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

Posts tagged ‘worship’

[Worship Practice] 6th Sunday of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Stevan leading a small team (vocals, acoustic guitar)
  • Scripture: Martha (1 John 4:7-21 and Psalm 33), Cn. Dave (John 15:9-17)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Open Up the Heavens
  • You Never Let Go
  • Power of Your Love
  • Tis So Sweet (To Trust in Jesus)

Offertory

  • Show Me Your Ways

Communion

  • The More I Seek You
  • Word of God Speak

Dismissal

  • Great Are You Lord

Collect for the Day

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Rogation Sunday is one of those bits about the liturgical year I confess I don’t fully understand. At least it’s still Easter–THAT I understand. We continued to worship according the to the use of the Kenyan liturgy.  I gathered the congregation with a few things from my Pentecostal background–expecting congregational responses to “Good morning” and, what finally worked, “This is the day that the Lord has made!” responded to with “Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” I invited us to acknowledge God’s presence, and to be confident that He was at work among us and to break barriers and bring renewal. We moved through the opening acclamation and songs of praise with ease–with a building awareness of the Holy Spirit’s brooding presence. Following the songs of praise, we had silence for an extended period when Pastor Joe (our founding pastor) offered thanks to God for His work.  By the time I approached the lectern again, most of the congregation was seated. Recognizing the Presence, I opted not to tell them to stand for the collect. Many of them stood when we began praying the collect for the day.

The kids were invited up and prayed for and dismissed to their class. Martha read the epistle reading from 1 John, prefacing it with a testimony of how God had been moving in her life in the week before to remind her of His loving presence and the providential circumstances that she would be reading about God’s love for the worship. We prayed Psalm 33 responsively. Since our deacons were otherwise occupied (children and nursery), I read the Gospel. Stevan came up to teach on barriers to hearing from God. He began with a confession and asking the congregation’s forgiveness for not keeping a commitment he had made. And when he started to continue, Pastor Joe stood up, and asked that we receive Stevan’s apology and demonstrate our forgiveness as a congregation. It was a beautiful moment. Stevan continued and it was evident that he wasn’t quite teaching in the way he had prepared to (as it didn’t match the outline provided, strictly) but it was an anointed teaching that called us to recognize that God’s silence often stems from (1) not asking, or asking with wrong motivations (James 4:-3), (2) presumption (Numbers 14:39-45), and not listening to the last thing God told us (Isaiah 1:15-16; Isaiah 30:15).

To conclude, Stevan invited us to take some time to listen–to repent of where we did not obey God’s call and to ask “What’s next?” The music team returned to the stage and sang “The More I Seek You” as the congregation engaged in that time. If I thought the Spirit’s presence couldn’t be heavier, I was proved wrong. I was reticent to approach and continue with the Creed, and the Prayers of the People, but it needed to happen. There was an energy to those acts of faith.

At announcements, Fr. Dennett interviewed a parishioner about a music ministry time she had initiated with others at a local assisted living facility that had drawn over 40 residents. We then celebrated Pastor Joe’s birthday, and prayed for him as he continues in ministry. The legacy of Pastor Joe’s vision to reach people who are so often forgotten has shaped the ministry and heart of Church of the Savior in an indelible way. When we finished the offertory, I addressed the congregation with the reminder of the invitation we had received from Stevan to ask God “What’s next?” and further encouraged us to remember that God does not call us to what He won’t enable–and that what we receive at the Table is strength for whatever is next. My experience of celebrating that Holy Communion was a keen awareness of our congregation being caught up in the presence of the heavenly worship.

As we sang “Great Are You Lord” at the conclusion, I could see the Spirit working, and I think Stevan caught it, as well, because he drew the song out as much as could be done reasonably. The Pentecostal pastor in me would have loved nothing better than to invite people forward to pray and spend time in God’s presence at “the altar” but the way “coffee hour” is done in the rear of the sanctuary makes that quite impossible. It’s something to wrestle with–attending to the move of the Spirit, and honoring the liturgy and freedom of those who are released from what is going on. How do we as Anglicans disciple into that kind of space? How can we make room for it in our churches?

