People of the Spirit, worshiping Jesus in all places, at all times

Archive for the ‘Worship Practice’ Category

[Worship Practice] First Sunday of Christmas

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Music: Fr. Dennett leading a choir with keyboard accompaniment
  • Scripture: Parishioners and Deacons

Collect for the Day

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

One of the great practices of the Anglican tradition is the service of Lessons and Carols. Originally designed as an evangelistic outreach, the service (both in Advent and Christmas iterations) gives the full scope of the Scriptural story of redemption. It is the tradition of Church of the Savior to celebrate Christmas Lessons and Carols on the First Sunday of Christmas. The Scriptural journey from the Fall, to the songs of Isaiah and then to the Nativity narrative of Luke, interpreted by the heavenly announcement in John 1. The mystery of God taking on flesh and blood, being born of Mary his mother, and entrusted to the vulnerable care of the poor–announced and recognized by outcast shepherds and foreign sages–is one worthy of meditation and as Fr. Dennett exhorted the congregation, the Scriptures preach themselves and we should listen closely.

Following the reading of the Gospel and the Collect for the Day, Fr. Dennett gave the announcements, including receiving a testimony from a more recent addition to the parish. He shared about how he encountered Jesus in a new way, and how being welcomed by the congregation was a transformative experience for him. It set a wonderful tone for gathering at the Table in celebration of the Lord’s Supper. That much of the congregation went directly from communion to prepare tables to serve lunch to our neighbors following the service brought that testimony of hospitality and welcome of the Lord in the face of others to life. If there’s one thing I could hope for this parish, it is that each one would see the face of Jesus in those not like them–not only in person, but in the way they view the world. Watching us grow in that way is a joy.

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[Worship Practice] 3rd Sunday of Advent

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Kids of the Parish under the direction of Dana, Allie, and Dcn. Laura
  • Music: Tom leading a trio (vocals, guitar, drums)
  • Scripture: Dcn. Ben (Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Psalm 85), Dcn. Andrea (Luke 3:7-20)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Oh How I Need You (Find You)
  • God with Us
  • Build my Life
  • Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Pageant

  • Jesus Loves Me
  • O Holy Night
  • We Three Kings
  • Mary, Did You Know?
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Offertory

  • Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent

Communion

  • Mystery

Dismissal

  • Angels We Have Heard on High

Collect for the Day

Lord Jesus Christ, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found a people acceptable in your sight; who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Third Sunday of Advent is a strange liturgical creature. The pink rose candle calls us to the older name of the day–Gaudete Sunday, Rejoicing Sunday. In the midst of Advent, we are called out of sobriety to test the joy of the salvation that is coming into the world. This was the expectation I wanted to cast vision for as we began our worship. As we prayed, confessed, received God’s forgiveness, and heard the assurance of that forgiveness in the Comfortable Words, there was a building joy in the work of God for us. Our songs of praise similarly called forth joy in the midst of acknowledging our need, our weakness, and our sin.

When the kids were brought forward for the lighting of the Advent wreath, I taught them about the difference of the day in the Advent season, and the youngest–a toddler–lit the candle. There is a profound weakness in us, but joy of salvation, too. The readings reflected similar tension. Zephaniah croons about the way that God will comfort His people by singing over them, and calls the people to rejoice. Psalm 85 echoes this powerfully. But then the Gospel reading shakes us from that restful disposition with John the Baptist’s cry, “You brood of vipers!” What a tension. It would have been quite fun to preach.

But in place of a sermon, we honored a tradition of the parish. The children of the parish presented a dramatic interpretation of the Nativity of Jesus. The announcement of the coming King as a Savior, not only for Israel but for the whole world, was interpreted for the congregation as a demonstration of God’s love, and an invitation to know and trust in the work of Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection. The kids did a wonderful job, and extended that invitation to faith with grace and enthusiasm. I’m grateful that we have such devoted disciple-makers working with the kids in our parish.

