Thursday, May 23, 2013


Baptist-kind of Christians generally don't do a lot with the liturgical calendar (too "catholic" for some) so we generally don't observe Pentecost Sunday- the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Hmm... I am glad that the gift and work of the Spirit was featured in our worship last week.

Acts 2 tells the story of the coming of the Spirit and the enabling of men to speak the gospel message in languages unknown to them but known to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem. The response- "we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" In our service we enlisted multiple readers to read the passage simultaneously: Kim Sherman (English), Kristina Todd (Spanish), Ben Gribble (tagalog- the national language of the Philippines), and Helen Uba (Nigerian). Yes, it was a little confusing- but so was Pentecost! Can you imagine how those folks felt to hear the story of God's great love in their own language!

This may well be the great challenge facing the church today- telling the story of Jesus in an understandable "language." Yes, we are surrounded by ethnic diversity and people with their own native tongue. But "language" is also a generational and cultural. Will we expect people to learn "church speak" and bring a dictionary or will we pray that the Spirit might find our hearts open to learning new "languages"- new ways of communicating and relating- that show and share  great love of God?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Name That Tune

Monday afternoons are devoted to staff meeting and worship planning. Tricia joins us for calendar coordination (yes, we try) and then Chris, Jonnia, and I turn our attention to worship planning.

The process is pretty simple: we start by a brief review of the previous Sunday's service, finalize plans for the upcoming service, and lay the groundwork for two weeks out. Our goal is to allow adequate time to enlist lay worship leaders, for musicians and sound and graphics volunteers to prepare, and publish the bulletin.

The theme of a service is usually found in the sermon. Around this we choose  scripture readings, congregational music, choral music, and consider other creative elements. All of this is done with a commitment to the understanding that our worship should be God-centered, encourage participation, and use a variety of music and other elements.

This past Monday I felt like the The Three Stooges Gone to Church! We found a song we liked and were trying to find another piece with which to build. I had a song in my mind, or at least a part of a part of a song in my mind.  All I could remember was "what the Lord has done" and that maybe it was "thanksgiving-ish." Jonnia said, it's "What the Lord Has Done In Me."  I didn't recognize the title so I moved to my laptop but by the time I entered "google" Chris had found the song and had it playing on his i-phone. I said, "That's pretty but I haven't heard that one before." Jonnia said, "yes, we've done it here." "Oh, but that's not the song I had in mind," I replied... and we need to use it again, soon.

I tried to hum the melody and then Jonnia started to softly sing, "and now, let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich, because of what the Lord has done for us."  "That's it! but how does it start?" Then came the "aha" moment... "Give thanks with a grateful heart..." We had found it, it was the song we were looking for, but it ended-up not being the right song for that part in that service.

"The canon is closed"- means there will be no more God-inspired scripture than what we have in our Bible.  But the songbook of the church is not closed. I am giving thanks for the men and women God has inspired to write words and music that lead us into worship.  I am giving thanks that this process continues today as the Spirit breathes inspiration through fresh voices.  And I am giving thanks for co-workers like Chris and Jonnia who bring their gifts to the planning of worship and for our church- where we experience worship.

By the way, find the HillSong version of "What the Lord has Done for Me" on youtube and be blessed!