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[Worship Practice] Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Cn. Dave
  • Music: Tom leading a trio (vocals, drums, guitar)
  • Scripture: Sharon (Revelation 9:1-12 and Psalm 90), Dcn. Ben (Mark 10:17-31)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Praise is Rising (Hosanna)
  • One Thing Remains
  • Who You Say I Am
  • The Lion and the Lamb

Offertory

  • Good Good Father

Communion

  • Jesus Messiah

Dismissal

  • Mighty to Save

Collect for the Day

God, our refuge and strength, true source of all godliness: Graciously hear the devout prayers of your Church, and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who sits at your right hand to intercede for us, and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns in everlasting glory. Amen.

I both love and dread when I’m responsible for the leadership of the service when the rector has to be away a Sunday. I dread it because the decisions that come up fall to me as priest, and filling gaps and identifying leadership on the spot comes to my door, when most weeks, I can defer to him and not worry about it at all. But I love it, because I take seriously the call God has given me–not to compose a service, but to draw the attention of God’s people to the notes being arranged by the Holy Spirit.

After providing a diaconal/chancel tutorial to a more recently-minted deacon (who did a solid job), we prayed with the other worship leaders and had a genuine sense that there was a movement of the Spirit for transformation and for inspiring evangelism, and for God’s grace to be ministering in a powerful and generous way. As we moved through the liturgy–greeting, acclamation, summary of the law, confession, absolution, and comfortable words, there was a genuine invitation to draw nearer and nearer to God. As we sang about God’s great love for His people, and proclaimed His faithfulness for any who would listen, I was gaining some recognition that God was calling us into His refuge. We concluded that worship in silence–the words of Revelation 8:1 echoing (at least for me), “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”

After praying the Collect for the Day and dismissing the kids to their class, the lessons were read. As I got up to preach, it occurred to me for the millionth time that I’d been tasked with one of the most difficult texts in Revelation. The fifth seal judgment–the release of Abandon from the Abyss and the suffering of all mankind (but not death) is an intimidating message. As I exposited the identity of this horde of locusts, the weight of this judgment began to sit in the room–even the revelation that those who are sealed by God in baptism were exempt from the judgment didn’t dissipate that weight. These were people that we were concerned for, that we wanted to see spared and delivered. I offered the reality that in this situation, God had set a boundary–that death was not an option for Destruction to wreak over humanity–and demonstrates a severe mercy, a mercy that opens the opportunity for repentance, to receive the seal of God. To draw that in, I read Joel 2–which features a very similar picture of the day of judgment, but which concludes with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit–God is a God of justice, but who relents over disaster to bring repentance and renewal.

As we confessed the Creed, prayer the prayers and received Holy Communion–singing the glorious kingship of Jesus and His power to deliver solidified an atmosphere of determination that the Gospel be shared, and that those who are not walking in this world sealed by the Spirit of God would experience repentance and renewal, and be marked as Christ’s own forever. Lord, bring them in.

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[Worship Practice] 20th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Dcn. Ben leading a group (vocals, drums, guitar, keyboard)
  • Scripture: Pat (Revelation 8:6-13 and Psalm 8), Cn. Dave (Mark 10:2-9)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Te Deum
  • Shout to the Lord
  • Victor’s Crown
  • All Creatures of our God and King

Offertory

  • Wonderful Merciful Savior

Communion

  • Revelation Song

Dismissal

  • How Great Thou Art

Collect for the Day

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in continual godliness; that through your protection it may be free from all adversities, and devotedly serve you in good works, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

It’s a strange thing to be confident about God producing joy in his people when the reading and sermon are sure to be heavy, weighty, and maybe a little dark. There’s something so reflective of the God we know in Jesus Christ in that–that the darker something can be, the brighter the reality of His grace and love shines through for us. As we prayed, I’d left my confidence about joy unspoken, but one of the leadership prayed that God would bring joy to everyone present.

The congregation was unusually quiet in waiting for the service to start (which I made a note of asking if everyone was awake–the only unconvincing answer was from our preacher). As we worked through the liturgy, there was a definite lightness to the worship and the mood of the congregation (contrasting to the week before) that set a stark contrast with the heaviness of our lessons, particularly the first four of the Seven Trumpets as described in Revelation 8. This was sealed by a spontaneous reading/praying of Psalm 150 at the conclusion of the songs of praise.

