Linwood Worship Podcast

Welcome to the Linwood Worship Podcast! Follow along for weekly episodes about worship, written and recorded by AJ.

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Linwood Worship Blog

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  • Hello fellow worshipers, Welcome to a special edition of the Linwood Worship Podcast - there will be no midweek rehearsal this week, so there will be no discussion on this episode. But I wanted to drop in on all of you this week and share some holiday thoughts. 

    Our culture has turned advent—the four weeks before Christmas—into one long-extended celebration of Christmas. Here’s what we miss when we do that: waiting. We don’t wait. We get instant gratification. Once thanksgiving is done, bring on the Christmas music, bring on the cookies, and bring on the presents. I’m as guilty as anyone: my kids have already opened a present and my wife gave me my Christmas present in November already! What a travesty!

    Here’s the problem with skipping Advent and engaging in an instantly gratifying Christmas season—its dishonest. It is not true to our actual experience of being Christians. You see, we live in Advent, not the first advent, obviously Christ has already come, but we are living in an extended liminal space of waiting for his return—A second advent. When we skip straight to Christmas, we disregard the reality of the situation we’re in—Christ has not yet return—things are still not right. We’re waiting. Constantly waiting and longing for Christ’s return. We’ve got to press into that waiting—allow ourselves to practice it as a Christian community during the season of advent because it will enable us to live into the reality of advent in our regular lives.

    That being said, if we actually do engage in the season of waiting, the payoff at the end must be sweeter than just one day of celebration. That’s why historically the church has celebrated twelve days of Christmas. Christmastide lasts from Christmas until Epiphany on January 6. Im sure you’ve heard of the Twelve days of Christmas—of partridge in a pear tree fame. Its not just a silly song, it’s actually the historical practice. I’m not sure about all the gifts, but at least the twelve days of celebration is. What if we saved the Lessons and Carols service until the twelve days? What if the kids program was during the twelve days? I know, it would never work. But it seems like it would be appropriate on some level.

    Speaking of epiphany, what is that? In the ancient church, Epiphany was celebrated regularly even before Christmas was added to the church calendar. Epiphany is the celebration in the church year where we mark the revelation—that is, the epiphany—of Christ as the savior. 

    James F. White is a worship theologian, he writes, “The Epiphany, then, is older than Christmas and has a deeper meaning. For instead of simply being an anniversary of the birth Christ, it testifies to the whole purpose of the incarnation: the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ, beginning both with his birth and with the beginning of his ministry.”


    The gospels are full of epiphanies, but the main one that we celebrate on Epiphany is the wisemen coming to worship Jesus. They were gentiles, not Jews, but God revealed to them that the child was the savior. Even the cosmos—the stars—told the story of Christ coming to earth, and the Magi from the East heard the story and came to worship. So, if you remember, this year on January 6 read Matthew 2 about the wisemen, and you’ll be reading it along with the church universal—celebrating the coming of Christ to the gentiles.


    On a personal note, I’m really thankful for all of you. This year our team has undergone a lot of changes. Losing the Keep’s, the Vink’s, and Larry, was really sad for me, and Im sure many of you. But I am so thankful for those of you who have joined in the past year and have stepped into those empty gaps. We’ve added a ton of new members including new drummers and new organists, new tech volunteers, and new vocalists. It is truly a joy to worship with all of you every week. I know that our congregation is blessed and God is glorified through our work together.


    I will be gone for the next two Sundays. The next time you’ll hear my voice will be the week of January 16. We’ll be hearing part two of my conversation with Pastor Joel about sermons. See you then.

  • The Congregational Prayer


    What is it?

    This prayer, which in some places might be called the pastoral prayer or the prayers of the people, is the main intercessory prayer in our Lord’s Day worship. It is offered to God on behalf of the congregation, and its primary purpose is for the congregation to pray for the needs of individuals, and our church, community, state, and world. These are prayers for specific people we know, but also for groups of people who we might only know from afar. There may be other aspects to this prayer as well, such as adoration, confession, and thanksgiving, but the primary purpose is to bring our needs and the needs of the world to God.


