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September 2008

Not a Pretty Picture . . . Or Is It?

If you’re like me, you find the cover of this issue of RW thought-provoking. Chris Stoffel Overvoorde’s That Glorious Form stops us short and makes us think. The Christ child in a crown of thorns? It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not the typical picture of Advent and the Christmas season. If given the choice, we would rather focus on the perfect, beautiful baby in the manger with the loving gaze of his mother and father falling upon him. We prefer the pretty picture.

Reviews

Three New Song Collections

Of the making of hymnal supplements there is no end, it seems. Actually, the term “hymnal supplement” is hardly an appropriate name anymore. The old pattern of hymnals being replaced in about a generation by a new hardbound hymnal has all but disappeared.

Inclusive Communion

Accommodating Worshiper's Unique Needs

After I led a group of people with cognitive impairments in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Sarah approached me to ask a question. I had difficulty understanding her because I don’t know her well and because she has trouble articulating certain sounds.

Finally, I understood that she hadn’t come forward to take communion that evening because she has a swallowing disorder. Sarah feared she would choke in front of everyone as she took the elements. She asked if we could go to a more private place where I could serve her. I was delighted to do so.

Minor-Key Advent, Second Coming Sundays, and Lord's Supper During Fellowship Meals

Q We’ve had complaints of having too much of a “minor-key Advent” in our church. How would you respond?

A It all depends!

Advent is a time of great hope. But it is also a time to dwell honestly with the fact that our full hopes for Christ’s second coming are not yet fulfilled. Advent is also a time of waiting.

Living in Advent

Worship Ideas for the Gospel of Mark

Human nature is such that we prefer the sweet to the sour, the easy to the hard, the light rather than the darkness. But for the light to seem bright, we first need to spend time in darkness. Similarly, we need Advent to comprehend the gift of Christmas. This series allows us to dwell in Advent, to notice that we’re living in between the two advents, to dare to look at the world’s darkness in order to better see the brightness of Christ’s light.

Minor-Key Advent, Second Coming Sundays, and Lord's Supper During Fellowship Meals

Q We’ve had complaints of having too much of a “minor-key Advent” in our church. How would you respond?

A It all depends!

Advent is a time of great hope. But it is also a time to dwell honestly with the fact that our full hopes for Christ’s second coming are not yet fulfilled. Advent is also a time of waiting.

The Angels' Message

A Drama Series for Advent and Christmas Eve

During Advent we wanted to draw all the generations in our congregation into the wonderful messages of hope, love, peace, and joy. To do that, we wrote dramatic scripts to reflect God’s command to tell the children the stories of his faithfulness. Storytellers represented the gospel characters who had received God’s message directly from angels: Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.

Are You Missing Out?

Liturgical Resources from the Apocrypha

We distinguish between these holy books
and the apocryphal ones. . . .
The church may certainly read these books
and learn from them
as far as they agree with the canonical books.
—Belgic Confession, Article 6




People and Places of the Nativity

A Candlelight Service for Three Readers

Last December, our worship committee was looking for an idea for our annual candlelight service. For our Advent worship we had used the series “The Places of Christmas” (RW 77), which traced the places along God’s story of redemption. To build on this theme, our worship team came up with “People and Places of the Nativity”—a service looking at the significance of the ordinary people and places of the nativity story.

Kids Creating Art for Worship

A Triptych That Celebrates God's Amazing Love

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” Christ Community Church takes this quote by cultural critic Neil Postman seriously. According to the church’s vision statement, it “desires to be a vibrant, spiritual community that shapes the next generation of God’s champions.” One way this happens at Christ Community is by involving kids in creating visual art that helps lead the congregation to worship God.

The Light of Christ in Contemporary Songs

Open Our Eyes; I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light; Here I Am to Worship

"Why are there no good Christmas songs?” one of my college students asked last December. He was frustrated in his search for contemporary songs to use in our Sunday evening worship service. Though he found several good hymns and carols to use, he wasn’t coming up with anything new.

Unlocking the Living Word

Tips for Reading Scripture in Worship

Snow falls gently outside the window. Inside, the fireplace spreads its mellow warmth through the family room. Firelight plays on the walls and ceiling as the children snuggle around you on the couch. There are cookies and milk, your favorite tattered Bible, and expectant eyes and ears. It’s time to read the Christmas story from Luke 2 again. What a beautiful family tradition!