Stevan’s sermon showed that God’s judgment (and therefore, God’s redemption) extend far beyond our human existence, but flow into the whole of creation–that Jesus is dealing with everything broken in the whole of the cosmos, to draw it into a new kind of life that Jesus brings. It was a good word, if a heavy one pointed at a hope that’s so much bigger than us. We professed the Creed as a first step in proclaiming the Gospel to the whole creation. As we prayed and participated in Holy Communion, the harmony of that lightness and heaviness persisted in a confidence in the goodness and graciousness of God. This was no more obvious than our dismissal song–the sober, heavy words of “How Great Thou Art” sung with an upbeat, joyful melody. They didn’t clash, but came together in a way that resonates with the Gospel itself.

[Worship Practice] 19th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Mark and Sarah leading a small group (vocals, drums, guitar, w/ keyboard during Offertory and Communion prayers)
  • Scripture: Bp. John (Revelation 8:1-5 and Psalm 19), Dcn. Andrea (Mark 9:38-48)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Behold the Former Things
  • Hear the Call of the Kingdom
  • He Reigns
  • Who You Say I Am

Offertory

  • The King of Love my Shepherd Is

Communion

  • Mountain
  • Who You Say I Am

Dismissal

  • Those Who Trust

Collect for the Day

Merciful Lord, grant to your faithful people pardon and peace; that by your grace we may be cleansed from all our sins and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

We got started before 10:05! I admit I care far too much about that, but it’s both challenge and goal. There was a deep sense of peace as the leadership prayed before the service. One member of the team received a prophetic word–Perseverance–that alerted us before we even began the service to pay attention to what God was already doing. I greeted the congregation with words I’ve heard all my life, and spoke about the confidence we have in encountering Jesus. We moved from the Acclamation through Collect for Purity, Summary of the Law, Confession and Absolution, and the Comfortable Words with our usual sense of purpose.

As we were singing the songs of praise, there was a bit of a quiet mood that seemed to be there–not suppressed or lacking in joy in the least–but a quietness as the songs were sincerely offered in worship. As that time concluded, I felt that I needed to be slow to move on, so I waited, and even approaching the lectern, didn’t speak immediately. I shared the Scriptures from Galatians 3:23-29, highlighting our identity as God’s children and the freedom we have that comes from it, and closed that word with Galatians 4:6 as a call to the Collect for the Day.

After praying for and dismissing the kids to their class, we heard the Scriptures read from the lessons and prayed the Psalm. Bishop John’s reading of Revelation 8:1-5 highlighted for the congregation a significant part of the story–that when the seventh seal was opened, there was a silence in heaven for half an hour. He paused intentionally after that sentence to let it sink it (garnering a few laughs, but the point stuck). Fr. Dennett’s sermon focused on the silence of heaven–and of God in particular–when His people are crying out to him. Reflecting on his own journey and discipleship, Fr. Dennett was able to reveal for us that silence can often be God’s promise that things are about to be made right, and evil is about to be judged. It was a comforting word for me in this season and I trust that it was for others as well. I let the silence following the sermon carry long (perhaps overlong, as we very nearly skipped the Creed). I was certainly in no rush, nor did I feel the need to be (which is admittedly unusual for me).

We proceeded through the Creed, the Prayers of the People (which mostly kept silent outside of the biddings and “Hear our prayer” until we reached the intersessions for those we know to be in need, and then the announcements. Stewart, the Director for SAMS-USA shared about the ministry that he leads and their aims, and Dcn. Andrea led the prayers for him as he continues in that role. As we moved into the Offertory and ministry of Holy Communion, it struck me that the quiet continued for us. It was if the Holy Spirit was orchestrating us in a sort of pianissimo worship (an unusual thing for this congregation). Peace, joy, and resting in the silence of God as we received from the Lord’s Table, received the ministry of prayer, received God’s blessing, and received our commission to go forth with Him.