    Who leads it?

    In our church, this prayer is led by one of the pastors or one of the elders. In some Reformed churches, this prayer might be led by a deacon. In our congregation, an elder leads this prayer on the third Sunday of the month, usually on the Sundays when we celebrate communion. We usually try to encourage each of the elders to lead this prayer at least a time or two during their 3-year terms on the consistory.


    When does it occur in worship?

    In our congregation, this prayer occurs just before the reading of the word and the sermon. By this point on a Sunday morning, we’ve been called to worship, sung praise to God, confessed our sins and received an assurance of pardon, and sung some more. This order of worship builds to the reading of the word and the sermon as the high point of worship, and after the sermon the service closes with a hymn and a benediction. Such a structure highlights the centrality of the Word.   

    Other Reformed churches use a different order. They have a fourfold order that begins by 1) gathering around the Word (by assembling in praise and confession), 2) proclaiming the Word (through a reading and the sermon)  3) responding to the Word (with the congregational prayer, as well as by saying a creed or confession, and collecting an offering, and then 4) bearing God’s Word into the world (by closing with praise and a benediction). While the way that our congregation does it focuses on the Word as the high point or climax of worship, in this other worship order, the idea is the Word and the gospel is still central, but some acts of worship, like the congregational prayer, constitute part of our response to the gospel as we prepare to go out into the world. 

    How is it done?

    In the Reformed tradition, there is a lot of variation in how the congregational prayer is led. Sometimes it is more formal and liturgical, maybe with congregational responses to different parts of it. Sometimes it is more informal and extemporaneous. In smaller churches, sometimes those in the congregation are invited to say their prayer requests aloud during an appropriate part of the prayer. Sometimes the congregational prayer is fairly short, sometimes it is fairly long. (Though we should always heed the warning of the Second Helvetic Confession (written by Reformed Christians in Zurich in the 16th century), against “long and irksome” prayers, lest the congregation be wearied.) 

    It is a good practice not to make it one long, uninterrupted prayer. The prayer can be organized in various logical and scriptural ways. For instance, particular phrases might signify the conclusion of a section (such as “Lord, hear our prayer.”) Or, the prayer could be organized according to the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer, with the leader expanding on each clause or topic to incorporate the congregation’s needs. It is also a good practice also to avoid using the prayer itself to deliver news, particularly regarding someone’s health condition. 



    We close with some questions that might provoke the thinking of the worship team:

    -How might we explore some of these variations in practice so as to enrich our congregational prayers? 

    -How could we more systematically pray for regions of the world or other parts of the body of Christ? How could we meaningfully broaden our prayers?

    -Finally, should the congregational prayer always be given from the pulpit? Are there other appropriate places or postures we might use to better reflect and shape how the prayer is perceived and offered by the congregation? 



  • As you may recall, we’ve been working our way through the liturgy of our worship services. A few weeks back we talked about the gathering which included the greeting from God, mutual greeting and opening song. The following week we discussed the confession and assurance. Then we had the week off for thanksgiving. Now we are back and will take a look at the offering. 


    In the past it has been our practice to have the offering directly following the assurance of pardon. In that liturgical location the offering provides an opportunity for worshipers to respond to the grace of God, so displayed in the assurance, through the giving of their tithes. Along those lines, John Witvliet, a worship theologian and Calvin professor writes, “The money given at the offering is a token and symbol of our desire to devote our whole selves to God’s service in response to God’s loving faithfulness to us.” Important to note here is that we do not give in order to gain some type of right standing with God or brownie points with the church; rather, we give in thankful response to God’s saving work.


    In church history the offering was an act of worship that was closely associated with the Lord’s Supper. According again to John Witvliet, in the early church worshipers would bring forward gifts of bread and wine for use in the Sacramental meal and any left over gifts would be distributed to the poor. To reflect this historical practice, some congregations today bring the gifts of money and the communion elements to the front at the same time. 


