Sometimes I feel weary. I feel weary when I hear about the “nones”—those who claim no religious belief. I feel weary hearing about millennials leaving the church and thinking about all the energy exerted to keep them coming. This week I read about the “dones”—those who used to be involved in the church but simply are done with the whole organizational mess.
Have you ever wondered if God might have a favorite color? Perhaps that sounds like a trivial question for theology, but what is the first color mentioned in the Bible? Might it have any significance in God’s design for creation and redemption?
Ascension Day and Pentecost are major events in the life of the Christian church. We confess the truth of Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Spirit every time we repeat the words of the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed. But what difference do these days make in the life of the average worshiper today? And how do Christians and churches mark these important events?
In the spring of 2014 I had the opportunity to visit Light of Hope Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia. There I heard about their recent Pentecost celebration. It was clear that the visuals they created for their celebration had a significant impact on the congregation and could be an encouragement to the broader body, so I asked Pastor Edwin Gonzalez-Gertz to describe the process and final visual.
For Pentecost 2012 at Village Chapel Presbyterian Church in Charleston, West Virginia, we decided to visually depict the fire of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit. We were blessed by the results!
First, using white copier paper from the recycle bin, the worship committee folded 150 paper cranes (but called them “doves” since they were for Pentecost). With a small hole punch we punched a hole near the top of each dove’s back.
This engaging and active children’s message is designed to be shared on Pentecost Sunday. Red feathers are used to symbolize the flames of Pentecost that hovered over Jesus’ friends as they gathered.
There’s a word used to indicate the practice of singing two different songs at the same time. The musicological term is quodlibet. My teenage children call it a “mash-up.” Sometimes melodies or texts are superimposed over one another to demonstrate the musical skills of a composer. Other times it might be done simply for the fun of it.
More recently Jeffery Archer wrote a book titled The Gospel According to Judas. Like Short, Archer sought to give insight to the gospel by looking at it in a new way: this time through the eyes of the disciple who betrayed Christ.
The problem we humans have, as one of my seminary professors put it, is that people forget. Even in a world where death is all over the news, where gravediggers are always employed, where Ebola and war and famine wreak havoc, people forget about death. We don’t passively forget—that is not possible. But we actively turn our minds away from our own deaths, even if we cannot avoid death in the world around us. We lobotomize the part of our brain that considers the fact that except Christ comes again, all of us will die.
When a church closes, its remaining members grieve. But in Christ we are not without hope. The final service of Gallatin Gateway Community Christian Reformed Church in Bozeman, Montana, was a moving expression of remembrance, pain, and faith.
Call to Worship: John 11:25-26
Hymn of Praise: “How Great Thou Art” LUYH 553, PH 467, PsH 483, TH 44, WR 51
The Lord’s Greeting
Passing of the Peace
The ballots had been counted, and we, the members of the McBain CRC, had voted to close our church after ninety-seven years of service. The decision came after a year of prayer, soul-searching, and seeking guidance from the denomination’s Home Missions office.
Three people were appointed to plan the closing service; we hardly knew where to begin. But we chose the theme “Celebrating God’s Faithfulness.”
Q Why does Ascension Day matter? We don’t celebrate it anymore, and I need to give my congregation a better rationale for why we should. By the way, they don’t have patience for a treatise on the matter. I need short, pithy explanations.
In 2009, Emily Brink and Paul Neeley participated in two worship conferences in Pakistan co-sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) and the Tehillim School of Church Music and Worship (TSCM). Rev. Eric Sarwar, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan and founder of TSCM, arranged both conferences, one at the Presbyterian Seminary in Gujranwala, and the other hosted by Christ the King Roman Catholic Seminary in Karachi.