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

Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

[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.

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[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.

[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.

[Worship Practice] 4th Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Tom and Kelli leading as small team (vocals, acoustic guitar, drums)
  • Scripture: Pat (2 Timothy 3:10-17 and Psalm 119 105-112), Dcn. Laura (Mark 4:26-35)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Our God
  • Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble
  • I See Heaven
  • What a Beautiful Name

Offertory

  • There is a Fountain

Communion

  • O Come to the Altar
  • Lord, I Need You

Dismissal

  • Days of Elijah

Collect for the Day

O Lord, from whom comes all good things; grant us, your humble servants, the inspiration to always think and do those things which are good, and by your merciful guiding we may perform the same; through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.

We are rapidly approaching the close of our series on hearing God. After those of us providing leadership for Sunday morning prayed together, Tom–our music team leader for the day–pointed out that there was this tremendous peace present in the room. He was right. The presence of God’s peace in our midst before we even began to worship, was a reminder of healing, of the fruit of hearing from God, of being a people prepared to worship God. I greeted everyone and called attention to God’s presence and the ways that God was present to move in our lives. We proceeded through the opening confession, dialogues, and songs of praise.

During the time of listening for the Holy Spirit following the songs of praise, I was led to recount Jesus’ first proclamation of the Kingdom in the synagogue from Isaiah 61–especially highlighting the anointing, and that Jesus has shared that anointing with us by baptism. So, God was calling us to walk in that anointing–to preach Good News to the poor, to heal the sick, to set the oppressed free, to liberate the captives, and to declare the year of the Lord’s favor. Fr. Dennett’s sermon focused on hearing God through the commands and insights of Holy Scripture–something we also have by way of the Holy Spirit. Following the Creed and Prayers of the People, we had a testimony delivered by a longtime parishioner, Dan, interviewed by our founding rector, Pastor Joe, which highlighted the mercy of God in revealing himself in the Scriptures and the community of believers hearing the Scriptures. The peace and joy of the testimony resonated with what God had been doing in the service. And that carried through our celebration of Holy Communion and dismissal, as the anointed ones in Christ were sent out.

[Worship Practice] 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Stevan leading a small team (vocals, acoustic guitar, other guitar, drums)
  • Scripture: Michael (2 Corinthians 4:1-12 and Psalm 81), Cn. Dave (Mark 2:23-28)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Come People of the Risen King
  • Trading My Sorrows
  • Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
  • Our Father

Offertory

  • God, Make Us Your Family

Communion

  • The Church’s One Foundation
  • Communion Hymn (Behold the Lamb)

Dismissal

  • Give Us Clean Hands

Collect for the Day

O God, the protector of all those who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy, that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal; grant this, heavenly Father, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ordinary Time typically brings a loss of focus for many people. When the Church is not commemorating any specific event, after the expansive and all-involved drama of Advent through Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, it is easy to wonder what we’re doing when we get together. The return to the liturgy of the Anglican Church in North America, and the rhythms that go with that signal that a new season has arrived. That effect is slightly delayed for us at Church of the Savior, because we are continuing our series on listening to the voice of God.

That life of the Church is actually the core of Ordinary Time. That we were singing about what it is to be God’s people, and to have that life: the great exchange of the fallen life in the world for the joy of salvation drew us in to that place where we were aware of one another. The prophetic exhortation I believe God gave me to deliver following that singing pointed to the great exchange that Jesus made for us, and the things we are invited to bring together and trade out–with a God who is much better than the god of the “prosperity gospel.” I closed with the Collect for the Day, which appropriately asks God that “we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.”

Appropriately, Steven’s message was about listening to God speak through the counsel of other believers. We stepped into that place of learning to improv in this time beyond the Scripture’s, waiting for the return of Christ and the restoration of all things. Sure, we’ve got a mission, but we’ve also got day-to-day decisions to make. Stevan dove into wisdom, and circumstances, and having the awareness to pay attention to what God is saying in order to bring life to us.

We continued with the Creed, and the prayers of the people. We recently switched to a version of the Prayers offered in the ACNA Renewed Ancient Rite, and encouraging people to offer their own exhortations in connection with the biddings. This seems to work really well for us, and gives a greater sense of cohesion to our corporate prayers. I flew briefly through the announcements, and then we entered the time of Holy Communion. The worship we offered in receiving from the Table, and singing these words of unity in the songs “The Church’s One Foundation” and “Behold the Lamb” fed into our dismissal with an awareness of our need for God’s grace on us as we dispersed: “O God, let us be/ a generation that seeks/ that seeks your face, O God of Jacob.”

Amen. Let us be such, O God of Jacob.