    More common though is the separation of the offering from communion—like in our congregation. This separation occurred in the middle ages—there was a period of time in church history where church members were not allowed to participate in communion regularly. Instead, communion was practiced predominantly by the clergy. Because of this the offering was separated from communion… Worshipers weren’t allowed at the table, but they were still expected to tithe I guess.


    In our context we’ve recently been participating in the offering following the sermon. This is not just a time saving tactic—in fact there are some theological reasons for it. It goes back to what we talked about in episode four—Christ centered form. To summarize—our worship service’s order should retell the four movements of the Gospel story: creation, fall, redemption, and the return of Christ. Our liturgy does a good job of telling the first three movements: creation, fall, and redemption. Where we are weak is in telling the fourth movement: the return of Christ. 


    We believe that when Christ came to earth he established his kingdom—it is already here, but it is not yet fully realized as it will be when he returns. You may have heard the the term “Already, but not yet” before. So, while we wait for Christ to return and fully establish his kingdom, it is our work as His body here on earth, to be kingdom ambassadors—representing the kingdom of heaven to the world—and to also participate in the building of that kingdom. Further, one way to participate in building the kingdom is through giving money to ministries that are doing kingdom work—we have that opportunity weekly in the offering. So in essence, the offering is a chance to participate in building the Kingdom that is “already” here as we also wait for the Kingdom that is yet to come—and in so doing we engage with the final movement of the Gospel story: the return of Christ.

  • Last week we took a deep dive into the gathering movement of the liturgy—this included the greeting from God, mutual greeting, call to worship, and opening gathering song of praise.

    This week we’re going to continue our deep dive into the liturgy and talk about the Confession and Assurance.


    Confession, like the gathering last week, is initiated by God—though in this case in a less direct way. Confession is the natural response of a sinner who encounters the grandeur and holiness of God. Take for example the prophet Isaiah. In chapter 6 Isaiah is taken up into the throne room of heaven and see’s the holiness of God first hand—he comes to a horrifying conclusion, “Woe to me!” he cries. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

    When Isaiah see’s who God is, he comes to a deep level of self awareness—and it’s bad news. He’s impure, and when impurity encounters the holiness of God, something usually dies. 


    So in our worship, when we encounter God whether we’re focussing on his love, his goodness, his holiness, his righteousness in the call to worship and gathering song, we also come to a deeper level of self-awareness. It is in the light of who God is that we come to realize who we truly are. Confession then is a chance for us to be honest with ourselves and with God about who we truly are. 


    It is common in modern churches to avoid confession or any talk of sin—it’s unpleasant after all. Many seeker sensitive churches get rid of it because it feels awkward to visitors and it is too much of a downer. James KA Smith—a Calvin University professor and author—writes, “What if confession is, unwittingly, the desire of every broken heart? In that case, extending an invitation to confession would be the most “sensitive” thing we could do, a gift to seeking souls. . . . This desire to confess may seem counterintitutive. Obviously the seeker-sensitive movement assumed this was the last thing non-Christians wanted to do. . . .deep down, we already know what’s true about our faults and brokenness. If that’s the case, rituals that invite us to confess our sins are actually gifts.”


    I really identify with this—all human souls know there is something in them missing, something incomplete, something broken… what if one of the most hospitable things we can do in church is giving them the language to articulate the reality of the state of their soul.


    The next movement in our liturgy is always assurance. We never talk about our sin with out being reminded of the saving work of Christ. Lets catch up with Isaiah again in chapter 6. After he had confessed his impurity, he writes, 


    “The one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”


    Now what in the heck is the seraphim doing? To be honest, this sounds like a really unpleasant experience. But two things are important to recognize here—first, fire is a symbol of purification. Second, Isaiah’s confession is centered around how dirty and impure his mouth is. The seraphim then takes the coal and touches Isaiah lips. Isaiah’s sin then, by the work of the heavenly being, is taken away—his dirty mouth is made clean. Our assurance presents this same movement—where God assures Isaiah that his sin had been atoned for by the purification of the coal, we are assured that our sin has been atoned for, and we’ve been made pure by the blood of the lamb.


