March 2011

RW 99
Ascension/Pentecost
Reformed Worship issue cover

Articles in this issue:

  • Note: This article is slightly adapted from its first printing in The Banner(June 2010). Used by permission.

    If you’ve ever recited the Athanasian Creed in a worship service, please send me an email to tell me about it!

    In truth, I’ve never heard this creed used in church, and it’s not difficult to see why. Even a quick glance shows you that in addition to being much longer than either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed, this creed is also sufficiently repetitive as to get tedious.

  • Brought Near

    Note: Scripture quotations in this article are from the NRSV.

    Planning the Series

    Ephesians illustrates both the density and exuberance of Paul’s theological vision. For these and other reasons, creating a six-week series on the letter can feel a bit daunting. Therefore, a month and a half before the series began we brainstormed one evening with anyone in the congregation interested in joining us. They arrived having read through the letter or at least the one-page summary we made available that outlined its movements and major themes.

  • Passing the Peace

    Post-game handshakes are a time-honored tradition. Little League baseball players, traveling soccer teams, and NCAA athletes never miss this ritual of sportsmanship. During the game they “fight,” engage in “battle,” “conquer,” or suffer “defeat.” But at the end of the day athletes are not at war. By a simple hand gesture, athletes declare that they are at peace.

  • On Ascension Day, the church celebrates Christ’s going up and returning to his Father in glory as a resurrected human being, the firstfruits of the new creation. Ten days later, we celebrate God coming down again, this time not in human form in a particular time and place—as we celebrate at Christmas—but now as Spirit, a gift to each believer in every time and place. The Christian church has also traditionally followed Pentecost Sunday with Trinity Sunday, our praise and adoration ascending to our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

  • From Rebel to Worshiper

    “Why did Christ come? Why was he conceived? Why was he born? Why was he crucified? Why did he rise again? Why is he now at the right hand of the Father? The answer to all these questions is, “in order that he might make worshipers out of rebels; in order that he might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created.”

    A.W. Tozer, Worship: the Missing Jewel

  • What is the goal of preaching? According to John Calvin, the highest purpose of preaching is to give glory to God. But the act of praise is never a preacher’s solo performance—he or she seeks to edify the body of Christ as well. In preaching and in leading, the pastor seeks to call people to faith in Jesus Christ, grow the congregation’s collective commitment to holiness and righteousness, and increase their awareness and understanding of their role in the kingdom of God.

  • The days are getting longer; the sun is stronger; and we are beginning to make summer plans. For many of us those plans will include one or more Sundays away from our place of worship. We may be able to join another community in worship, which is a great opportunity to get outside our comfort zone and learn from our brothers and sisters from other denominations.

  • Each spring I meet with a group of clergy colleagues for a week of Scripture study, rest, renewal, laughter, and support. Each member of The Well brings two exegetical papers corresponding to pre-assigned Sundays in the liturgical year. We share these papers with one another, and the discussion provides us with a great jumping-off point for the next year’s preaching. Our time together has become a not-to-be-missed event.

  • Let Me Go

    Obedience to God is always a struggle among God’s people. This dramatic reading challenges the congregation to examine their excuses for not following Christ in obedience.

    The reading is designed for four readers, male or female, and one unseen voice (narrator). The dramatic reading takes approximately four minutes.

    [All four voices are on the stage spaced five feet apart with their backs to the congregation.]

    Voice 1: [turns to face congregation] Lord, you know I want to follow you. But first let me go and bury my father.

  • The Balanced Life

    “Help us not to be so overwhelmed by the details of ministry that we forget what is central. And help us to find that which is central, even in the details.”

    —Maryann McKibben Dana (p. 40)

    Help us not to be so overwhelmed by the details that we forget what is central. . . .