Thanksgiving - Tried and True, Fresh and New

840400 On Thanksgiving Day many churches offer a very traditional worship service: Psalm 100, a litany of thanksgiving, “Come, You Thankful People, Come.” On a day when we look back with gratitude at God’s good gifts to us, it makes sense to make use of the work and wisdom of our forebears and to worship using that which is tried and true. Other congregations seek innovation: pilgrim puppets behind the pulpit, prayers of thanks colored (not written) in crayon on scraps of paper and dropped in the offering plate.

Our culture craves novelty, which may explain—but doesn’t necessarily commend—our thirst for it. A more laudable urge is to offer in our worship not a stale tradition, repeated out of habit, but something original: our creative expression, our prayers and words and music, our very selves. We want to offer something fresh and new. But must it be an either/or choice?  Many congregations are very successful in their efforts to examine the tried and true traditions (often more true than actually tried), identify the best in them, and then freshen them in ways sensitive to their contexts.  Here are a few ideas...

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7 Worship Leading Principles from Bono

B000bnxdeg01_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_ Dr. Steven Taylor is the founding pastor of Graceway Baptist Church in Ellerslie, New Zealand. He has a PhD on the Emerging Church and a Masters in Theology in communicating the cross in a postmodern world. Steve recently did a course at Fuller Seminary entitled “Communicating the Biblical Text in a PostModern Culture” in July.

He argues that to communicate the biblical text for today’s context requires one to “incarnate, indwell, our culture.”  Taylor goes on to use the phrase “DJing” with respect to the community.  A record DJ learns the historical stories (old records) and uses them authentically in contemporary culture and integrates them into the community's stories.  There is too much to summarize here, but do look for his book “The Out of Bounds Church: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change” from Zondervan.

Taylor cites Bono of U2 as a person who effectively DJs today.  According to Taylor, Bono is in fact a worship leader for over 40,000 people; Bono recontextualizes the biblical text and leads concert goers into a time of community worship and prayer. Taylor plays the “Vertigo ‘05” DVD and shows us how Bono is leading worship.  This intrigued me to the point that  Dr. Taylor and I discussed this further after the workshop. The following is from Steve’s article “7 Things I learnt from Bono about Worship Leading.”

1.    Connect uniquely. In the Vertigo DVD, Bono speaks about Chicago and his memories of Chicago. He makes a unique connection with context, day, and time.
2.    Engage through familiarity. Bono includes songs that resonate with previous experiences and previous encounters.
3.    Use repetition to call forth prayer. Bono uses the repetitive “Hallelujah.” It is easy to sing. The simple repetition enables the audience to sing with the band.
4.    Secure a 5th (visual) band member. U2 now has a 5th member of the band to add a visual layer to the experience. A wise worship leader will look to add not just singers or musicians, but a “visual” person to their team.
5.    Create hope by drawing the best from the past. Bono tells the audience in the Vertigo DVD, “We as a band are looking to the future. We’re taking the best of the past and moving forward with hope.”
6.    Plan participation. Bono can draw one boy from the audience to sing to, one woman from the audience to dance with. He uses repetition to call forth prayer and encourage congregational singing.
7.    Invoke passionate practices. Bono invites the audience to hall out their cell phones and to text “Make Poverty History campaign.”  A worship leader turns singing into action. He turns entertainment into justice.


Mother's Day and Baptism

In addition to our recent post on Mother’s Day I would add a few more seeds for thought.  During the season of Easter it is appropriate to remember our baptism each Sunday service.  In re-membering our baptism we are re-minded that God has claimed us as children and we have made promises to God to live into the life of Christ.  This means promises to serve others (especially the “least of these”), to be faithful to prayer, breaking bread and taking care of the community of faith as any has need (yes, I’m evoking the last part of Acts chapter 2).  During the rite of baptism the community also makes vows to love, care and nurture those God is claiming through water and the Spirit. We are also called to nurture each other in the faith.Imr00035


Remembering our baptism this Mother’s Day may be a way to honor both the season of Easter and mothers.  You may begin the service standing by the font, giving thanks for water, God’s promises to us and reminding the community of the promises we make to each other during the time of baptism.  One resource for remembering baptism can be found from the ELCA’s Holy Baptism and Related Rites.  Perhaps on this day we can accentuate the vows to love and care for one another.  This is a way you can talk about how mothers, at their best, who live into these promises of baptism through their care and nurture of children (not just their own but all children of the community).  In this way mothers, and Mother’s Day points back to baptism and a life in Christ as opposed to the worship pointing to a cultural holiday. 

The picture is of a baptismal font from a mosaic on the floor of Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, England.