[Worship Practice] 16th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Mark leading a trio (vocals, drums, keyboard)
  • Scripture: Bill (Revelation 5:1-14 and Psalm 146), Dcn. Andrea (Mark 7:31-37)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Everlasting God (Strength Will Rise)
  • You Are Good
  • Sing of Your Great Love
  • Revelation Song

Offertory

  • I’d Rather Have Jesus

Communion

  • To Him Who Sits On the Throne

Dismissal

  • Hear the Call of the Kingdom

Collect for the Day

Lord God, grant your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; that we may love you faithfully with all our heart and soul and mind and strength; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Some days I feel like a Pentecostal pastor, and that’s a good thing. We managed to start in a timely 5 minutes late (I was on stage early in an effort to move us forward–God help me). The rainy weather had a delay on many in the congregation. I suggested that even more than the expectation of the rain, we could be confident in the grace of God falling down upon us. It was cheesy, but nonetheless true. As we moved through the Acclamation, Summary of the Law, Confession, Absolution, and the Comfortable Words, I was aware of a particular energy I felt that’s unusual on rainy days (weather usually makes me drag/talk quietly/be more subdued in demeanor–more like today!).

As we began to sing our songs of praise, that energy was discernible throughout the parish. Exalting the glory and reign of God, and praising his holiness, goodness, and power were at the forefront.  As we concluded, Fr. Dennett (who was serving with the music team) began to sing spontaneously as Mark and John continued to play. The song gathered up the extemporaneous prayers and praises of the congregation, and it drifted into the chorus of Revelation Song a cappella as a conclusion. The silence that followed was palpable and restful. Two extemporaneous prayers of praise were offered, followed by a message in tongues. An interpretation was given a moment later announcing God’s sovereignty and presence in the midst of calling us to follow him. I closed that time of worship by leading us in the Collect for the Day (which, incidentally, was not the one above–I’m not sure where the one we prayed yesterday came from!).

Church School for the kids began yesterday, so I called the boys up and prayed for their time and dismissed them. Worship continued with the reading of Scripture and the sermon. Fr. Dennett’s sermon explored the scene of the worship of Heaven–a powerful and moving word about how the worship emanating from the throne is echoed by our worship and is meant to echo to all creation (worship leads into mission, which exists because worship doesn’t…amazing).  One of the things that stood out with his conclusion was he pointed out what he hadn’t exposited: the hymns in the vision. The point there? The worship of God is meant to be offered, not broken down into pieces. It’s meant to be the lived experience of God’s people to offer God’s praises. It was a strong place to finish.

As a beginning to that lived proclamation and worship, I invited us to say the Creed, and we gathered the Prayers of the People (curiously quietly by comparison). Following brief announcements, we began the Ministry of the Table and the worship of God in Holy Communion. The ministry of God’s presence in the Body and Blood, and through the laying on of hands in prayer was marked by joy and energy. More than usual, members of the congregation approached the table with smiles to receive the Supper. I don’t have words for all that God was doing, and I suspect I only caught a sample of it, but God is so good.

[Worship Practice] 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Dcn. Ben leading a team (vocals, guitar, drums, keyboard)
  • Scripture: Truth (Revelation 3:14-22 and Psalm 16), Dcn. Laura (John 6:56-69)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Everlasting God
  • We Will Feast in the House of Zion
  • Here in Your Presence
  • Before the Throne of God Above

Offertory

  • Lord, Enkindle Me

Communion

  • Refiner’s Fire
  • Lord, I Need You

Dismissal

  • Nothing But the Blood

Collect for the Day

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I read an article recently about things that small churches should do. #5 on that list was that they should start at time, and that waiting for a critical mass to gather to start doesn’t help. I fully believe and support that. I try–I really do–but it’s not something that happens despite all. I vested 10 minutes before service. The music team ceased rehearsal 5 minutes before service. I thought we’d pray and get done on time….but no. Folks scattered, dispersed, conversed, and then I find out that my dear rector has “sabotaged” my efforts by making the clock slow by a few minutes. What can a man do?

We prayed and took our respective places. I welcomed everyone and voiced expectation that we would encounter and hear the Word of God in our worship and invited everyone to engage in that expectation. We proceeded through the Acclamation, Summary of the Law, Confession, Absolution and Comfortable Words smoothly before entering our songs of praise. The worship was preparatory, acknowledging God’s presence, emphasizing the need for hearing God’s Word. Dcn. Ben’s leadership is often pastorally sensitive to the condition of the parish. In the silence afterward, a parishioner read from Colossians about the glory and kingship of Christ as He stands sovereign over all creation. I also had an impression to speak a word of assurance. So, addressing the fear of what might be exposed or brought to light in speaking boldly or giving testimony for Christ, I read from the first few verses of Romans 8, and then picked up the final flourish from “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” The Collect for the Day felt like a seal and response to the beginning of our worship.