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[Worship Project] 4th Sunday of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Cn. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Stevan
  • Music: Tom leading a small team (vocals, keys or drums, acoustic guitar)
  • Scripture: Stevan (Habbakuk 2:15-20 and Psalm 62), Dcn. Andrea (John 10:11-16)

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Praise is Rising
  • Oh How I Need You
  • All Creatures of our God and King
  • Something About that Name

Offertory

  • Give Me Jesus

Communion

  • Christ Be All Around Me

Dismissal

  • Oh How I Need You

Collect for the Day

O God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice, we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

One of the fascinating things about leading worship in this community is the way that time is not our primary consideration. We are gathered to be the people of God. Despite my best efforts as an officiant, it’s a challenge to gather, and pray before 10 and start by 10. But I continue to press it–and as I tell the team–if we start at 10, people will show up at 10. The worship is that important. But there’s also another contradiction in that: I take my watch off. It’s a recent thing, but it’s an intentional thing that I need to step away from the worldly concerns and the worship of the clock/schedule to be part of leading God’s people in something that’s eternal and timeless.

There was something reflective of the cosmos in this day of worship. We gave our praise, invited all creation into that praise, asked for God’s help to sustain our lives…and at the end of it all was just…silence. Silence. It’s what Stevan taught and invited us into. He gave voice to that time of simply being in God’s presence waiting to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. It was a powerful teaching, and at the end of it, he led the congregation into two minutes of silence and waiting, and the invitation to bring that into our own day to day lives. There’s an anointing on this season of teaching and the worship that has everything running in sync, and it’s a gift to us from the Lord.

[Worship Practice] Great Vigil of Easter

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Fr. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dave
  • Music: Joe providing vocals and guitar
  • Scripture: Micah, Anna, Sarah, Jason, Joe (Vigil lessons), Cesiah (Epistle/Psalm), Fr. Dave (Gospel)

Set List

Song of Praise

  • Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Communion

  • Jesus Messiah

Dismissal

  • Because He Lives (Amen)

Collect for the Day

O God, you made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This was, as far as I’m aware, the first celebration of the Great Vigil of Easter at Church of the Savior. We started a bit late (owing to explanation and welcome and getting everyone in the door) and were worshipping in another room in the church generally reserved for smaller gatherings. Following the welcome, I led the congregation outside to the parking lot, where we started the “new fire” of Easter for the Service of Light. After praying the blessing, we lit a paschal candle, and (after some unsuccessful attempts owing to the wind), began to light vigil candles for our procession back into the building.

Once assembled, with the paschal candle in place, I said (note: not sang) the Exsultet, and we began the Service of Lessons. Five readers (including a young child and a teenager) read the six lessons (Creation, Fall, Abraham Sacrifice of Isaac, Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea, Salvation offered freely to all, and the Valley of dry bones) and we prayed the psalms (and canticle) in response to them by the light of the candles. The room was otherwise dark. The sense of anticipation and meditation on our history as God’s people was building throughout. Traditionally, there are 9 Vigil lessons read, but given the experimental nature of our service, I decided to restrict it to those 6 (The ACNA liturgy actually allows as many as 12).

At the conclusion of the Vigil lessons, I led the group in the renewal of our baptismal vows. The renunciation of the world, the flesh and the devil and submission to Jesus in the fellowship of His Church is a powerful, punctuating ritual in the conclusion of Lent. Following the renewal of vows, we shouted the Easter Acclamation (and it sounded much larger than our gathering of 12!), and the lights came on as we welcomed the Easter Day with the classic hymn, Christ the Lord is Risen Today. We proceeded to the collect, and Cesiah read the Epistle (Romans 6:3-11) and led us in praying Psalm 114. Hearing the first reading of Easter by a woman was an important aspect that I wanted us to experience as a community. Given more time to plan, I would have arranged for the message to spoken by a woman as well.  After sharing the Gospel reading (in the way our Archdeacon, the Ven. Mark Stevenson taught by example–from memorized delivery of the story), I shared a message of the way that Jesus’ resurrection turns everything upside down, and ends the tyranny of sin and death and oppression. Mary Magdalene is sent to bring news of new life and being with God to the men, reversing Eve’s sharing of the fruit in Genesis 3. I called on the men to hear and receive the words God gives our sisters in Christ, and to take the message of Jesus’ resurrection into the world: because for us in the Kingdom of God, the “Upside Down” world we live in is on notice, and we can bring words of life and newness to set things to rights. It seemed that the message was empowering/healing for those present and I pray it produces more good fruit.

We concluded with Holy Communion (Ancient Rite), singing “Jesus, Messiah” during the distribution of Communion. The service closed with the fourfold Blessing of Easter and singing “Because He Lives (Amen).” The resurrection joy was real, and we were dismissed in the joy of our salvation.

