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

Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

[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!

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[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] 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.

Constrained by the Word

I had the privilege of preaching at Church of the Savior yesterday morning. We are spending Ordinary Time in an expository series through the Apocalypse (aka, the Revelation of Jesus to John). As we gathered in an area park shelter, the songs of the glory of God and the frailty of our humanity, echoed by the collect led into the letter to the Church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3, which was my assigned portion for the day.

Preparing for that text was difficult. In the wake of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Attorney General’s report about the horrors of child abuse, I was wishing I’d had one of the sterner letters in Revelation to preach and really let some fire out. My sense of justice was inflamed. Christ had been spit upon by men who claimed to minister in His name. These perpetrators had commenced an assault on the Church. Further, I wanted to offer a word of grace to all the hurting. I had already put something out on social media, but that’s not really the same significance as what is preached.

As I was sharing that with Bishop John Rodgers following worship, the comment I had was, “But I was rather constrained by the Scripture assigned.” Prophetic fire and inflamed passion for justice have their place in the words spoken by those called by God to preach. But they only have their place within the constraints of the revelation of God’s Word Incarnate–and because of His authority, in God’s Word written. Speaking to the “church of little power” like Philadelphia, and rebuking those of the synagogue of Satan, Jesus offers grace and comfort and glorious promises to those who were hurting, And he could reveal Himself as the one who gets the last word–who opens, and no one can shut and who shuts, and no one can open. Praise be to the King, forever blessed, who does not leave us to our passions, but guides us by His Spirit through the Word.