It probably all started in Mr. Klyn’s class. As fifth graders, we weren’t too cool yet to sing together every morning, and Mr. Klyn decided that anyone in the class who could play piano well enough would accompany that singing. He chose a tune from the Folk Hymnal for each of us newly-anointed accompanists to play the following week. I went home and practiced “He took my feet from the miry clay; yes, he did! Yes, he did!” until my parents begged me to stop.
In our worship we enter into a dialogue between God and God’s people—a dialogue that neither begins with our entrance nor ends with our exit. More accurately we are joining in a conversation that started long before we ever showed up. Indeed, worship is a cosmic gathering in which we are privileged to participate.
Q I always am anxious about Pentecost. I feel pressure to create a service in which people experience the Holy Spirit in an Acts 2 kind of way. Any advice?
A For starters, recall again the whole scope of the Bible’s teaching about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works through both order and spontaneity, both dramatic intervention and long-term formation.
Note: Multiple song suggestions are provided; choose as many as fit your worship context.
Gathering for Worship
“Come, All You People” SNC 4, SWM 4
“We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise” CH 213, SNC 12, WR 651
“Gift of Christ from God Our Father” SNC 167
“Spirit, Working in Creation” PsH 415, WR 128
[Include a brief explanation of Pentecost and its connection to global mission.]
Resources for Planning Worship
When you plan worship services year after year, it’s easy to fall into a rut and start repeating the same phrases and images. Keeping up with new resources can help you resist this temptation. Of course, no resource is a perfect fit for every church, but you can use the following resources to spark new ideas and adapt them to your own situation.
“Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’” (Ezek. 37:11, RSV)
Let us pray:
God of hope
we bring before you
those whose lives are dried up:
Come from the four winds,
O breath of God,
and breathe upon these
that they may live.
We pray for those dried up
by guilt . . .
We pray for those
whose spirit is drained
by despair . . .
Do you search for hymns and worship music for worship services? Are you researching a particular hymn? Looking for an arrangement or media file? If so, the Hymnary is for you.
The Hymnary is an online hymn and worship music database for worship leaders and others. It’s a collaboration between the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. At the Hymnary you can search or browse hymns by title, tune, meter, key, Scripture reference, and more.
Is it possible that my desire for the logical, the factual, and the easily comprehensible has kept me from seeing, experiencing, and maybe even believing that God is at work here and now? That’s the question that arose in my mind (or was it my soul?) as I read through the articles in this issue.
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. . . . When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” . . . Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel. . . .
—Genesis 28:10-11, 16, 18-19a
The Mysterious Kingdom
The kingdom of God is never quite what we expect. We see this in two rather surprising back-to-back parables in Mark 4.
Just in time for the holidays, here’s an easy one for all you sewers and weavers and other overworked “banner people.” These simple but dramatic visuals are made of lowly colored butcher paper hung from ceiling to floor. We used plain old white glue to add store-bought die-cut letters. Drama on a (time and money) budget!
Reader 1: Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. (Isa. 46:9)
Reader 2: I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. (Isa. 46:10a)
Reader 1: We remember Christmas—the former time when Jesus, the Son of God, was born in human flesh, emptied of his glory.
The following is the third of a three-part series based on a transcript of a lecture given by Dr. N.T. Wright at Calvin College on January 6, 2007. (Parts 1 and 2 of this lecture can be found in RW 89 and 90.) Much of this lecture is based on Dr. Wright’s previous writings, particularly the book Simply Christian (New York: HarperCollins, 2006). We are grateful to Dr. Wright for allowing us to share this lecture with our readers.
Sunday after Sunday, year after year, young people across the country participate in worship. What difference does it make in their lives? Most people believe that worship has a formative influence on the worshiper. But how do we understand that influence? What keeps youth involved in church and bolsters their faith?
The Approach to God
Call to Worship
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Opening Song of Praise
“Laudate Dominum/Sing, Praise and Bless the Lord” SNC 30, S&P 35, T 12
“In the Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful” SNC 220, S&P 47, T 10, WR 448
The unfortunate history of the Lord’s Supper is that we have always managed to find a way to fight over the very thing that was meant to bring us together. So what are we disagreeing about this time? In many Reformed and Presbyterian churches the clash of the day is over whether baptized children who have not professed their faith should be allowed to take part in the Lord’s Supper.
I’ll never forget my visit to see the famous leaning tower in Pisa, Italy. I had not realized that the tower was a bell tower at the east end of the church in Pisa, a separate building with bells that would peal when someone died. I actually became more interested in the building at the other end of the church—the round baptistery, a separate building dating from the thirteenth century built just for baptisms, with fantastic acoustics.
Paul Ryan’s article “Addressing Sexuality in Worship” (RW 85, Sept. 2007) challenges worship leaders to honestly name the sexual struggles all Christians have in the midst of a sex-saturated culture. In this article Robert Bayley continues that call to speak openly and honestly about those struggles and even to sing of them. He has written two hymn texts to help us do that. —JB
Declaring what we believe in the words of a creed is an important part of many worship services. It helps us express our theology and ties us to believers around the world and across the ages. When we recite something often enough, though, the words simply roll off our tongues and we don’t think about what we’re saying.
Use these two short worship litanies to build a bridge connecting your congregation to youth or adults who go out to serve on mission trips. Both litanies can be easily inserted into your church’s regular worship service. The first is designed to commission the group before it leaves on its trip. The second is designed to welcome them back. Read through these litanies carefully and adapt them as necessary to reflect the focus and tasks of your particular mission trip.
We are excited to introduce Bob Langlois to you in this issue. Bob has extensive experience in the world of technology, particularly as it relates to churches. We hope you’ll be inspired to send in specific questions for Bob to answer—whether you’re considering investing in new equipment, trying to solve a thorny techno-problem, or just want to discover the best way to use what you have. —JB
Twice a year at Redeemer University College we gather together for a time of extended prayer. We are a young university (established 1982), but from our inception we’ve had a strong tradition of seeking to be grounded in prayer. Our small campus includes a lovely prayer room for small group prayer, with two adjoining prayer “cells” for personal prayer. Every fall the student body organizes a 24/7 prayer week during which many students, faculty, and staff sign up for an hour each of continuous prayer.