Longing for Advent

img_5160Longing for Advent

“I have a complaint,” she declared with arm raised to get my attention. The closing song had barely finished when she quickly came to the front of our sanctuary. “Why didn’t we sing any Christmas songs? And where are the Christmas decorations?” Continue reading

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Telling the Gospel Story

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Communion table at Calvin College, June 10, 2016

A few years ago, some of our worship leaders talked about different ways our worship gatherings could immerse our congregation within the narrative of scripture. As we talked, a consensus emerged that we could give more attention to the litanies and teaching times connected with baptism and communion.

I previously highlighted a Preface to Baptism that we often utilize. The following litany, Telling the Gospel Story, is a reading that we sometimes use in preparation for celebrating communion together. Continue reading

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Hashtagged Laments: Praying Psalm 13

Hear Our Cries, O Lord: (Psalm 13:1-2, NIV)

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?”

#Aleppo #AlyanKurdi #Syria

“How long will you hide your face from me?”

#ReturnOurGirls #childsoldiers #MMIW

“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts…”

#endthestigma #poverty #homelessness

“…and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”

#SandraBland #PhilandoCastile #TerenceCrutcher

“How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

#DoctrineofDiscovery #NativeLivesMatter #lament

 

Look on Us and Have Mercy: (Psalm 13:3-4, The  Message)

“Take a good look at me, God, my God;”

#Orlando #genderequity #bodyshaming

“I want to look life in the eye,”

#incarceration #lynching #deathpenalty

“So no enemy can get the best of me…”

#misogyny #humantrafficking #residentialschools

“or laugh when I fall on my face.”

#refugee #immigrant #saytheirnames

 

We Long for Your Deliverance: (Psalm 13:5-6, ESV) 

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love;”

#MotherEmanuel #FaithfullyLGBT

“my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

#withjusticeforall #untilallarefree

“I will sing to the Lord,”

#blessingnotburden #reconciliation

“because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

#KyrieEleison

Amen. 

 

 

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Monday, Monday

img_4786“Another luxury for an idle imagination is the writer’s own feeling about the work. There is neither a proportional relationship, not an inverse one, between a writer’s estimation of a work in progress and its actual quality. The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.” -Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Monday Morning Rehash

Dillard’s reflection on a writer’s idle indulgences applies equally to pastors and worship leaders. We have a tendency toward an unhealthy obsession with our own performance. For myself, I find that Monday mornings can be the worst for this. Continue reading

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Belonging

img_4802Every now and then someone lets you in. They open their door and, with a bit of vulnerability, allow you to see and hear what they are experiencing. Several years back, a middle-aged couple in our church opened their door, when they told me: “We’ve been members here for 12 years and we still feel like outsiders.” They weren’t complaining as much as they were inviting me to stand next to them as they shared their story of our church.  Continue reading

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Ashes & Snow

IMG_0859I went to the Ash Wednesday chapel service at Redeemer University College this week. I found a place toward the back simply to sit and be still. The house lights were down, making solitude possible even in a crowd of familiar faces.

The simplicity of the worship proved powerful. Song followed by a well read passage of scripture; another song with a two-part reading of scripture; an invitation to come forward while a the musicians led another song; and then a closing blessing and a final song. The darkness of the space, the richly voiced scripture readings, the soft rising and falling of contemplative singing allowed for surprisingly deep stillness in a short 30 minute service. Continue reading

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A Preface to Baptism

IMG_1894One of the challenges I experience around baptism is how to remind those gathered that the sacrament of baptism is bigger than the person being baptized that day. Though one person is receiving the mark of baptism, as a liturgical act, baptism is also a communal event in which the Spirit immerses all who are gathered more fully into a baptismal way of life. Baptism is both an extension of God’s covenant to one more person and a renewal of God’s covenant with all of God’s people. Continue reading

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OPT: Slowing Down Worship

From the 2015 Candlelight Service at First Hamilton Christian Reformed Church.

From the 2015 Candlelight Service at First Hamilton Christian Reformed Church, Hamilton, ON. 

Over the past couple weeks, I have read several posts calling for a slower, more deliberate approach to worship. Chris Morton outlines a participatory approach to worship. Jonathan Aigner draws attention to how worship is something we do. Melissa Cain Travis observes a shift toward liturgy within protestant communities. This post on Other People’s Thought (OPT for short, see note below) highlights each of these three posts as potential resources for slowing down our communal worship.   Continue reading

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A Christmas Farewell

IMG_4066Now that the garbage and recycling have been picked up, only a few remnants of Christmas remain in our house. There’s that one card stuck on the wall still, the decorative fake tree guarding our front door, and a few remaining bites of Margaret’s speculaas cookies in the kitchen. Oh, and lest I forget, the string of lights above the gutter, waiting for a warmer day, when I can pull the ladder out to take them down. With New Year’s resolutions disciplining our bellies and school rhythms regulating our sleep schedules once again, our Christmas celebrations have been done around here for a few days already.

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Clear as Mud

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve made any New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I am opposed to them. It’s just that living within academic and church ministry year cycles, an early or late summer date tends to encourage contemplative assessments and reconfigurations of how I am going to live for the coming year. Continue reading

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