Why How We Worship Matters

Pentecostal worship in the American context has historically emphasized spontaneity, freedom, and attentiveness to the Spirit’s leading.For all of that, there is a stunning level of continuity and family resemblance in classical Pentecostal liturgies. Over the years, the rise of the non-denominational movement, the ambivalence about denominational boundaries held by charismatics and third wave continuationists, and the influx of contemporary music and more expressive praise throughout evangelicalism has also allowed some of that congregationalist spirit to enter into Pentecostal worship. Now there’s a congregational liberty and emphasis on how “my” church does worship in many sectors of American Christianity, including Pentecostal churches.

There’s a lot of good that comes from this common hymnography and hymnology–and Pentecostals have had a hand in making it happen (Hillsong’s music, for example). But one of the things that is being lost in this is that the conversation we have about framing worship can very often focus on preference, taste, and things that more reflect our consumer culture than the passing on of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Liturgical scholar Lawrence Hoffman wrote in Beyond the Text about the nature of liturgy and its relationship to the life and identity of people. He published the following in 1987 (p. 69):

It might be said, then, that whatever worshipers presume to say to God, they are at the same time directing a message to themselves. The very act of worship takes on the function of identifying for the worshiper what it is that he or she stands for, what real life is like, what his or her aspirations are. The liturgical medium becomes the message.

As Calvin connects knowledge of God with knowledge of self in his Institutes, Hoffman suggests that awareness of our worship is awareness of our ecclesial identity. Why prophesy in worship? Why speak in tongues? Why heal? Why preach? Why receive the sacraments? These things tell us who we are. So how we do them matters.

There is a difference in identity between a congregation that prays for healing “up front” or “at the altar” and a congregation that has a team for healing prayer available in the back of the sanctuary. I won’t indict either practice, but healing is more plainly part of the identity of the former congregation than the latter. It says something about what they understand to be part and parcel of being the people of God.  How we worship matters. So, Pentecostal brothers and sisters, let us be self-critical and thoughtful of our liturgies and practices. Let’s not cater to what seems to offer the best consumer experience, but press into who we are, and who the Spirit of God wants to make us in the image of Christ.

[Worship Practice] 13th Sunday after Pentecost

One of the practices I have observed in a number of pastors is taking the time to intentionally reflect on the worship experience each Sunday. While I will not do so for every service, it seems to me that corporate worship is where the rubber meets the road for catholic Pentecostalism. So, for services then I officiate, I will endeavor to reflect and report. My hope here is to better understand what the Holy Spirit is doing. I hope others will benefit as well.

Liturgical Leadership

  • Officiant: Fr. Dave (me)
  • Preacher: Fr. Dennett
  • Music: Ben leading a team of 4 (3 vocals, 1 acoustic guitar, 1 electric guitar, 1 drummer)
  • Scripture: Martha (Romans 12:1-8), Dcn. Andrea (Matthew 16:13-20), Dcn. Laura leading J and D (gospel reenactment).

Set List

Songs of Praise

  • Hosanna (Praise is Rising)
  • 10,000 Reasons
  • Behold our God
  • Be Thou My Vision

Offertory

  • In Christ Alone

Communion

  • Here in Your Presence
  • Revelation Song

Dismissal

  • On Christ the Solid Rock

Collect for the Day

O Lord, we pray that your grace may always both precede and follow after us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

I welcomed people into the service time with a more expanded introduction than usual. I’ve been sensing that it would be beneficial for me as an officiant to encourage people to expect to encounter God, and to know that God is at work in our midst. We followed our usual liturgy with the Opening Acclamation, Summary of the Law, Confession of Sin and Absolution, and Comfortable Words before moving into Songs of Praise.

Encounter became the word for the day. As we moved through our singing, we were proclaiming a God who is present, saving, powerful, and holy. As we waited on the Lord in the silence, the Holy Spirit was ministering to people. No prophetic words or tongues were brought forward–just the gift of silence. Just God in the still small voice.

