Here is the video of the sermon from Good Friday at Faith Lutheran in Bellaire, TX. I pulled ideas from several sources including Rob Bell (myth of redemptive violence) and Richard Rohr (Jesus came to change our minds about God). Sorry for the technical difficulties, we were trying out a new camera.
The best money-related advice I ever received was to use cash when making purchases. Dave Ramsey, the popular financial guru, shared this advice via his Financial Peace University course. When I originally heard this concept I was a little skeptical. You mean I have to go to a bank or find an ATM to buy things?!?
This seems like a really old-fashioned concept but I have found it to be really helpful in managing my expenses and keeping track of where my money goes. Money can slip through your fingers pretty easily without much thought. Morning coffee, going out for lunch, getting the car washed, and many other trivial purchases can add up before long. If you’re not careful you can spend $100 and not even remember where it went.
When you use cash to make purchases, you feel your money being spent. Literally, you feel it. You have to reach in your wallet to get the cash out. While you’re doing this you observe how many bills you have. Then you have to physically touch the cash and hand it to the cashier. Your wallet becomes thinner. That physical transfer is important for the purchasing experience. Your money was exchanged for a good or service, and now you’ll have to save up to get it back. I now have a tactile memory of where my money went.
This is in contrast to spending money online with card numbers automatically saved in the web browser. All you have to do is click once and the deal is done. Poof! Your money is spent and your item is being delivered. There is nothing inherently wrong with purchasing things electronically. I do it often because it is more convenient than making a trip to the store for an item that they may or may not have in stock. But for as many things as I can, I try to pay in cash. This helps me remember my purchases and feel the money leaving my wallet.
Why do you like to sing? There is something transformative that happens when our soul and body connect to the melody and text of a song. Here are what I consider to be the top 5 reasons why we should be singing in church. These ideas are adapted from Dennis L. Bushkofsky and Craig A. Satterlee, The Christian Life: Baptism and Life Passages. Augsburg Fortress, 2008. p. 55.
- Singing is communal. Singing in church is meant to be more than a bunch of solo voices forming notes at the same time in one space. When an assembly breathes together at the same time, creating the same pitches and harmonies, something unites all our solo voices into one. We become connected to everyone in the space. This connection seeps out of the current time and place and touches all believers from past and future and across the world.
- Singing nurtures faith. You are what you eat. In the same fashion, you believe what you sing. The story of God’s creation, reconciliation, and new creation is best learned in the psalms, songs, and hymns that have sustained generations before as well as those yet to come.
- Singing shapes memory. The songs that nurture our faith also give us the handlebars to hold onto our faith when crisis and frailty arrives. The songs of our brothers and sisters can lift us up and remind us of God’s faithfulness when we need it. Sometimes we need to sing for others. There will be times when others need to sing for us.
- Singing opens us to the Spirit. Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters at creation, God makes a home amidst our praises. When we sing in community the hardened parts of our heart are broken open. We become open and receptive to how God is moving around us.
- Singing builds trust. When I open my mouth and sing in church I am instantly vulnerable. What if I stick out? What if I sing out of tune? What if I sing the wrong word? What if people think my voice is ugly? There is nothing like vulnerability that provides a place for trust to grow. And church is the one place where we should be able to trust that we are loved.
It seems like such a simple, harmless question. But what does it mean? What are we really trying to get at by asking such a question? How do we judge whether worship is “good” or not? Are we even entitled to make such a judgment? If our worship is truly for God, then shouldn’t God alone be the one who passes judgment on whether worship is “good” or not? God sees our hearts and knows the motives behind our offerings of worship.
At the heart of this question, “How was worship today?” is the idea of evaluation. Worship is always being evaluated. Although it may be informal, everyone that leaves church on Sunday has evaluated that service in one way or another. The real question becomes what is driving our evaluations? Evaluations might be based on any number of things: the number of people in attendance, the length of the sermon, the pronunciation of the lector, or the number of flubbed notes by the musician.
Is it possible to move beyond these surface-level evaluations into the deeper substance of worship? The next time you’re leaving worship and you catch yourself evaluating how it went, try using these questions to consider the things that are essential to worship:
- Was our worship Trinitarian? Did we name the Trinity and include Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our worship?
- Was God’s epic narrative of salvation, from beginning to end, the centerpiece of our worship?
- Were the primary symbols of baptismal font, communion table, and pulpit central to our space for worship?
- Was there enough scripture reading in our worship for a full, rich telling of God’s story?
- Was there time for prayer and reflection in our worship?
- Did our worship engage all people assembled and invite them to participate with all their senses?
- Were we connected to the death and resurrection of Jesus and pulled deeper into our baptismal journey through our worship?
- Did our worship send us out following Jesus in joyful, loving service of the world?
So, how was worship today? Perhaps a better question is, “Who was worshiped today?”
“The Way of the Cross” is a living Stations of the Cross presentation using dramatic tableau (or “living picture”). I adapted the traditional 14 stations down to 10.
I am very happy with how this service came out! This is the third time I have used this service on a Good Friday (Grace Baptist in 2006, and Covenant Lutheran in 2010). Bravo to the actors in this one – they may not have to memorize any lines, but their part was intense.
One of the best parts of this presentation is the voice of the congregation on these hymns. You can hear their hearts.
One of my favorite twists during these contemplative services is to end by singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – an Advent hymn of expectation. The longing for deliverance expressed in these words ties so well to Jesus’ death.