    It must be mentioned here—confession is not a means of earning forgiveness—no, in fact we’ve already noted in the gathering that we’re recipients of God’s grace and peace because of his initiative—because of his movement towards us. Confession then is a chance for us to acknowledge that there is nothing that we contribute to our salvation except the sin that makes it necessary. Let me say that again: In confession we acknowledge that there is nothing that we can contribute to our salvation besides the sin that makes it necessary. 


    In the assurance then, we experience again the forgiveness of Jesus as if it were the first time and we are given the opportunity to thank God for his saving work. You may notice one of my favorite songs to sing after the assurance is “There is a Redeemer.” It’s a perfect way to say thank you to God for his redeeming work through Jesus.



  • In our previous episode we looked at worship as a conversation. For the next couple of weeks we are going to break down the parts of that conversation and look closely at each element of the Liturgy.

    The first thing that happens in our worship is what is called the gathering. This movement is a broad category that includes a couple of elements. First is the Greeting from God. 


    Why do we have a greeting from God? Because we need to be regularly reminded that it is God who takes the initiative in our relationship with him—in fact all of creation is a result of God’s innitiative. It is he who calls us and sent his spirit to us to make our dead hearts alive to the reality of salvation in Christ, and it is he who strengthens us daily by his spirit for Christian living, it is he who provides for our needs. 1 John 4:19 reminds us that we love because he first loved us…


    So when the Pastor lifts up his arms and speaks the greeting from God over us, we are reminded that God is the one who gathered us all together and worship is because of his initiative. We are also reminded in the greeting, that from the outset of the service the theme is grace—and we as the people of God are recipients of that grace—everything that happens thereafter in the service is in response to the grace and peace of God because he has reconciled us to himself by his son.


    Next typically is the mutual greeting—we are greeted by God, reminded that he has reconciled us to himself, and then are immediately reminded that God’s grace and peace extends even into our relationships to one another—God has reconciled us to himself and a fruit of that reconciliation is that we are reconciled to one another. The church historically has called the mutual greeting time the “Passing of the Peace.” Instead of just saying good morning, worshipers would greet one another saying something like, “The peace of Christ be with you.” This seems a bit more significant to me… Imagine with me a chaotic morning of getting kids dressed, trying to get the kids to eat breakfast with some level of efficiency, trying to get everyone in the car on time, searching for the toddler’s lost shoe—mediating arguments between kids, patience running thin… The first thing you hear when you come to church is a word of peace from God, and then you have to turn to your spouse, who over slept and left you with the task of getting the kids ready without any help and say, “The peace of Christ be with you.” Moments like that in worship provide a new perspective and a different level of significance; a chance to reorient one’s self.


    Our Liturgy then continues with a Call to Worship. This element continues to remind us that worship is initiated by God, not by our own volition. The call to worship also reminds us about who God is—usually a psalm of praise is used. The psalm gives voice to the character of God then spurs on the worshiper to worship him for it. Psalm 95 is a great example this: 

    1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;

        let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

    2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving

        and extol him with music and song.

    3 For the Lord is the great God,

        the great King above all gods.


    The liturgy then continues with a song—giving the congregation a chance to continue to ponder who God is and praise him for it. These psalms and songs usually focus on a particular aspect of the character of God—recently we focussed on God’s faithfulness and goodness in a service. Sometimes we’ll focus on his love, other times we’ll worship God as creator, other times we’ll reflect on God’s holiness and join the hymn of heaven by singing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” What is important in the gathering is that we are reminded of who God is and we are given the opportunity to praise him for that. Bryan Chapell, a reformed pastor and author writes, “Just as idolatry begins with improper recognition of God, true worship begins with right recognition of his nature and attributes… Praise has always been the appropriate beginning of worship because in such praise we recognize God’s true nature.” 

