!