As we listened to the reading of the Scriptures, prayed the Psalm, and stood hearing the Gospel, the juxtaposition of the letter to the church in Laodicea with the challenge of Jesus to the Twelve to forsake him because of hard teaching highlighted the words of Peter, “Where else will we go? You have the words of eternal life!” Even as Fr. Dennett preached on the realities of our life in America as very much like that in Laodicea–wealth, power, self-confidence, and ease of self-deception to detract us from the love of God in Christ. It was a powerful call to repentance–a reminder that repentance is the substance of our discipleship, and that the love of God to offer forgiveness and hope to all who repent remained constant.

What was experienced by the rest of the parish, I’m not sure of. For myself, I was keenly aware of the lack of holiness, and my presumption in the different ways I’ve tried to reflect holiness–the definite need for repentance. As we concluded the Ministry of the Word with the Creed and the Prayers of the People, that was my work. Fr. Dennett handled the announcements–which were extensive due to an appeal for participation in a healing care group that is starting in the parish and by an interview by one of our seminarians of two Kenyan seminarians about their summers at home, and where they are coming from, and what God is doing in their dioceses. Church of the Savior has long supported and welcomed students from across the globe into their community.

From the offertory into the Ministry of the Table, there was a restless quiet as some members of the parish had a ministry–a community lunch– to prepare for as the service was running long. My sense of responsibility in that is I will do my best, but the Sacrament is to be celebrated and received in reverence. So, there was no hurry in moving through the Holy Communion, and as the parish received, we went through two songs in worship (contrasting to our usual one). To me, the Table was an answer to my repentance, a Word for my hunger and desire for the holiness of God. It was not made or earned or taken by me. It was given freely, graciously, and fully by Christ. And that bread and cup were sufficient. I had no hunger–not even physical hunger–after that. That is the faithfulness of the Jesus who speaks to His Church so constantly and truthfully.

[Worship Practice] 11th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Stevan leading a team (vocals, guitars, drums)
  • Scripture: Michael (Revelation 2:18-29 and Psalm 78:1-13), Dcn. Laura (John 6:24-35)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Indescribable
  • He is Exalted
  • All Creatures of our God and King
  • Agnus Dei

Offertory

  • More than Conquerors

Communion

  • Glorify Thy Name
  • King of Glory

Dismissal

  • Glorious Day

Collect for the Day

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your grace that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I must announce that I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that Church of the Savior will always start 5-10 minutes after the hour. Always. What is one to do? Lead as well as we can anyway, seems to be the answer.

“Tired” seemed to be a characteristic for our leadership coming in yesterday morning. In the group was a number of people who certainly have good reasons (new baby, or “flexible schedule” job, or a lot of recent travel or out-of-town people visiting). So, as we prayed before the service, I was conscious of our need for God and grateful for the opportunity for us to acknowledge that He’s the one who does the heavy lifting in our worship anyway. So, we clung to his promises.

I welcomed the congregation with “It is good to be together in the house of the Lord.” I spoke of expectations and, responding to some reading I’ve done recently, rather than speaking of inviting God into what we were doing, I felt it was more truthful to affirm that God has already been present, and had been preparing both the space and us for what He would do in revealing Himself in our midst. We began the service with the usual acclamation, the summary of the Law, confession, absolution and the Comfortable Words before responding with songs of praise.

The Songs of Praise thematically focused on the exaltation and glory of Jesus the King. The awareness of God’s presence that we began with intensified as we declared His kingship, glory, worthiness, power, and grace. Some of us were driven to our knees in adoration of Jesus. It concluded with silence–stillness and worship at the glorious, gracious God we have been delivered by. That silence was only broken to pray our collect for the day, acknowledging again our need for God to act in us in order for anything to happen through us.

