Stop. And Think About It.

Selah.

Scattered throughout the Psalms there is that one word, repeated at seemingly random intervals. It breaks up the flow of thought and signifies a pause in the reading or singing of the Psalm. While these are often thought of as a musical interlude, it also is a time for one to pause and think about what was just said.

Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.
Selah.

There is enough in those three lines for us to think about for eternity! What does it mean to bless the Lord? How does God daily bear us up? How has God been your salvation? Where do we turn for salvation? Our human nature and tendency is to throw out words like our daily garbage, without giving them a second thought. Words having meaning. Through words God spoke the world as we know into existence. Jesus was the revealed Word of God. James 3 addresses the importance of the words we use in our daily life. How often do you stop to think about the words you use?

What about the words we use to sing praises to God on Sunday? Do you stop to think about what you’re saying or who you’re saying it to?

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song

Once again there is a treasure to be mined in just those few phrases! But so often as soon as we’re done singing we’re done thinking about it. This is why I will often have musical interludes during a song. This could be the same chords repeated, a guitar solo, a piano solo, or the pads play in the background. These times give us space to reflect on the words we just sang and better contemplate the God we are worshipping. One of the most effective tools I use during this time is displaying Bible verses on the screen during these musical breaks that speak to the sermon that is going to be preached as well as the song that we’re singing. This past week, during an interlude on “Revelation Song” we projected the words from Revelation 5:

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

Not only does this help us to reflect on God’s goodness and the Lamb who was slain, but it also reveals why we sing that song: it takes the phrases from the Bible and puts them to music. This is one simple way we can continue to remain submitted to God’s Word during our worship services. If we truly say we are people of the Word, which I hope we would, I think we should give Scripture the prominent place in our worship services. How are some ways you have given prominence to God’s Word in your services?

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Holy Week Services

This past week was the celebration of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. This is one of those holidays that both Protestants and Romans Catholics celebrate together. I always look forward to this week and enjoy the opportunity to try some new things throughout the week. Last year we did our first ever Maundy Thursday service and continued that tradition this year. This year’s service was focused on the communal nature of our faith. I set up 12 tables in our sanctuary and had people gather sit around those tables. The service itself was divided up as following:

Greeting

What is Maundy Thursday? (John 15:12-17, Luke 22)

SING: Jesus Paid It All

Celebrate

The Passover (Exodus 12)

SING: In Christ Alone

Remember

SING: Mercy

The Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

At each table was: Matzah, bitter herbs, hoaroset, and grape juice.

This was the longest time of the service, and each table had instructions to guide them through the various elements, as well as Scripture readings and explanations of what each element stood for.

Go

Love One Another (John 14:15-31, 1 John 4:7-21)

SING: Give Us Clean Hands

Each of the 4 parts also had a responsive reading and all 3 of the pastors on staff shared speaking responsibilities. Our time together was helpful in thinking through how the Passover applies to today, as well as being able to slow down and reflect more deeply about the Lord’s Supper.

On Friday night I divided the night into 5 parts and focused on the individualistic part of our faith. We are called into a community, but we are still still individually members of that community. Since February, we had been going through a series titled “Christ in the Psalms” so I carried that idea into our Good Friday service. It was divided into 5 sections with a Gospel passage being read aloud, followed by a Psalm displayed on the screen for people to pray through, and a station for people to participate in. As people were walking in there was a half sheet of paper with instructions, a nail and a pen to grab and take in to the service. It was divided as follows:

Remember

Luke 22:14-23

Psalm  105:1-11

Think back to when the cross and the Gospel message first began making sense to you. Write out that story in the space below, if there is not enough room, use the back of your paper.

SING: The Wonderful Cross

Betrayal

John 18:1-32

Psalm 55

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On each side of the front of the sanctuary is a cross painted on a canvas, when you’ve had enough time to reflect, walk down the middle aisles to paint the canvas red. There are wipes for your fingers once you’re done. Please walk back to your seat on the farthest outside aisles.

Suffered

John 19:1-16a

Psalm 73

In the front middle of the sanctuary is a bucket for you to drop the nails you picked up when you entered. Whenever you have had enough time to reflect, please walk down the middle aisles and then return to your seat on the outside aisles.

SING: Were You There

Crucified

John 19:16b-30

Psalm 22

At the bottom of this paper is a space for you to write out why Jesus had to die for YOU. Write out as few or as many sins in that space as God lays on your heart.

It Is Finished

John 19:38-42

SING: Once Again

Psalm 25

On your way out the door, tear off the paper below where you wrote your sins and place them at the foot of the cross at the back of the sanctuary.

If you would like to “borrow” any of these ideas for your services, please do! They were enjoyable to plan and hopefully encouraging to the congregation.

Easter Sunday and Liturgical Readings

This past Sunday ended a three month “experiment” where we followed the liturgical calendar for Scripture readings during our Sunday morning services. Stemming from a concern that many people do not know the Bible well enough, and wondering how we could better indicate our desire to be led by the Bible, I approached the elder team to see if they would be willing to do a reading and a prayer each Sunday morning and take turns doing so. This gave the congregation an opportunity to see who our elders are as well as give the elders opportunities to model both Scripture reading and prayer. It was fascinating for me to hear the various readings from all parts of Scripture. We read from the Psalms, the Old Testament, and the New Testament throughout the past three months and I enjoyed hearing it read from different voices than my own. Many people expressed how grateful they were to hear various Scripture passages read, and it is an easy way to elevate the Bible to the place of prominence it should have in our services. I think we can easily assume people know the Bible, but if the only time it is being read is during the message, what is that communicating to your congregation? Are there any ways you have discovered that can reveal Scripture to be the ultimate authority in our lives as believers?

During our Easter services this Sunday, we sang:

  • Christ the Lord Has Risen Today
  • This Is Amazing Grace (Phil Wickham)
  • At the Cross (Passion)
  • Man of Sorrows (Hillsong)
  • Lamb of God (Vertical Church)
  • Mighty to Save (Hillsong)