Weekly Worship Thought – Welcome to Baptism

riverIf you were with us in worship last Sunday you got to see the “Welcome to Baptism” rite by which we introduce our candidates in the First Steps @ Faith catechumenate process. The rite of welcome is an important transitional moment for these folks. It signifies that they are committing to growing their faith in Jesus in a very intentional way. It also lifts up to the church the fact that we have disciples sprouting in our midst, and our job is to nurture and encourage them in their journey of following Jesus. The ritual we witnessed is one of the most ancient rites of the Christian church. Record of its existence goes as far back as Hippolytus in 235 AD. “New converts to the faith, who are to be admitted to hearers of the word, shall first be brought to the teachers before the people assembled. And they shall be examined as to their reason for embracing the faith, and they who bring them shall testify that they are competent to hear the word.” (Webber, Journey to Jesus, p. 83)

(Welcome to Baptism starts at 34:42)

Q&R: Where do you get your motion backgrounds for your songs?

TWOTP_Blog_AdI get video loops and graphics from several places:

What are your favorite sites for graphics and videos?

Weekly Worship Thought – Pillar of Cloud

photo-1446857985102-74988d169c8cLast week I started a reflection on the text from the hymn “Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer.” The text was written by William Williams in the 18th century (read more about him here). The second stanza reads, “Open now the crystal fountain where the healing waters flow; let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through.” The biblical imagery is stark. The fire and cloudy pillar refer to the symbolic objects that God used to lead Israel in their exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 13). You might not realize it, but the Paschal candle in our sanctuary (the tall, white candle with the cross on it, near the baptismal font) is designed to recall this biblical image. It is a tall, white pillar, like the cloud that led Israel. Just as the cloudy pillar symbolized God leading Israel into their liberation from Egypt, so does the Paschal candle stand at the baptismal font, reminding us of God’s endless provision for our freedom in Christ.

Weekly Worship Thought – Crystal Fountain

photo-1452797355799-63a396b67aadToday I was reflecting on the text from the hymn “Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer.” The text was written by William Williams in the 18th century (read more about him here). The second stanza reads, “Open now the crystal fountain where the healing waters flow; let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through.” The biblical imagery is stark. The crystal fountain refers to Revelation 22:1, “Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear.” The healing waters of this river nourish the trees of life planted there whose “leaves are the cure for the nations” (Revelation 22:2). These healing trees are a recapitulation of an idea from Ezekiel 47:12 where, “this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.” A river of healing, life, and wholeness is opened when we draw near to God in worship.

Weekly Worship Thought – Spiritual Gifts

giftWhat are your gifts? What do you bring to the table? What are your spiritual gifts? We believe that God gives the church every thing she needs to grow and thrive, through the spiritual gifts of the assembled body of Christ. What gifts has God given you that make you uniquely useful and beneficial to God’s people and for the good of the world? Have you ever taken a spiritual gift inventory? If you haven’t I invite you to take the one in the link. Obviously, church musicians are usually gifted in the area of music and worship leadership. That is why we do what we do every Sunday. But what other gifts might you have? What do you bring to the table that makes you unique and makes the church better? We can’t do the work of ministry unless we have resources. Our biggest resource is you – and God has gifted you to be a resource.

Weekly Worship Thought – Bread for the World

breadOne of the oldest Eucharistic prayers (a prayer from the communion table) comes from the Didache, probably written in late first century: “As grain is scattered over the hills and gathered back together to become one loaf of bread, so let God’s people be gathered together at one table from the ends of the earth.” In this prayer we are reminded of the process of making bread: seeds are planted, they grow, grain is harvested, and then it is manipulated to make the ingredient used to create the loaf. This is a metaphor of the church. We as individual believers are scattered throughout the week to our world to grow and serve our neighbors. On the sabbath, the day of resurrection, we are harvested and assembled back together into one loaf. We become the Body of Christ when we assemble – the image of God’s presence on earth. As we disassemble we are broken and shared for the life of the world, just like the loaf of bread that we consume at the Eucharist.

Weekly Worship Thought – Perfectionism

pianoPerfectionism is the enemy of worship. Just as God accepts us as we are, flawed and broken, God also accepts our worship as it is. There is a fine line that we walk when leading worship and seeking to do our best. While perfectionism is the enemy, carelessness can be distracting. Perfectionism can stifle creativity and cripple our expression. A lack of care can take the focus away from God and give people stumbling opportunities when seeking God in worship. Don’t let a mistake in the middle of worship drain your self-esteem or detract your heart from God. Faithfully offering our best is the most we can do, even with imperfections.

What’s on my iPod?

I am a musician. I have played music in one form or another for many years now. I have played or sung in orchestras, symphonic bands, youth choirs, brass ensembles, worship teams, jazz ensembles, and rock bands since I was in middle school. I like music so much, and I felt God’s calling to worship so strongly, that I have made serving the church through worship and music my career.

Sometimes I have to deal with music so much at the church that I don’t want to listen to music when I’m in the car or at home. I am currently not in one of those times. I’m in a place now where I’m listening to music as much as I can: in the car, in the shower, and at the office. I’m sort of falling in love with music again.

I believe that everyone has a musical heart-language. For most, the music from childhood or adolescence becomes “your” music. This music becomes forever engrained as the soundtrack of your life. Some people struggle to open their ears outside this musical box and don’t get why “kids these days” listen to what they do. Not me. I have pretty eclectic taste in music, but my heart-language will forever be 90s era grunge rock (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, etc.)

Since I’m on a music kick these days, I thought I’d share some of the albums that I’m listening to the most these days.

Aja – Steely Dan

steely-dan-ajaMy friends were hip to Steely Dan before I was. It didn’t take much to convince me of their greatness. They have some of the smoothest music and greatest guitar playing ever recorded. Their music is hard to classify, although I call it progressive rock. It has hints of jazz, funk, and rock. This album from 1977 still sounds relevant today. Also, I was recently at the Cajun Creamery in New Orleans when I saw guitarist Walter Becker ordering ice cream. I was so star struck I ordered two of the same flavor in my four scoop sampler.

Southeastern – Jason Isbell

1035x1035-120413-jason-isbel-1800-1386174327Holy moly this guy can write songs. This is the fourth studio album by American singer-songwriter Jason Isbell released in 2013. He gets classified in the alternative country genre. His voice has a southern drawl that I find to be so familiar. He sounds like people I grew up with. His lyrics are gritty, not shying away from cancer and child abuse as topics. You can tell when someone is singing something they know from personal experience. If you like twang without the pretentiousness, you’ll like this.

A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

xlda790-radioheadRadiohead is one of my favorite bands – perhaps the greatest British band of all time (up there with The Beatles and Led Zeppelin for sure). It doesn’t matter if you can’t understand what singer Thom Yorke is saying. This is their latest album that released this year. While writing this article I discovered my amazing wife Kate ordered me this album on vinyl as a surprise! To promote this album Radiohead deleted all content from their website and social media accounts. Go figure. This album features strings and choral vocals arranged by band member Jonny Greenwood and performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. Greenwood composed the soundtracks for the Paul Thomas Anderson films “There Will Be Blood” and “Inherent Vice.”