Following the pageant, we continued with the Creed and the Prayers of the People. With some insight from Bishop John Rodgers, our rector added an additional bidding to the Prayers of the People offered by the Prayer Book Taskforce at the beginning–beginning with thanksgiving. It was introduced last week, and this week, thanksgiving prompts a number of extemporaneous prayers from the congregation. This is a strong discipline for us, as Fr. Dennett said last week: Gratitude opposes the spirit of poverty.

After the Prayers, we had an extended time for announcements, including a call to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in China, particularly Early Rain Covenant Church, who have had upwards of 160 people–including pastor, elders, and other leaders–imprisoned or taken by the police. We also had a presentation by missionaries we support in Brazil, the Rev. Ron and Debby McKeon. They are doing tremendous ministry making disciples in Brazil. They are integral to our parish and it was a joy to welcome them, hear what God is doing in their ministry, and to pray for them as part of our worship. It was also a sweet thing to welcome and share Holy Communion with them. Our celebration reflected the joy of the salvation God has delivered in Jesus, and I hope and pray that this joy follows each of us to the ministries and work God has called us to do.

[Worship Practice] 1st Sunday of Advent

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Dcn. Ben leading a full team (vocals, guitar, keys, drums, djembe)
  • Scripture: Truth (1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 and Psalm 50), Dcn. Ben (Luke 21:25-36)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • O Come O Come Emmanuel
  • The Lion and the Lamb
  • All Who are Thirsty
  • Exodus XV

Offertory

  • Hear the Herald Voice Resounding

Communion

  • Great are You Lord

Dismissal

  • On Christ the Solid Rock

Collect for the Day

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I love Advent. I love everything about it–the emphatic need for hope, the calls for the day of judgment, the prospect of the end of the present age and the promise of a world made new, all heralding the coming of the Son of God. I love singing O Come O Come Emmanuel (bonus points for whoever lets us sing the Sinai verse). I love the way Come Thou Long Expected Jesus plays on a loop through my head those several weeks leading up to Christmas. I also love pushing against general practice in Anglican circles where the norm of purple as the color of the season is pervasive and wearing Sarum blue instead (it’s a little detail, but I can only have small rebellions).

As we gathered to pray before worship, there was a definite sense of “beginning.” I don’t think any of us named that, but we prayed–especially for the presence of the Spirit of Jesus. That we would be put in a place of preparation for Jesus’ arrival. This led straight into the welcome, where I invited us to embrace the season, and announced, “Surely the Lord is coming soon!” As we continued the opening liturgy, the way that familiar patterns get reinterpreted and infused with fresh meaning in light of the season stood out–we always confess our sins, receive absolution, and hear the Comfortable Words, but when they are done in light of the promise of Jesus’ return, they become part of our preparation for the World Remade. So, too, our songs of praise, become a prayer for the final redemption to come and take place in us, among us, and around us to the ends of the earth.

After we prayed the Collect for the Day, I called the kids up for the blessing of the Advent wreath and lighting of the first candle. I explained the meaning of the season and talked about expectation and hope that we seek to encourage in Advent. Dcn. Laura assisted Anna in lighting the candle and we prayed the prayer together, before the dismissing the kids and attending to the Ministry of the Word. The readings and the sermon from Fr. Dennett were emphatically eschatological. For many churches, this shift is more noticeable from the weeks before. Because we have been preaching Revelation 1-12 throughout ordinary time, the apocalyptic is familiar territory for us. To hear the warnings and promises of Jesus to his disciples has become a norm–not boring, not old hat–but it’s become normal.

It makes a kind of sense, that of all people on earth, Christians ought to be at home in the apocalyptic. We’re the people on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians). We’re the people who represent a world that isn’t made yet. We’re a nation that points to a Kingdom that is not of this world. This should be where we’re at home. I’ll be watching with interest to see the ways that our newly acquired “familiarity” with the apocalyptic shapes our celebration of Advent.

I would have liked to have done better connecting the Ministry of the Table to that, because the Table has a place in connection with the Lord’s return (“Until I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God” accompanies the Scriptural account of the Lord’s Supper), but that was a missed opportunity. Perhaps the next time I have the privilege of celebrating!