    So this week, in preparation for our discussion please consider what in this week’s episode was new to you, what is something that you already knew, and instead of thinking about why this matters—because the application is pretty obvious—think about what your favorite gathering song is and be prepared to give reasons why.


  • This week we are going to take a look at the “dialogical principle.” Or more simply put, “Worship as a conversation.”

    In our worship there are three conversation participants. God, the worshipers, and the world. We’re going to leave alone “the world” for now.


    The conversation also has at least three different directions. The primary voice in worship is not our own, but God’s. He speaks from on high, down to us. We believe we hear his voice through the reading and preaching of scripture. Imagine an arrow pointed downward from God to humanity. This is why every week we begin with a scriptural greeting from God and we end with a scriptural blessing from God. God’s has the first and last word.


    The second voice, that of the worshippers, speaks in response to God. We sing songs of praise, confess our sins, and petition and thank God for his help and provision… Imagine an arrow from humanity up to God. This is often the conversation piece that get’s emphasized the most in modern worship—we gather together to praise the Lord for who he is and what he has done in Christ. This is obviously vital, but without the other conversational participants and directions, this movement can easily become very human centered—some streams of worship so emphasize this movement that worship becomes all about how it is experienced by the individual.


    These first two conversation participants and the corresponding directions are relatively intuitive. It makes sense that God speaks to us in worship and that we speak back to him. But the third conversational direction, while less intuitive, is equally important. That is worshiper to worshiper. Imagine a horizontal arrow pointing from person to person in the pews. Paul instructs worshipers in the Corinthian church to speak to one another using psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. This horizontal movement, from worshiper to worshiper, suggests that worship, at least gathered worship, is not meant to be a solely individual experience. David Peterson, a worship theologian, suggests that much of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is written to encourage the corinthians to recover a communal component in their worship gatherings. In the aforementioned passage, 1 Corinthians 5:19, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs were meant to be spoken to one another to build each other up. In chapter 14, Prophesies and tongues could be spoken, but they had to be interpreted for the benefit and encouragement of all those who were gathered. In chapter 11, the worshipers were instructed to stop gorging themselves and getting drunk on the communion meal before everyone arrive, but to wait so everyone could partake and be nourished. Yes, gathered worship is for the glorification of God, that being said, it is also for the encouragement and edification of the entire body of Christ. 


    This dialogical principle is uniquely captured completely in the responsive reading of God’s word. In responsive readings we hear God speak as we do any time God’s word is read. We also speak back to God as we proclaim his praise or confess our sins through the words of a psalm. And we also speak to, and hear from, one another, as we hear the voices of those gathered around us. All three directions of the dialogue are accomplished in a scriptural responsive reading. So, don’t expect those to go away any time soon.


    To conclude, a brief story.

    The summer after my sophomore year of high-school my family went on vacation to Florida where my mom was attending classes for her master’s degree. It was actually at the institution where I am now studying, but that’s neither here nor there.

    We left on a Tuesday, and that weekend we got the news that one of my football teammates had died in a tragic car crash. This was my first real encounter with death in my 16 year-old life span. The next weeks were a blur except one very vivid memory. That Sunday we went to worship and in the service we sang the song “In Christ Alone,” or I should say, everyone else sang. I didn’t. But I remember very vividly the final verse “No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me…” I heard the voices of my parents and siblings around me, maybe singing a bit louder than usual, and I was reminded in a profound way, specifically through them, of our hope in Jesus and in sharing in his victory over death. To this day this is still one of the most profound worship experiences I’ve ever had.


    So when you attend gathered worship, your role as a worshiper is obviously to respond to God and give him glory, but it is also to encourage and build up those around you. So read your parts loudly, when you sing, project so those around you can hear you clearly, someone needs to hear you proclaim to them the hope that we share in Jesus. Someone near you is at a point in their life where they can’t sing—they need you to sing to them and for them.








