The disciples asked Jesus a simple question: “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). He gave them, in response, the Lord’s Prayer. Today’s wired Christian might ask that same question not only of Jesus, but also of Jeeves, an electronic concierge/search engine located at www.askjeeves.com. What he or she gets in response will show that in the daunting task of putting words of prayer on the lips of God’s people, good help is hard to find. Hard, but not impossible.
Articles in this issue:
Some of you may have noticed my new byline as “senior research fellow” for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. With the completion of the new hymnal Sing! A New Creation, I had thought of kicking back a bit, but instead I accepted an invitation to join the growing staff of the Institute, which has had a close relationship with Reformed Worship throughout the Institute’s short five-year history. So now I serve in two arenas for the support, encouragement, and renewal of worship on the congregational level.
Janeen Simmons is—or so she’d told him—into prayer. Strange way of saying it, he thought. Like some kids are into Legos. Or some couples are into snorkeling. His friend Tom Branderhorst, a perfectly ordinary guy in seminary, was now into Christian yoga.
We were just finishing a ten-week series on “the big words” of Reformed doctrine. The word for Thanksgiving Day was providence, God’s continuing care for the world. As we started putting the service together, it became clear to us that we could sing practically the entire message. The idea of having a “lighter” service after all of the heavy doctrine was appealing. But how could we get all of the songs we wanted to sing into a one-hour time frame?
Unlike other LOFT services, which take place on Sunday night and go for seventy-five minutes or more, this hymnsing service took place on a Friday morning and lasted under twenty-five minutes. It was part of a week-long project of educating students about the seasons of the church and what it means to find our identity, as Paul says, in Christ, inserting our stories into his story, giving our own lives context and purpose.
I have often been struck by how different psalms fit different parts of the entire church year. For this Advent service I related specific psalms to the season of Advent in the traditional lessons and carols format. The anthems we used reflected themes in those psalms. Because the budget for our small choir allowed for only one new anthem, I chose several older anthems—some now out of print—from their library. You may want to choose different anthems, depending on your resources. Many of the psalms came from Sing!