[Worship Practice] Feast of Christ the King

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Sarah leading a trio (vocals, drums, keys)
  • Scripture: Michael (Revelation 12 and Psalm 2), Dcn. Andrea (John 18:33-37)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Come People of the Risen King
  • Indescribable
  • Victor’s Crown
  • To Him Who Sits on the Throne

Offertory

  • Before the Throne of God Above

Communion

  • Amazing Love (How Can It Be?)

Dismissal

  • Build Your Kingdom Here

Collect for the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Some services can feel like they are under attack. Yesterday’s worship felt like that. In addition to a lack of sleep for both the celebrant and the sound board tech, there were crises that called for the immediate response of our music team about 20 minutes before worship was scheduled to start. As we gathered to pray at 10, we were–all of us–in great need of the very thing we were celebrating: Jesus’ sovereign rule. So, we prayed. After resolving a minor computer challenge (what things doesn’t a celebrant do? I swear, they didn’t give us computer classes in seminary!), I gathered the congregation and invited them into celebrating the feast.

As we proceeded through the opening exercises–acclamation, confession, absolution, comfortable words, and the songs of praise, I was only aware that I wanted God to take over. My own two hours of sleep aside, I knew I didn’t have anything to offer for the congregation. So, singing was an act of faith that morning–in a way that it isn’t usually for me–I was singing because I needed God to act and to be present. Of course, our worship leaders had chosen songs that were directly addressing God’s activity all around. By the time we reached the third song, a prophetic word was forming in my mind. Not wanting to depend on my own sleep-deprived memory, I started writing it down. As we finished the chorus “To Him Who Sits on the Throne”, it was thoroughly solidified in my mind–a challenge. After allowing silence for anything else that others in the congregation may have received, I spoke the following:

The Kingship of Jesus is often something we use to feel strong, maybe even invincible. It can be a way of saying “we won’t be beat But the truth is we need the Kingship of Jesus because we are weak. Because we suffer. Because we aren’t invincible. And we need it because it’s a different kind of Kingship. Jesus’s crown of victory is a crown of thorns. His throne is a cross. In a moment of what the world’s powers and kings think is absolute defeat, Jesus actually demonstrates his authority—authority to lay his life down for the sake of the world, and authority to take it up again for the sake of the world. So, hold on to the Kingship of Jesus in your weakness—not because the cavalry is coming, but because in the place of weakness, you will be seated with Christ. What the world calls defeat, Jesus can bring about victory and redemption and rescue for each of us and for the world itself.

It’s been some time since I’ve received that kind of exhortation. It came with clarity and conviction, and to my mind, it addressed something we vitally need in our culture. We aren’t theologians of glory, but theologians of the Cross. We need the freedom to call things as they are. We need the freedom from God to see things as they are. As we prayed the Collect for the Day and continued with the Ministry of the Word, it became obvious through Fr. Dennett’s sermon that the message of God for us is about grace in time of need, provision in the wilderness, and all the upside-down ways that Jesus has marked His Kingship in contrast to the world’s values. For something we didn’t plan, the message from Revelation 12 suited the observance of Christ the King immensely.

Our participation in worship that declares allegiance to the Kingdom of God–the Creed, the Offering, the Ministry of the Table–has an expansive view. The awareness of opposition may make worldly minds circle the wagons, but in the Kingdom of God, Jesus widens the Table. During the liturgy (as the rubrics permit me to use appropriate words for invitation at the ministration of Communion), I offered this invitation from the Iona Community–

This is the Table, not of the Church, but of the Lord. It is made ready for those who love him, and those who want to love him more. So come, you who have much faith and you who have little, you who have been here often and you who have not been here long, you who have tried to follow and you who have failed. Come, because is the Lord who invites you, and it is his will that those who want him will meet him here.

