God sees the plight of refugees. He hates the injustice that leads to their displacement from home and country. The church, called to emulate God’s character, must also care about the hardships of refugees. One way to do so is to incorporate into a worship service a celebration of God’s just character and a call to care for refugees by performing this drama.
In RW 85, Corwin Smidt wrote an article on politics and worship from a United States perspective (“Pulpit Politics: Are They Oil and Water?” RW 85). This time we’ve invited a couple of Canadians to give their perspective on the same topic.
Reconciliation is a process. It is a long and often difficult road through truth and justice aimed at the restoration of broken relationships, in order to establish a new reconciled reality. There are no quick-fix solutions, no shortcuts or easy roads. The process of reconciliation that is taking place in the church in South Africa illustrates the challenges and offers guidelines for rituals of reconciliation that can help the church worldwide address its ongoing need for reconciliation.
Soon after September 11, 2001, I received requests from various congregations throughout the United States for permission to sing from “A Congregational Lament” in worship services. They needed a song to fit the evil besetting them. They wanted to mourn the terrible loss of life and to cry out to God for the Lord to lessen their pain somehow in what seemed so brutally destructive. As believers they wanted to sing a sad song of faith that did not pretend in Stoic fashion to take on the chin whatever happens.
The following checklist was prepared as a handout at a session on worship and justice at the January 2003 Symposium on Worship and the Arts. It is also posted on the website of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (www.calvin.edu/worship).
Who are the “least” in our church? In our community? In our world? How can our worship reflect God’s special love and passionate concern for the “least” among us?
I would guess that some readers of RW will find the theme of this issue, namely, worship and justice, a bit exotic; rather like yoking together a horse and an ox! Perhaps the editors were at their wits’ end to find a topic that had not already been treated. Some may even find the topic worrisome: if we aren’t careful, the social activists will take over!
Justice + worship = passion. That succinct one-liner was offered by Elise, a college student, in response to two days of exploring the relationship between justice and worship at a recent conference (cosponsors included Reformed Worship and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship) at The King’s University College. Clearly she sensed that seeking and doing justice and offering worship are essential companions in the Christian life.
How much justice in worship is enough justice? Churches often develop a service once a year around one specific justice issue like hunger, but rarely does justice penetrate every week of our worship, or even better, every component of that weekly worship. How can the whole of our worship service reflect God’s special love and passionate concern for those who are poor and excluded? These resources will help worship planners integrate God’s call to justice in worship throughout the church year.
Q. Our newspapers are full of stories about crime, homelessness, the environment, and other societal problems. Why don’t we hear more about this in worship? —Michigan
A. My hunch is that these themes are quite prominent in communities that face injustice but less so in more affluent places. It is always a temptation to prefer worship that comforts us without challenging us. But the gospel clearly involves both.
These resources were submitted by Wendy deJong and the Worship Committee of Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, Saint Catharines, Ontario. For more complete service plans, contact her at email@example.com.
There is a good-sized body of congregational song from which to choose that deals with justice: from the powerful simplicity of an African-American spiritual with its repeated plea “let my people go” to the texts that came out of the nineteenth-century Social Gospel movement to the bold, rich texts of our own time that deal with the complexities of feminist and liberation theologies. Through all of these runs a deep concern for the human condition that comes from an understanding of the implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the world.
Part of what makes the World Wide Web so interesting is the way it links together things you wouldn’t ordinarily find in the same mental zip code. Two stray clicks and you’ve discovered a connection between the Great Barrier Reef and wine-soaked raisins; robotic sergers and distant quasars; justice and worship. To the church’s great shame, these last two items—working for justice and worshiping a just God—are too infrequently considered together.
My first impression of John Bell was that of a modern-day John the Baptist. From his piercing eyes down to his sandal-clad feet, he projected the intense charisma I've always associated with that desert prophet.
Last winter a news anchorwoman from one of the large television stations in the New York area traded in her expensive business suit for a bundle of rags. Convinced that in order to really understand the plight of the homeless you have to become one of them, she spent a week as a bag lady on the streets of New York City.