Teach Us to Number Our Days

A New Year's Eve Service with Drama

Our Approach to God

Prelude
[Sound of clock ticking; the words, “Teach us to number our days” appear one by one on screen. Piano plays “Now Is the Time to Worship” as PowerPoint slide dissolves into the words of the song. Throughout the service, words of all litanies and songs are projected on screen.]

A Music Director's Dilemma

Practical Advice for Working with Instrumentalists

Here’s the typical music director’s dilemma: you want to use instrumentalists in the service because that adds a unique dimension to your worship, but you also know there’s a wide range of ability among your willing volunteers; many, if not all, are amateurs.

How can you select repertoire that honors their capabilities and helps them reach their full potential in using their gifts to serve the Lord? Here’s some practical advice for doing just that.

N.T. Wright on Word and Sacraments: We Need Both

(Part 1 of 3)

The following is the first 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. Much of this lecture is based on his previous writings, especially Simply Christian (HarperCollins, 2006). We are grateful to Dr. Wright for allowing us to share this lecture with our readers over the next three issues. In this issue the focus will be on the sacraments in general; RW 90 will focus on baptism; and RW 91 on the Eucharist.

All Stars

Using the Humble Potato for Visual Drama

Involvement in the arts is an important way for kids of all ages to find their place in congregational life. Church is a place where someone can recognize and respect children’s gifts and then work with them to create something unique that contributes to the whole congregation’s worship. Be that person!

The construction of this hanging is simple and the amount of potato printing required will give everyone plenty of opportunity to perfect the technique.

I Say Potato

Here’s how it’s done:

From Lament to Praise

A New Year's Eve Journey Through the Psalms

When we gather for worship on New Year’s Eve, we do so to praise God for the past year—to thank God for the wonderful gifts he has given us and to remember his wonderful deeds. But what if our year has not been good? What if, when we think back on the year, all we can remember is pain and heartache? What if we lost someone we dearly loved? What if we drifted away from a loving friend? What if we lost our job and are struggling to make ends meet? What if we’ve fallen into sinful behavior and find it difficult to break free? What if we feel abandoned by God?

Epiphany: Words of Hope

Celebrating Our Past, Present, and Future

The idea for this service began in late November 2007. As a congregation we were not planning to hold a New Year’s Eve or a New Year’s Day service. So we asked the question, “How will we begin the new year on Epiphany Sunday?” The idea that stuck was to ask members of the congregation to submit Bible texts that had sustained them, given them hope, and challenged them in the past year or two. The members responded with nearly one hundred submissions!

Celebrating Missions

Planning a Successful Mission Emphasis Service

One Sunday I (Steve) served as visiting preacher at a church that had planned a mission emphasis service. As I took a seat near the front, I was impressed by a colorful display of flags representing the countries touched by the congregation’s missionaries. The music carried the energy of the large and growing majority-world Christian movement. A little later in the service, a PowerPoint presentation projected scenes of Christians from around the world gathering to worship the crucified, risen, and reigning Christ.

A Work in Progress

Madison Square Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Scan the crowd at one of Madison Square Church’s well-attended Sunday services and you’ll see something rare: a group whose demographics actually looks like its diversely-peopled promotional materials.

Somebody's Coming

Imagine standing in the arrivals area at the airport, your heart pounding. Your beloved has been away on a long trip, and any second he or she is going to walk through those doors. In your mind you can already see the dear, tired face lighting up as your eyes meet.

What a sense of excitement there is when something eagerly anticipated finally arrives! That same kind of anticipatory joy characterizes our waiting for Jesus in Advent. In fact, our sense of joy during longed-for events in our lives is mild compared to the joy of what God has done, and is still doing, in Jesus.

2008 Calendar of Events

How to List an Upcoming Event

To have your upcoming eventconsidered for inclusion in Reformed Worship and on our website, pleasesend your information in the format shown below to info@reformedworship.org by the following dates:

RW 90 (December issue): deadline August 20, 2008

News and Notes

Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Announces 2008 Worship Renewal Grant Recipients

When church leaders talk about worship, they tend to talk about style, techniques, and equipment for worship services. But many congregations are dedicated to reflecting on the deeper meaning and purpose of worship and congregational life.

Letters

Still Relevant After All These Years

I was recently looking for some resources on Seder suppers when I ran across your publication. In RW 6 (Winter 1987/88) I found just what I needed (Steve Schlissel’s article). Although I was able to read the article online I ordered a back copy of the issue so I could have it to read in print. What a treasure!