October 5, 2013

Seen (John 9)

I've come to enjoy preaching. I find that I grow in my faith the most when I preach, when I get to spend the time delving more deeply into the scriptures in order to teach others. That said, I got to preach from The Gospel according to John again, and I think I'm again decided that this is, by far, my favorite book in the scriptures.

April 4, 2013

Resurrection Sunday 2013

After ending in silence on Good Friday, it seemed to me that beginning with a bang on sunday morning felt a little disingenuous, as if it was so dark and then all of a sudden Jesus jumped up and said “fooled you!” So we began Easter quietly, and built from silence to volume through our live opener. “Redemption Song” is a beautiful piece, written and performed by Adie Camp, it also seemed appropriate that we begin with a female singer; the Marys were the first to bear witness (even to the disciples), why not allude that that as we began our gathering of celebration?

Weapons have been replaced by new life
One of the things I love about big celebratory holidays is that we get to sing more; the preaching, great as that can be, takes a more supportive role in telling the story, but we don’t generally celebrate by listening. No, celebration happens when we sing, we dance, we eat, we play. Our gathering this year reflected this, I think, fairly well. Six pieces of music instead of our usual four or five, some liturgy to tie them together, and a shorter message about living the resurrection (instead of simply believing it).

Something we did new this year was including kids second-grade and older in the entirety of our two modern gatherings. While kids usually enjoy singing with their family, they do tend to have a harder time paying attention during speaking portions (and particularly a grown-up sermon, although you might be surprised what they’ll pick up if they’re coloring while they listen). So our children’s director had the brilliant idea to pass out some activity bags to those who wanted them as we received the offering; giving and receiving all at the same time, in both directions. Well-received, and no crying during the message.

A cross that has me thinking
The sanctuary looked great (my creative team outdid themselves again), but my favorite piece - aside from all the brilliant color - was the cross itself. The cross has been “growing flowers” over the course of this last sermon series. What started out as a “hey, that looks cool” sort of idea has taken on some pretty deep meaning to me; death has been overcome, and live is taking its place. The symbolism of flowers growing on top of a former instrument of painful execution is many-layered, and I hope people keep that image in their mind for a long time to come; it certainly has kept me thinking.

I get to work with an amazing team of people
But thing that got me most excited this year was our new choir. The modern gathering has never had a choir of its own before, but this choir was more than a simple group to back up the worship team. This choir was intergenerational; we had a three-year-old, grade school kids, teenagers, and all ages of adults involved. Whole families sang together as part. And they were so, so good; they led our congregation with passion from the risers, and I can’t wait to find a way to do this with them again!

Here’s what Resurrection Sunday looked like, in a nutshell:

Traditional Gathering (8am)

Organ and Piano duets | Prelude
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Come, Christians, Join to Sing Responsive Liturgy Christ Arose
Worship Christ the Risen King
We Shall Behold Him / Hallelujah Chorus Medley | Choral Offertory
Doxology, Prayer for the People, and the Lord’s Prayer
The Easter Story | Video
Because He Lives
Organ and Piano Duets | Postlude

Modern Gatherings (9:30 and 11am)

Redemption Song | Adie Camp
My Savior Lives | New Life Worship, with choir
Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) | Brooke Fraser, with choir
Responsive Liturgy
10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) | Matt Redman
Christ is Risen | Matt Maher
The Easter Story | Video during offering
Christ Arose | arr. Brookwood Church

The sanctuary on Easter morning

April 3, 2013

Tenebrae | Shadows 2013

The Cross hung with black cloth; Christ has died ...
The tenebrae gathering is a 13th-century liturgical gathering intended for Good Friday as a lament. In gathering together in this way, we join in solidarity for the suffering of our world, our communities, and our congregation by entering the narrative of the suffering and death of our savior. In the narrative of passover to grave, we begin to see how Jesus' suffering identifies with our own, and with that of others. The man of sorrows is never more human, yet never more divine as He redeems even our pain and suffering. Seven candles and seven readings make the bulk of the gathering; after each reading, a candle is extinguished, and the room grows increasingly darker. As the darkess takes hold, the music, too, grows quieter, until we finish our gathering in complete silence following the tolling of the bell, seven times, the biblical number of completion.

The table of the candles
Traditionally, the last candle is walked out of the sanctuary still lit, but since we had already modified the gathering in a few other ways (notably some of the scriptures and readings, and the order takes a more complex literary format by using a "flashback" for communion), I decided to completely snuff it and finish the story - Christ did die, after all, so it seemed appropriate.