  • Last week we talked about how the content of our services is meant to be Christ-centered rather than human centered. This week we’re going to zoom out a bit and take a look at how even the structure or order of our service should also retell the saving work of Jesus. 


    A theologian named Bryan Chapel uses a really helpful metaphor—he suggests that just as an egg container takes the form an egg, our worship should also be formed by the gospel. 

    Our liturgical structure is designed to retell the story of the Gospel. 

    The basic movements of the Gospel are Creation, Fall, Redemption, and The Return of Christ.

    1. Creation—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” 

    2. Fall—in Adam all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and even creation groans with the pain of childbirth—the result of the fall. 

    3. Redemption - For God so loved the entire cosmos that he sent his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish…

    4. The Return of Christ-Recreation - Christ will return in the end and all things will be made right—in the meantime the church also gets to participate in Christs redeeming work building the kingdom here and now.


    Our liturgy retells these same movements— 

    1. In the gathering we recognize that God is the one who initiates worship by his word, just as he initiated creation by his word. We gather together and get a picture of who God is in the call to worship and we praise God for that in the first few songs.

    2. in the confession we engage with the reality that we are all sinners and fall short of the holy standard that God has called us to. We are honest with God and ourselves about who we are and how yes, indeed, in Adam all have sinned—even us. 

    3. we are reminded of the saving work of Jesus in the assurance of pardon who has taken our sin upon himself and made us holy and righteous in the sight of God. We respond in thankfulness through singing and giving our gifts and offerings, we show our dependence on God in our congregational prayer when we lift up our churches concerns to him. The liturgy continues with the Sermon. God reveal himself to us by his Spirit through the preaching of his word. We are again reminded of the saving work of Jesus and our ultimate hope in him.

    4. and finally, we are sent out into the world with God’s blessing, encouraged to look to the return of Christ and live as people saved by him—participating in his redemptive work in the here and now, and assured that Christ is with us even to the end of the age.


    So ultimately, the point here is that both liturgical content—what we talked about last week—and liturgical structure, or order of worship—matter. Both content and structure should be centered around Jesus and his story of salvation.


    To conclude, a brief story of how order communicates.

    I was at a congregation that had a really great orphan ministry that raised funds, supported an orphanage, and supported adoptive families. Each year we would have orphan Sunday, a service where the Orphan ministry would plan and lead, and highlight the work that they had been doing.

    Orphan Sunday began with a call to confession, acknowledging how God calls christians to care for Orphans, and then confessing that often we fall short of this command. 

    Following the prayer of confession a number of statistics and highlights were read, outlining how effective the Orphan ministry had been at caring for orphans that year. We heard about how much money was raised, we heard about how the committee was instrumental in helping families who had adopted orphans etc…

    and I don't remember anything beyond that.


    This service failed in both content and structure. The content was focussed on what the orphan ministry had done for orphans and for God instead of what God has done for us. The structure began with confessing failure to uphold God’s commands but never reminded the people of how where we fail, Christ succeeds. Instead, it told the people that where they may have failed, the Orphan ministry has succeeded.


    The content and structure of this liturgy tell the story of moralism—that God calls us to a holy standard, and we can accomplish it, thereby achieving righteousness by our own work. It is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


    Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the orphan ministry or people involved with it were self-righteous and self-glorifying. In fact I know they aren’t and I know they were doing their vital ministry work out of thankfulness for what God has done for them and out of faithfulness to what God called them to do. My only point here is to highlight the fact that when these liturgical details are overlooked we can accidentally tell a much different story than what we intend.


    A much better Liturgical structure may have told the story of how God reveals himself to us as a loving father and that we were once orphans, lost with no inheritance and no hope, and God adopted us into sonship and made us heirs with Christ—giving us hope and an inheritance that can never spoil or fade. We then, knowing the value of being brought into a family and given hope, are then motivated to proclaim that same hope to and care for the orphans in our world. I’d like to say that we did it this way the next year, but I cannot honestly remember.


