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

Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

[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.

A Pentecostal Advent Prayer

One of the delights of my first encounters with the Great Tradition of the Church was the season of Advent. It was an instant affection for everything about it, and I got to talk about it with my friend Jason recently. While the prayers of the Tradition are appropriately Trinitarian, I also couldn’t pass on the opportunity to offer a prayer for the Advent season that reflects the Pentecostal tradition.

Almighty God, whose light shines in the darkness as we wait for You and is not overcome: As the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and your power came upon her that your Son might take on flesh and blood and reveal your glory, so send your Spirit upon us that the Word revealed in Jesus may be proclaimed in our lives; empowering us to declare with boldness our coming King, who will restore righteousness and justice and peace in all nations, that the joy of your salvation may fill the whole earth, to the praise of your Name, O Father, who with the Son and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, world without end. Amen.

[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] 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.