Yes, that is a real sword, and yes, it does hang in my office. I'm awesome that way.

One thing I'm rather proud of are several pieces I wrote and arranged myself; "Lament (ReCreate Us)" is an original, written for the C3 congregation during a particularly rough patch for us when many families were losing loved ones (it was something like 20 families in three months). Also "Alas and Did My Savior Bleed" is an original arrangement (I'm told that's not an oxymoron). The hymn itself is originally in a major key, which to my ears sounded ... off. In fact, the lyrics and the melody were such a mismatch, I almost didn't use it. But when I simply changed the whole song into harmonic minor (which does slightly alter the melody), the song came alive. Both were really well received.

 Here’s what the whole gathering looked like for us this year.
Lament (ReCreate Us) | Chris Logan
Call to Worship | Covenant Book of Worship
The Power of Your Name | Lincoln Brewster
The Shadow of Prophesy | Isaiah 53, abridged
The Shadow of the Passion | Luke 23:26-43
The Wonderful Cross | arr. Chris Tomlin
The Shadow of the Suffering Servant | Matthew 27:45-49, Psalm 22, abridged; responsive
The Shadow of Grief | John 19:25-27
Alas and Did My Savior Bleed | arr. Chris Logan
Litany of Confession and Pardon (responsive)
The Shadow of Betrayal | Matthew 26:17-30
He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word | Choir; pass out communion elements
The Shadow of Communion | Covenant Book of Worship Unity Litany, responsive
Partake in Communion Together
O Vos Omnes | Choir
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded | arr. Fernando Ortega
The Shadow of the Grave | Luke 23:44-49, John 19:38-42
Ring a bell seven times | leave in silence
The full scope of the sanctuary

March 7, 2013


I've been challenged by a lot lately.

I took Alan Hirsch's APEST Test and discovered, much to my surprise, that I'm an EP. I'll let you have a look at his site to understand exactly what that means, but suffice it to say it's not at all what I'd expected. And as a result I had a minor identity crisis.

I'm ok now.

I also attended a conference where I discovered that I ought to think of myself not just as an artist and musician, but as a curator of environments that facilitate spiritual formation for large groups of people. It's a mouthful, I know, so maybe read that last one again. A worship artist is not just someone who arbitrarily picks songs and throws them together with a band or choir, but rather, is a storyteller. I have discovered that a big part of my calling is to use the mediums of music, service flow, and all the pieces that fit together to tell a story that helps people connect with God and with one another.

I've also been coming to terms with the truth that I am an introvert. We live in a culture that strongly values, even idolizes, extroversion. The people who get paid the most, the people who seem to be the most trusted, the people who draw our praise and admiration are extroverts (or are introverts who can fake it). But I'm learning that introversion is a badly needed gift to our culture, because introverts can give the gift of silence.

The three of these minor revelations have helped me make more sense of my calling as a full-time minister (I would say 'pastor,' but given how low I scored on pastor/shepherd-type on the APEST test, it's not entirely an appropriate term for me in that context), and more importantly, how my unique personality and passions can flesh-out my calling.

I'm not, for example, ever going to be the most amazing people-person. I'm awkward in groups, and in my rush to try to say something to contribute, can often stumble over my words or say something I didn't really mean to say. But the introverted/large-group-discipler/Evangelist-Prophet in me can contribute to the ministry of the Church in my own way.

As such, I've started writing a lot more. Two places in particular have taken the bulk of that, and I've really enjoyed embracing this newfound freedom to be the me that God made. One blog is for our current sermon series (though it may continue past that in some form or other, we'll see), currently called Revolutionary Promises (updated weekly). In it, I get to reflect on the sermon of the sunday prior. Currently, our pastors are preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. It's hard, it's deep, and it's incredibly rewarding to write about.

The other place is one that I've found equally, if not more fulfilling. Our denomination's worship artists have a facebook group called "Better Together" and, coupled with that, a presence on the denomination's website, called Worship Connect. For a while, nobody really posted on that page, but then a good friend of mine suggested that four of us take the month and post weekly. I get the fourth week of the month, and to be honest, I've never had nothing to say; the words always come, and I love it.

Thanks for reading.

January 28, 2013

Missional Worship (ECC Worship Connect)

My latest post on the worship connect blog:
"We worship pastors are discipleship pastors too, but for us, it means discipling a whole congregation all at once through our art, through music, and through the liturgy we write. How we choose to lead can emphasize this rhythm of gather and send."