The Scripture readings continued to express that encounter. The epistle reading highlighted the renewal of our minds by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel story of Peter’s confession was read and acted out by two of the children of the parish. This has been a regular activity for our Gospel readings this summer. While it seems on the surface to be a “cute” way to break the surface up for kids who otherwise have a children’s lesson and activities during the school year, this is actually an essential part of discipleship and knowing Scripture. We see stories of Jesus played out before us, and know how we can tell the stories for others. Reenactment invites us to imagine, to meditate, and to let the stories becomes our own. We all imagined being in Peter’s shoes there: to declare to Jesus “You are the Christ” –and now we can. The sermon, drawing from the Romans passage, further invited us to encounter the Jesus proclaimed by Peter and to be transformed by Him. We were challenged to pursue God’s Word and to have confidence that our encounter with the Word will lead to renewal by the Spirit. “Renewal” follows “new birth.”

The question that came to mind for me, listening to the sermon: What does it look like to make a practice of modeling your life on the example of the age to come instead of the present age?

The answer to that question really was answered by what followed: the Creed, hearing a testimony of the power of God in response to prayer, singing “In Christ Alone”, celebrating and receiving the Lord’s Supper, and finally declaring that “all other ground is sinking sand” with “On Christ the Solid Rock.” One of my greatest joys as a priest is celebrating the Eucharist–leading God’s people in encountering Christ in the feast that He hosts, that He is present in, feeding us. I also get to be an eyewitness to the intimacy of Christ’s encounter with these individual disciples–and to bless those who don’t receive. Following Communion, I was weighed with the awareness of this encounter, so after everyone had received and we finished singing “Revelation Song”, I prayed for us–for more encounter of God’s presence, the revelation of His holiness–and then we prayed the Post-Communion Prayer together.

On the whole, I was moved by where God is taking us. Discipleship is rooted in encounter with God, and as we go forward to disciple others, we know who we are inviting people to follow together with us, to be renewed by the Spirit together with us, so that our whole selves–practices, thoughts, and all–are modeling the age to come, and not the present age.

 

Sacred Time & the End of the World

Advent began on Sunday for most Western Christians (Eastern Christians have already gotten there, but they have a longer Advent). It’s an incredible season–the start of the Church’s calendar. It begins with the end. We come into Advent remembering the Day of Doom–the Lord’s Day, the Day of Judgment, Armageddon. We come remembering that on the heels of our declaration of Christ’s Kingship the week before, that every one of us in the world will have to give an account before the throne of God and His Christ. It’s a portrait of blinding darkness and pitched light. And we are called by the Spirit of Christ to wait in faithfulness and hope, confident that faith in Christ shall stand in the day of judgment.

But we also look back to the season when Christ first came–to the waiting of God’s people, longing for redemption, groaning under oppression and the ignorance of the Gentiles waiting to be enlightened. We prime ourselves for the announcement of Christ’s birth by heeding the call of John the Baptist to repentance, to be ready, and to know for certain that our rescue is close at hand, and when the Savior comes, we will find rest and solace.

It’s a beautiful season. And the Church has its calendar from ancient times as a way of framing our lives, remembering the story of Jesus, and seeing our stories transformed by that grace. But it’s not the only calendar. There are secular calendars that reinforce what James K.A. Smith has referred to as “cultural liturgies.” The day-to-day of American life has its own messages and warnings that it offers, which we could spend a fair amount of time discussing, but what I’m interested in right now, is what has just occurred in the secular calendar. In the past week, the American public has celebrated to one degree or another: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday.

We began Thursday with the expectation of feasting with family or close friends, in a cadre of delightful culinary traditions. We have some vague notion that we are commemorating the first Thanksgiving held by Non-conformist Christian settlers at Plymouth Colony and indigenous American tribes who helped them to survive. The more learned and attentive might even be able to say how “abundance” was not really the thing that was being celebrated by the community so much as “survival.” But, whatever. We’re Americans. We’ll supersize it to something worth eating. At any rate, it’s supposed to be a happy time, filled with sentimental traditions and our favorite nostalgic games and memories. The media even plays along by replaying old holiday movies in marathon format to be carried throughout the weekend.

But early or not, Black Friday comes quickly on the heels of the tryptophan engorgement. The idea of extreme savings in a consumer mob across stories that mythically places companies from being in the “red” of loss into the “black” of profit has driven a number of experiments and loud arguments that would embarrass most liturgists and worship leaders. But the fanfare of buying things for loved ones (including oneself) at heavily discounted prices has motivated a nationwide pastime and the creation of “traditions” for families. Even those who refuse to participate in the rush are defined by it, as they intentionally determine to not shop on Black Friday.