    So to beat the horse and make sure it’s good and dead: the content of our worship AND the order of our worship tell the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Last week we talked about now the word Liturgy encompasses the regular routines or form that our Sunday gathering takes.

    Over the next two weeks we are going to dig into how both the structure of the Liturgy --ie the order of events, and the content of the liturgy —ie the songs, prayers, and scriptures—tell the story of the Gospel.


    To start, it is worth mentioning that in the Pslams, and indeed in much of the OT, worship was oriented around retelling the saving work of God. In Deuteronomy 26, God instructs the Israelites on how to worship him when they enter into the promised land. Those instructions include retelling the story of Israel and how God redeemed the them from Slavery in Egypt and delivered them to the promised land. In Exodus 15, the song of Mariam (composed on the banks of the Red Sea) tells the story of how God saved his people from the Egyptians. In Psalm 77 the Psalmist retells the same story. Worship for the Hebrew people was always a recital—or a retelling—of the work that God performed on their behalf. 


    We approach liturgy similarly. All our songs, prayers, and scripture readings are designed to retell the story of what God has done on our behalf through the life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus. This is important to keep at the forefront of our minds when we consider what type of content we use in our services. I always want our songs and prayers to focus on what God has done on our behalf, not necessarily what we do for God. As an example, let's consider the song “Great Things” by Phil Wickham. I love this song because even though the verse encourages the worshiper to come and worship—to DO something for God, it primary focus is on what God has done for us. God is the primary actor in this song, not the worshiper. Verse 1 says “Come let us worship our king, come let us bow at his feet—he has done great things… See what our savior has done, see how his love overcomes— he has done great things.” 


    So, to summarize, our worship must primarily be centered around what God has done for us in Christ, over and against worship that talks primarily about what we are doing for God. Christ centered worship makes Jesus the hero of the story—human-centered worship makes us the hero of the story. 


    One final side note to add before we close for this week—our concept of retelling and remembering is much more cognitive and mind focussed than the people of the bible, and even Christians of the past. In our culture, if we were remembering our wedding anniversary we might pull out an old photo album and reminisce about how the day went and who was there—who stood in the wedding and how it was the hottest day Michigan had seen in 20 years. In Hebrew culture, remembering the anniversary of one’s wedding might include getting out the old wedding gown, seeing if it fit, and maybe even re-confirming the wedding vows. Remembering to the people of God was not so much a brain exercise, they wouldn’t just think about it the event, they would re-enact the event. This is also what we do in Christian worship. We don’t just think about the saving work of Jesus, we re-enact the story and in so doing find our part in it, as if we were there when it all happened.

  • My hope is that you would listen to each weekly podcast regardless of whether or not you are scheduled for worship team that week. Each week we will discuss that week’s episode, but we will also have opportunity for people to share about previous episodes from weeks that they were not scheduled. 

    Think of Listening to this podcast and thinking more deeply about worship as a muscle or a skill that we are all developing together. For example, I’m not going to get much better at golf if I only go practice my swing once a month, I might get a little better, but not much. But if I spend time at the driving range once a week I’ll find myself getting better much quicker. Imagine how great of a golfer I’d be if I went every day! Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to golf every day and I don't have time to create a podcast every day, so we’re sticking with a weekly rhythm. Think of this podcast as your weekly practice session at the driving range. Lastly, many of these episodes will build on each other—listening once a month may leave you in the dark, confused about how we got here.


    So, last week we did some brief work defining the word worship and highlighted the fact that worship is an “all-of-life” endeavor. This week, we are going to dig in a bit deeper into how to think about what happens on Sundays when we meet with the body of Christ. We’re going to do that by taking a look at the churchy word “Liturgy.”


    There are three essential ways to think about the word liturgy.