As I prepared to offer that invitation, I was struck with a sensation that had my whole body quaking. The words were strong, with a holy purpose. And as I administered Communion, that shaking continued. I was thoroughly aware of the holiness of the task I had been entrusted with–feeding the citizens of the Kingdom of God, and of my own unworthiness for it. In the most literal sense, God is awesome and is worthy of acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. And I pray that our lives offer that in this week.

 

[Worship Practice] Persecuted Church Sunday

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Cn. Dave
  • Music: Tom leading a trio (vocals, drums, guitar)
  • Scripture: Sharon (Revelation 11:1-14 and Psalm 12), Cn. Dave (Mark 12:38-44)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • God of Wonders
  • This is Amazing Grace
  • What a Beautiful Name
  • Open the Eyes of my Heart

Offertory

  • All Creatures of our God and King

Communion

  • Center

Dismissal

  • Blessed Assurance

Collect for the Day

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

We started on COTS standard time–about 10 minutes after service was supposed to begin. As we prayed before starting, the weight of worshipping with awareness of the suffering of brothers and sisters in Christ was definitely present. I invited everyone to enter into that with us and we proceeded through a liturgy that is otherwise constant–acclamation, confession, absolution, comfortable words and songs of praise. The constancy of Christian worship–in peacetime and persecution–bears witness to the unyielding grace of God. Repentance, absolution, praise to God as faith is released continue against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Praising the Sovereign and Present God was driving our worship and our prayers. As we sang, as we stood in silence, as we prayed the collect for the day, there was a sense of we had to offer ourselves and the intercessions and hearts for our persecuted and suffering brothers and sisters to the care of God because an intervention is needed. I prayed for the kids and dismissed them to their class and the ministry of the Word began. The readings continued those themes.

The sermon for me was a wrestling match: the prophetic role of the two witnesses against the kingdoms of this world, and the victory of God in the midst of the suffering prophets. The victory of God and the call to be his suffering prophets did win out for the sake of the observance. Following the profession of the Creed and a litany fo the persecuted church as the prayers of the people, I flew through the announcements and invited Flora to present on behalf of the Mission Committee. She led the parish in a time of small group prayer–every group received information about a country where Christians face persecution and were asked to take time to pray for them specifically. As we gathered around the Table, there was a deep sense of solidarity–and a determination to continue to lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters–because when one part of the body suffers, the rest suffers with it. Lord, save your people, and bless your inheritance.

[Worship Practice] All Saints Sunday

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Fr. Dennett leading a small team (vocals, drums, keyboard)
  • Scripture: Bill (Revelation 7:1-17 and Psalm 149), Dcn. Andrea (Matthew 5:1-12)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • For All the Saints
  • All Hall the Power of Jesus’ Name
  • Word of the Heavens
  • Here in Your Presence

Offertory

  • For the Cause

Communion

  • Exodus XV
  • It is Well With My Soul

Dismissal

  • The Lamb Has Overcome

Collect for the Day

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

This Sunday worship was a powerful blend of strong emotions. Our community is wrestling with grief, confusion, hurt, and other things on the one hand, and we were witness to the joy of All Saints on the other. We began 10 minutes late. With reference to the Diocesan Gathering that had occurred over the weekend, I drew on the Bishop’s exhortation for us to trust that the power of God would be at work during our worship. We had a modified opening acclamation, appointed for the celebration of a baptism, and the collect for the day, and proceeded directly to the songs of praise. The blend of emotion was definitely heard in the voices of the congregation. It brought to mind the Ainulindalë in Tolkien’s Silmarillion:

Then again Ilúvatar [God] arose, and the Ainur [angels] perceived that his countenance was stern; and he lifted up his right hand and behold! a third theme grew amid the confusion, and it was unlike the others. For it seemed at first soft and sweet, a mere rippling of gentle sounds in delicate melodies; but it could not be quenched, and it took to itself power and profundity. And it seemed at last that there were two musics progressing at one time before the seat of Ilúvatar, and they were utterly at variance. The one was deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came. The other had now achieved a unity of its own; but it was loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated; and it had little harmony, but rather a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes. And it essayed to drown the other music by the violence of its voice, but it seemed that its most triumphant notes were taken by the other and woven into its own solemn pattern.