Newer additions in recent years have joined Black Friday’s corporate bailout by the American people. One is Small Business Saturday–where we are encouraged to remember our local sellers, crafters, artisans, and others, and to offer them our patronage. The other is Cyber Monday, where we are reminded that no matter the deals of Friday, the internet always has a better offer (and one wonders how many spent money on Friday to repent of not waiting for Monday…). These activities are certainly more “minor” by comparison to Thanksgiving and Black Friday but they still consume a great deal of attention and investment, and they will probably grow in importance. The American people, after all, have little to say about themselves that doesn’t involve the purchase and consumption of goods to be enjoyed. If you want to read more on that, I’ll refer you to James K.A. Smith’s description of “the liturgy of the mall” in Desiring the Kingdom.

Finally, the parade of secular feasts ends with “Giving Tuesday.” With the rise of social media, this one has gotten very big, very fast. Yesterday, I saw some dozen or so charities and non-profit fundraisers being hosted by personal friends. Philanthropic organizations were giving out matching grants like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Colleges and seminaries, social service groups and advocacy agencies, and more, were raising money. More than that, they were getting it (and as a church planter trying to find funds and grants, let me tell you it burned a bit!).

But now it’s over. Today is Wednesday. Just Wednesday after Thanksgiving on the secular calendar. But what story have we heard? What does it compare to Advent?

Oddly enough, gratitude, judgment, hope, and repentance are themes in both stories. But the way they play out is very different. In Thanksgiving, we demonstrate gratitude with incredible consumption. In Black Friday, we demonstrate hope in continued luxury by encouraging all income brackets to join in the American dream’s promise that we can all have good, enjoyable and often unnecessary things. In Small Business Saturday, we offer some repentance to our local businesses by doing penance and purchasing their goods and services. Because while we may have sold our soul to Wal-mart, there’s still just enough left to benefit them. And in Cyber Monday, we are reminded that the physical constraints of our geography and schedules do not overcome our fundamental identity as consumers. The barriers will and must be overcome.  Finally, we have Giving Tuesday, because at the end of the day, we do realize it’s not only about us, and that others should be empowered, enabled, and embraced as part of this great American vision to consume. That we should be so privileged to give excesses in order for the do-gooders to have some resources with which to be a part of the community.

So, this American Thanksgiving season is very powerfully insistent as Advent breaks. Because it declares a different kingdom: where consumption is king, and our identity and rights are oriented around the hope for the things we have yet to get. It stands, silently enough, in defiance of the announcement of the Kingdom of God in Advent: where the waiting are blessed, the ready are repentant, and the haughty establishment is cast down. This is no condemnation of our various family traditions in and of themselves, but let’s be wise and make sure that story of our feasts and fasts is the story of Jesus, to whom we give thanks, and who is always present to us in the gift of Himself– in waters of baptism, in the Spirit’s outpouring, in the common meal of bread and wine (Eucharist–the true Thanksgiving feast), and in the loving fellowship of Jesus’ people in all times and all places.

Keep the Traditions

O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth….

The Great Litany begins with a blaring, intoned address to the Almighty God.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world…

It’s staunch orthodoxy refuses to bend to contemporary innovations.

O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful…

It’s movement of penitent supplication and confident faith embraces the totality of Christian life and discipline.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God….

But it continues to draw more and more of me into prayer and intimacy with God. It reshapes my mind, my heart, my body in a way that is oriented toward God, that advocates for my enemies and friends, and somehow lets me pray for the life of the world and the life of the Church at the same time.

Liturgical prayer is anything but dead. I can feel the cloud of witnesses join with me. I know in my bones that my ancestors prayed these same prayers, responding to the officiant’s supplications with “Good Lord, deliver us” and “We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.” In the United States, and in England and Wales, and in Ireland. I know my brothers and sisters pray these prayers– in Nigeria, in Australia, and in other parts of the globe. It’s tremendous. It’s a prayer that is larger than me.

And, oddly, it’s the reality of the life-giving nature of liturgical prayer that helps us guard against our own liturgical eclecticism. As Pentecostals, we should be in tune with the Spirit’s guiding the prayers of the Church through the ages and around the world. And if we are embracing that path, and giving the Spirit room to reshape us, change how we pray, and enter into words that have been handed down from one generation of apostolic faith to the next, then we will find that we are not doing anything strange at all. Instead, we are being formed into the people of Pentecost, devoted to the apostles’ teaching, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. And in that, we will see the release of God’s work among us in great acts of love and stunning signs and wonders — all to authenticate and draw attention to the great love Jesus has shown us.