Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Procession

The following is the eleventh installment in my bulletin insert series:

Procession - Sometimes the procession at the start of worship is seen by some as a neat or impressive “high church” way of getting the choir to the choir loft. However, such a view completely misses what the procession is really all about.

To quote Robert Webber, “A procession is an act of movement in worship by a group of people for the sake of all. In the Entrance, the procession symbolizes the entire congregation coming before the Lord.”

When we see a procession at the beginning of worship, we are not supposed to be looking at particular people. We are not supposed to be “impressed.” Rather, we are supposed to be caught up with the fact that we are all entering into the very presence of God (into the presence of Christ our King!) in order to worship our God with all that is in us.

The general order of a procession would be:

- The crucifer or cross bearer. (We are all supposed to follow Christ who is symbolized by the cross.)

- The acolytes (The light, also symbolizes Christ, the Light of the world.)

- Banner carriers

- Scripture readers (who may carry a Bible or Gospel book).

- The choir

- Clergy

The procession is supposed to produce a spirit of joyful anticipation as we enter to worship before the presence of our Lord.

Information was gathered from the following resources:

Webber, Robert. Ed. The Complete Library of Christian Worship. Vol. 3, The Renewal of Sunday Worship. Star Song P. Nashville, TN 1993.

Monday, November 15, 2010

N.T. Wright & Our Call Unto Holiness

So often people are looking for acceptance.  The great good news is that in Christ we are accepted by God.  However, so often people do not desire to change.  They want to be accepted by God, but they do not want to follow Christ.  They want God's love, but they do not want God's interference; they do not want the glorious, transforming freedom offered to us by God's grace through faith in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As I was making my regular check of certain blogs, I ran across the quote below from Bishop N.T. Wright.  I found it on my friend, Fr. James Gibson's blog, Sanctus.  He, it appears, found it at Creedal Christian.  There, it was cited as having come from + N.T. Wright's, "Communion and Koinonia: Pauline Reflections on Tolerance and Boundaries."

As a "holiness preacher," I found this quote to be spot on!

"It is one of the most important principles of biblical ethics, and one trampled in the mud again and again in contemporary debate: that God's grace meets us where we are, but God's grace, thank God, does not leave us where we are; that God accepts us as we are, but that God's grace, thank God, is always a transforming acceptance, so that in God's very act of loving us and wooing our answering love we are being changed; and, more dramatically, in baptism and all that it means we are actually dying and rising, leaving one whole way of life and entering upon a wholly different one."

Not only is our life changed at our time of conversion, as our baptism so dramatically proclaims, but as Christians, we are, by the grace of God, "Called Unto Holiness!"  God so desires to sanctify us through and through that we might actually reflect the divine image.  In other words, God really desires to answer our prayer when we pray:

"Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen."   -  Praise be to God!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Stained Glass I

The following is from the tenth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Stained Glass Symbols I - There are eight different symbols in the nine windows in the sanctuary.

The Stone Tablets with Roman Numerals I - X represent the Ten Commandments as found in Exodus 10:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The first four set forth the duties of a holy people to a holy God; and the last six assert the ethical duties of people to their neighbors.

The Wheat symbolizes the Bread of Life, who is Jesus (Mark 14:22). When paired with the chalice or grapes, it also symbolizes the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

The Lily is a symbol of Easter and immortality. The lily is pictured in the center of the front and the back of the sanctuary. Located, as the front window is, behind the cross, we are reminded of Christ’s death and resurrection for us.

The Chalice (cup) in the front of the sanctuary and the Grapes in the back are symbols of the Blood of Christ and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

The Keys stand for the Keys of Kingdom of Heaven. They often are seen as a symbol of St. Peter, upon whose confession of Jesus as “. . . the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus replied, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . .“ (cf., Matthew 16:13-19).

The Anchor (Cross) is the symbol of Christian Hope (cf., Hebrews 6:19).

The Cross and Crown symbolize both Christ our King, as well as the reward of the “crown of life” for the faithful who have trusted in Christ as Savior (cf., Revelation 2:10).

Information gathered from the following resources:

McGee, Ratha Doyle. Symbols: Signposts of Devotion. Nashville. The Upper Room. 1962.

W.T. Purkiser, Ed. Exploring the Old Testament. NPH.

