Elements of Worship: The Call to Worship – God is in the Room

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Every Sunday morning, churches around the world open their services with a Call to Worship. This component of the service usually consists of some words of welcome and a scripture which calls us to worship the God who inhabits the praises of his people. Think about the magnificence of that concept for a moment. God attends our worship services.

If you’re like me, this part of the worship service can sometimes seem to hold little purpose beyond letting the folks in the lobby know we’re getting started. The voice coming through the speakers says, in effect, “Finish pouring your coffee and come on in. The music is about to start.”

But when we stop and think about the purpose behind the Call to Worship, it really is quite astounding. The Call to Worship is an assurance from God’s word that he is with us, in the room, in our hearts, among his people. Is that not astonishing to think about? Consider some of the words spoken during a Call to Worship:

  • The Maker of heaven and earth calls us into his presence and tells us he will be with us (Matthew 18:20).
  • He makes known to us the path of life (Psalm 16:11).
  • His steadfast love endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:28-34).
  • He hears our pleas for mercy. He is our strength and our shield (Psalm 28:6-7).
  • He inclines his ear to our cry and delivers us from destruction (Psalm 40:1-3).

The Call to Worship is a reminder to us that God is not distant or sleeping. He is not playing hard to get, and we are not on his last nerve. The Great King over all the earth, the Creator, calls us to gather to meet with him, and he promises to be there with us.

Anticipate this aspect of the worship service as you make your way to church next Sunday. Hear those words not just as a welcome and a signal that the service is underway. Hear them as a reminder of the promise that God is near to his people and always will be. He is in the room.

The Beauty of Diversity

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In many seasons of life, our friendship circles form around shared interests—things like college football, music, books, or station in life. Or perhaps we work for the same company, go to the same school, or belong to the same generation or race. If we are being honest, many of us would probably say we prefer these sorts of friendships. We are drawn to what is familiar and safe.

In the church, however, the Lord gathers people in a room and tells us to love each other and walk through our lives of faith together, even when it may appear on the surface that we don’t have much in common. What do we have in common? Galatians 3:28-29 tells us we share Christ and our future with him. We share an eternal hope that makes us into one undivided family forever.

The original texts of Scripture were written during very divided times. People were divided according to their ethnicity, position, and gender. In fact, many cultures assigned a person’s worth according to such distinctions—Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. Today, our categories might differ some, but we still struggle with defining our worth according to where think we fit in the world, and where we think others fit. How we approach our diversity has the capacity to facilitate great good or cause great harm.

Discussing the particular issue of race, Scott Sauls wrote in his book Befriend:

“Throughout history and up to the present day, racial tension has caused great pain, especially to ethnic minorities. However, for those with a heart to listen and learn, racial differences have potential to expand our vision for the Kingdom of God.”

Embracing the beauty of diversity expands our vision of our eternal hope. The church is a group of people called to say, “We welcome diversity because it points to a beautiful reality—that our chief identity for now and for all eternity is that we belong to Christ and are members of his household.” What will that eternity look like? Revelation 7:9-12 gives us a picture of the beauty of diversity as an eternal celebration of Christ. Notice that diversity is not gone; it is unified.

Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV)
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

If that text describes the future of the people of God from every tribe, tongue, and nation, why wouldn’t we want to practice celebrating the beauty of diversity now with our friendships here?

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.

The Joy of a Noisy Communion Table

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Every week at Christ Presbyterian Church, we come to the Lord’s Table. We’re loud and we have fun with it. We want the Lord’s Table to be a time when we commune with each other, as well as with the Lord. But make no mistake: the sacrament of Communion is a ritual—something we repeat over and over again in order to remember a foundation truth. What is that truth?

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

When the Apostle Paul explained how Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he made this application: “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.” We come to the communion table to remember what Christ has done. But we also come to publicly proclaim our faith in what Christ has done, and to look forward together to his return.

Remember. Proclaim. Anticipate. Together.

The Lord’s Supper is personal, but it is not private. It is meant to be witnessed by others because it is a profession of faith—a proclamation that what sustains Christian people in life is the death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the grave. The Lord’s Table is meant to be a place where Christians gather around one table and all partake together, proclaiming its significance as one people.

Because the Lord’s Table is a proclamation of Christ’s death, it is, by definition, meant to be a corporate event the entire Body of Christ participates in. Communion is a part of congregational life together. It is where we remind each other of the greatest thing that has ever happened to any of us. It is where we remember that Christ’s body and blood unites us to one another for all eternity. It is where we remember that Christian friendships are eternal friendships.

Without this communion with Christ, we have no communion with God the Father. Without the sacrifice this table represents, we would be utterly lost for all eternity. But notice the last part of Paul’s proclamation. At the Lord’s Table, we proclaim Jesus’ death until he comes again. This table will not continue on for all eternity. One day Christ will come again and his church will no longer commune with him around these particular elements of the bread and cup, but as his bride gathered around the marriage supper of the Lamb—never to be separated from his holy presence. The communion table will one day be replaced by the marriage supper of the Lamb. So we come to it for a while with a communion that is loud and regular, in the expectant hope that the celebration is only just beginning.

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.

The Bible Speaks to Grief

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I have a friend who died from brain cancer. His name was Will. He was one day older than me. I miss him a lot. He was a wonderful man who loved the Lord. When I met him, he was in the late stages of the cancer that took him. Multiple surgeries had left him partially paralyzed. He struggled to speak. But his love for Christ, for his wife, family and friends, and for life itself made him someone whose memory encouraged me greatly when I faced a life-threatening illness of my own.

His wife was also my friend. They lived a few houses down from us. I used to borrow their lawn mower to cut my grass. When Will died, I had the sad, holy honor of presiding over his funeral and walking with his family through their grief. I remember how, for what seemed like the next few months, my friend’s wife always had tears in her eyes. She wasn’t openly weeping continually, but her eyes were always hot with tears. I remember how they would just roll down her face, even as we talked about ordinary things like church picnics or the weather. Tears. Always tears.

At first, this made me nervous when I would talk to her. I didn’t want to trigger her sorrow. But after a while, she told me she wished her tears would stop so people would quit avoiding the subject of her husband’s death when they were around her.

Then she said something I hope I never forget: “The tears are here because I’m sad and I miss my husband. My heart is broken. But I want to talk about him. I want to remember Will with others who knew him and loved him too. That brings me joy, even as it causes me to weep. I want people to understand that I can feel more than one thing at a time.”

Such wisdom. It is a mark of spiritual maturity to be able to feel more than one thing at a time. God has given us the capacity to simultaneously feel the depths of sorrow over the loss of a loved one and a swell of gratitude to God for the gift of that person’s life. It isn’t easy. In fact, it may even be something of a “learned skill.” But God has given us an incredible ability to feel things deeply in their time—to genuinely experience conflicting emotions at the same time.

Scripture has a lot to say about our deepest pains and brightest hopes. The Bible speaks into our emotional spiritual health. It tells us it is okay to feel. In fact, it is vital.

There is a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes tells us. Those seasons may come joined to one another. Now may be the time for you to weep. Now may be the time for you to celebrate. And now may be the time for you to do both. Remember, we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

If you are someplace between the poles of mourning and rejoicing, here are some Scripture that may help you lay your hearts bare before the Lord:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15, Jeremiah 8:18, Psalm 42, 43, Isaiah 25:8, 65:19-20 and
Matthew 5:4, John 16:33

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.