The reading of the Scriptures was similarly oriented to acknowledging God’s glory and judgment, and the Gospel story of Jesus’ rebuke of selfish pursuits of God, with the gracious invitation to take of the Bread of Heaven, Jesus Himself, translated that encounter of God’s presence into terms of Law and Gospel. This was a preparation for Stevan’s preaching from the the letter to the Church in Thyatira, a congregation filled with compromise of the heart, but exhortation for the faithful. The Law was heavy for those who were following false teaching, but the Gospel (“I lay no other burden on you!”) was gentle and comforting. Jesus is coming, and thank God, our call to faithfulness is to hold on.

It was difficult to just continue with the Creed at that point. I sometimes feel we need to sit with God’s Word, and allow some kind of spontaneous response, but the nature of the sermon itself, which so effectively communicated Law and Gospel to the individuals and community in our parish, would have had us sitting in silence. Maybe that’s the right response. We continued with the Prayers of the People, announcements (very briefly), and entered offertory and the ministry of the Table. We were blessed to have many of our seminarians returned, and to welcome them at the Table was a joyful occasion.

At the benediction, I felt prompted to give a Scriptural exhortation from 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” The assurance of God’s presence among us as we went out felt needful as we departed, so I delivered this Scripture promise and pronounced God’s blessing on the people. “One day He’s coming, oh Glorious Day!”

 

 

 

PS: All this, and we concluded 15 minutes earlier than the congregation is accustomed…God only knows how, because we didn’t cut anything. AND a number of the congregation stayed longer to fellowship and talk following the service.

[Worship Practice] 9th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Stevan leading a small team (vocals, guitar, drums)
  • Scripture: Martha (Revelation 2:1-11 and Psalm 22:22-31), Dcn. Laura (Mark 6:30-44)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • O Worship the King
  • He Reigns
  • Reign in Me Again
  • It is Well (Through It All)

Offertory

  • Royal Blood

Communion

  • Jesus, All For Jesus

Dismissal

  • O Church Arise

Collect for the Day

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Note: I will have to keep this short as I am writing from my phone. My computer logic board is shorted out so I need to wait before I can get it repaired.

This Sunday marked an important development in the life of Church of the Savior. They have worshipped in the current building for 14 years–and through that time have been rehabbing the building. The work began to slow down after a decade of work and the sanctuary remained unfinished as we worshipped week after week. Through one of my recruits and leaders in the Village Church–now a member of the vestry–and through several prophetic words and praying Scripture (especially Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi), the parish set its sights on completing the work of the sanctuary. We raised some funds, had the drywall finished and prepped. This past week, the youth mission team from St. John’s, Franklin, painted the sanctuary walls, including an accent. It’s a tremendous difference and it was very encouraging for the parish to have a worship space that can welcome others more hospitable as we worship God.

Again, true to COTS tradition, we started our pre-worship prayers at 10:01 and began the service at 10:05. The opening dialogues and praise focused us on our unworthy state before the King, and the glorious Kingdom He is making of us anyway. When we finished “Through it All”, one of the music team spontaneously sparked singing the final two verses of “It is Well” (My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought… & And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight…). The reverent silence that followed was restful and confident. It enabled our hearts to be prepared for the collect–one of the Cranmer originals that declares that the primary demonstration of the King’s power is mercy and pity. That collect followed me through the rest of the service, and I wonder if it was on others’ minds as well.

The reading of the Scriptures proceeded as normal and Fr. Dennett preached through the first two letters to the churches in Revelation–highlighting the dangers of putting away our first love and of tribulation and suffering, but that in either case, looking to Jesus–to the King present with his Church and who holds authority over her and is sovereign over the world–is our rescue. There’s no room for legalism in these exhortations.

I offered the recitation or the Creed as a beginning point of repentance or as an anchor (whether you were listening from Ephesus or Smyrna) as we remembered the work of God. The prayers of the people were unusually brief, although there were a number of intercession offered. In announcements, our Junior Warden shared a summary of the mission work of St. John’s and upcoming projects for us.

Repentance and Renewal were both themes of “Royal Blood”, which allowed the sermon to continue through into the ministry of the Table. As we prayed and received the Holy Communion, it was definitely a time of submitting ourselves to the King–receiving from His Table and not trusting our own efforts and works, nor our ability to hang in there. The closing song’s marshaling call to mission was well-received as a result.