    First, liturgy means “The work of the people.” When we think about this in the context of gathered worship, liturgy essentially means what the people do in worship. This definition reminds us of an important component of gathered worship—that is that gathered worship is meant to be participatory. It is not a performance or concert that people come to watch or consume, it is an event that people come to participate in. The voice of the congregation is an essential part of gathered worship.


    Second, the word liturgy refers generally to the structure of a worship service. To some people it has negative implications of stuffy repetitive traditions, and so they throw out the idea of liturgy. But the fact of the matter is, all church’s have a liturgy, even modern non-denominational anti-liturgical churches. For some it may be as simple as a song set, announcement time, and a sermon. For some like our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters it is much more complex. But after a while, every church will end up forming it's own default order of worship: a liturgy is inevitable.


    Third, the word liturgy can also mean “The work for the people.” When the term is used this way, it often refers to the priestly work of the Old Testament where the priests would carry out sacrifices on behalf of the people and act as a mediator between God and his people. As new covenant Christians we know that the Old Priesthood was a foreshadowing of the Priestly work of Christ, the great high priest. Thus, the old Liturgical work of the Old Testament priests is a foreshadowing of the completed and continuing liturgical work of Christ for us now.

    This definition gives us a clue as to what content should be included in our liturgy; mainly songs, prayers, and scripture readings that point us to the finished and continuing work of Jesus on our behalf. And also gives us confidence because it reminds us that Christ continues to mediate for us. He takes our imperfect prayers and songs and presents them to the father on our behalf.


    Liturgical worship is worship that is centered around Jesus. We’ll get more into that idea next week.

  • So, to begin, I need to start with a confession. In recent a worship committee meeting we were on-boarding some new members and doing some introductory work, explaining some of the why’s behind what we do on Sunday mornings. A few long-time members of the worship team, but new members of the worship committee, shared how a lot of the info I was sharing was new to them.

    I realized that while I have done an excellent job of explaining the why’s—the reasons behind what we’re doing on Sunday morning, to the worship committee, I have not done a great job of doing that with the entire worship team. Our rehearsals are focussed only on what we’re doing on Sunday morning with little talk of the reasoning behind it. So this podcast is my attempt to remedy that imbalance. My intention is that you would listen to each episode at some point during the week before rehearsal—ideally on the way to rehearsal so that it’s fresh—and then we’ll begin each rehearsal with a brief discussion on the topic covered by the podcast. 


    So welcome again to the inaugural episode of the Linwood Worship Podcast. This week we are going to try to define the term worship. The word worship comes from the Olde English term Worth-ship, which implies acknowledging the worth of something or someone. In the Bible there are numerous words that get translated into the English word worship. We’ll briefly look at three.

    The word proskynein means to bow down in submission. Imagine a servant bowing before a king. It implies a physical posture of submission—but even more, prosekynein implies an entire life-pattern of submission and devotion to God.

    The word Latreuen is another word that often gets translated into the English word worship. It means “service.” Just like a servant would serve a good king because he is worthy of it, we serve our God because he is worthy of it. Like the word proskeynein, latreuen also has all-of-life implications. The Sunday morning gathering is obviously not the only place where Christians serve the Lord.

    The final biblical example we’ll look at today is a group of words with the stem “seb.” Words with this stem have implications of reverence, fear, and trembling. I imagine Moses at the burning bush taking off his shoes because he is in the presence of God. This word also has implications beyond just what occurs in the weekly worship service. It implies an entire life posture of reverence for God.

    All three of these words imply that worship in the Bible is about more than what happens in the weekly gathering of God’s people. David Peterson writes, “Acceptable worship in Old Testament terms involves homage, service and reverence, demonstrated in the whole of life.” This is important for us to grasp before we dig in deeper to what specifically happens on Sunday morning. Your worship is does not start when Pastor Joel greets you, and it does not end when he gives you the parting blessing. What happens on Sunday is simply one part of your entire life of worship.


    That being said, what happens on Sunday is vitally important to the worshipping life of the Christian and as such, it is valuable to give it some deep consideration. We’ll dig in deeper next week.