The voice of the Saints who are in process of enduring and exiting the Great Tribulation (all of us this side of death) and the voice of the Saints who loved not their lives even to death and stand under the altar of God, is a voice that is acquainted with grief, whose highest joy is wrapped up in sorrow. We are perhaps never more in union with Christ than when we enter these together.

Following the praises being sung, there was a Scripture read that addressed our suffering, our grief, our joy, and our confidence in God’s victory. It was a prudent word for our day. I said “Amen” after and called the kids forward. After talking with them about our All Saints observance (and who a saint is), I prayed and dismissed them to their classes.  The ministry of the Word continued with the readings.  Fr. Dennett came forward to preach the sermon on the 144,000 and the multitude that no one could number. That Word called us to see that what God presents in these visions is the victory accomplished through Jesus: that our time in the Great Tribulation has a conclusion in resurrection–a victory over death and a joy that will outlast the grief.

At the conclusion of the sermon, I stood up, called the family of our baptism candidate forward and celebrated the baptism of one of the children of our congregation. This little one, brought to Jesus in faith, didn’t panic at any point, but received the sacrament in peace. It was a joyful and holy moment of grace given, an ikon of our relationship to God–that we are brought to him helpless and vulnerable and he takes us up and joins us to himself. Praise God.

Following the baptism and passing of the peace, Fr. Dennett delivered the announcements, including charging me, Dcn. Laura, and our Senior Warden with the care of the parish in his absence for the next few weeks. The first step we took in that charge was to pray for him and Dcn. Andrea in sending them to rest, renewal, and preparation for the upcoming season. As we came to the Table, receiving again the fellowship of union with Jesus in His Body and Blood, joy and sorrow were still mingled into something that only faith can make it–power to step forward, a power given by the Spirit, a power that can change life with testimony to God’s grace, and will resound as our song did: “Worthy is the Lamb!”

[Worship Practice] Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Sarah and Mark leading a small team (vocals, drums, guitar)
  • Scripture: Truth (Revelation 10:1-11 and Psalm 13), Dcn. Andrea (Mark 10:46-52)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Everlasting God
  • Open up the Heavens
  • Holy Spirit
  • Ever Be

Offertory

  • Great is Thy Faithfulness

Communion

  • Great Are You, Lord

Dismissal

  • In Christ Alone

Collect for the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

We did not begin as usual yesterday. Following the tragedies of the past week, especially the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, our own neighborhood, we knew there had to be a way to respond. So, Fr. Dennett led the beginning of the service. He opened with addressing the tragedy, and how our response as God’s people needed to begin in prayer, repentance, and intercession. Following the silence, spontaneous intercessions, and prayers, Fr. Dennett moved us directly into the Confession and Absolution and Comfortable Words and into the Songs of Praise. The prayers and intercessions were focused on the need for God to bring transformation and healing to the whole society we’ve created, and the Songs of Praise felt like a continuation of that appeal, and also God’s answer for how that could be accomplished–through the outpouring of God’s Spirit and the coming of God’s Kingdom (in other words–not work we can do, but a work we can ask for).

After praying the Collect for the Day (providentially appropriate), I prayed for and dismissed the kids to their classes, and we began the ministry of the Word. The lessons were evidently appointed for the day, particularly the psalm. It never ceases to amaze me how things that are predetermined and planned out months or years ahead can work to serve the people of God in their particular contexts so directly. As Fr. Dennett preached, the way that the revelation of God’s judgment was also a revelation of God’s Great Commission moved forward for us. There was a sense of direction and confidence that God’s Spirit would empower us to suffer alongside our Jewish friends and neighbors, confident because of the suffering of Jesus.

Our prophetic announcement to all peoples, languages, nations and kings began with the Nicene Creed and the Prayers of the People, and we came to the Table with that confidence–not presuming, but assured by the Spirit of God. May God give power to that proclamation in this week through the entire parish.