Whittemore, Carroll E., Ed. Symbols of the Church. (Revised Ed.). Abingdon P. 1987.

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Colors

The following is the nineth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Liturgical Colors - Throughout the year, the Church uses colors to symbolically express various emphases of the Christian seasons. You will notice the colors of the pastor’s stoles will change according to the Christian season and so, too, will the colors of the various paraments (the altar cloth, etc.). These colors are based on historic and common ecumenical traditions.

The Christian year contains two cycles: Christmas (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany) and Easter (Lent/Easter/Pentecost). Each of these cycles contains a preparatory season symbolized by the color purple and a festival season symbolized by the color white, followed by an ordinary time of growth symbolized by the color green. The basic colors, then, are as follows:

Purple is the color both of penitence and royalty, and is used during Advent and Lent.

White (and also gold) are joyous and festive colors and are used during the Christmas and Easter Seasons and on other festive days such as Baptism of the Lord, Transfiguration, Trinity, All Saints, and Christ the King.

Green is the color of growth and is used in the Seasons after Epiphany and after Pentecost, except when special days call for white or red.

Red is the color of fire, symbolizing the Holy Spirit and is used on the Day of Pentecost and at other times when the work of the Holy Spirit is being emphasized. Red may also symbolize the blood of Christ and is often used during Holy Week. Red is also an appropriate color for evangelistic/revival services and for ordinations and consecrations.

Information gathered from the following resources:

Hickman, Hoyt L. United Methodist Altars: A Guide for the Local Church. Nashville, Abingdon P. 1984.

The United Methodist Book of Worship.

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Peace

The following is the eighth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Passing the Peace - Most churches have a time of welcome and greeting. Sometimes the Passing of the Peace is “mixed up” with that time as a part of that time. However, the Passing of the Peace is really intended to be an act in worship that is distinct from such a time of welcome and greeting.

The Passing of the Peace usually concludes the “Service of the Word” and prepares us for the “Service of the Table/Thanksgiving.”

Usually, the pastor will say, “The Peace of the Lord be always with you” (or something similar), and the people will respond by saying, “And also with you.” We are then encouraged to share the peace of Christ with those around us. In doing so, people often say, “The peace of the Lord be with you,” or, “Peace be with you,” or simply, “Peace.”

This is not a simple greeting among friends, but rather a gift of God’s own peace passed from one to another. We are praying and speaking the blessings of God’s peace to each other.

This peace is the shalom of God. It is peace with God, with others, with all of God’s creation, and peace in ourselves. It is the wholeness that comes from God alone, through Jesus Christ, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

This also means that it is a time when we are called to be reconciled to our sisters and brothers, just as Jesus said in Matthew 5:24.

In Passing the Peace to one another, we are speaking a fresh and anew that which Christ said to the disciples, “Peace be with you.”

Information gathered from the following resources:

Lang, Jovian P., OFM. Dictionary of the Liturgy. New York. Catholic Book Publishing Co. 1989.

Webber, Robert.  Various works.

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: The Four-fold Pattern of Worship

The following is the seventh installment of my bulletin insert series.  It reflects the teaching series I have been leading at our local church and the changes taking place in the structure of our worship services:

Four-fold Pattern of Worship - Today, you will notice a bit of restructuring in our service of worship. As we go along there will continue to be some adjustments and developments.

However, those who have been in the Worship Study will recognize the structure as the basic, historic four-fold pattern of worship. We Enter to Worship, Hear & Respond to God’s Word, and having heard and responded to God’s Word, we Give Thanks to the Lord (especially around the Table), and, finally, we Depart to Serve.

This pattern helps to meet John Wesley’s criteria for authentic Christian worship: 1.) It is derived from Scripture. 2.) It is reasonable; mirroring our relationship with God. 3.) It is in continuity with the practices of the Early Church and connects us with Christians throughout the ages, and 4.) it helps us to better experience God’s presence and identity.

It has been said that “One can study the history of worship from the early church to the present and discover, without exception, that Sunday worship has always been characterized by these four acts.”

In addition, page #2 of The United Methodist Hymnal shows that this is the very pattern of worship recommended for United Methodists. In fact, every UM elder has vowed to uphold the liturgy of the church which is expressed in this basic pattern.


Information gathered from the works of Robert Webber and my own works (my doctoral studies and dissertation, as well as my recent article in The Wesleyan Theological Journal.