Featuring Branon Dempsey Posted on March 27, 2009
The days and acts of remembrances in worship services today are mainly held by liturgical churches. The contemporary church may mention significant days of the Church Calendar, but most do not hold worship services that center around these celebrations such as Lent. Your church may or may not celebrate the marked days such as Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday (yes this spelling is correct, also means Holy Thursday – The Last Supper & The Garden events) and Good Friday and Holy Saturday. We have a responsibility to learn, define, worship and highlight the essentials of these celebrations because they give us a deeper understanding of our relationship and worship of our Lord and the knowledge of his Word and the heritage of the Church. We derive a greater appreciation and systemic in our understanding of what it means as sinful man being saved by holy God. True, most churches every Sunday, share this importance of a loving God saving sinful man. But during this season of Lent/Easter, we have a special opportunity to savor and experience these marked days of history when God miraculously brought man from death to life through Jesus Christ. We also walk with the Messiah, as together, we journey on the road to the cross, to His death and to His resurrection. Lent is a time to remember and mourn of our sin as we seek our need for God. In need of His mercy and grace, we reflect on our own baptism and what it means to live as God's child.
For me, I never truly understood the impact of Lent until I began serving in a Lutheran church back in 2002. No, I’m not Lutheran, not Baptist, not anything other but only a follower of Jesus. The experience in this church is one that I would never trade, as I learned the deeper importance of acts of praise, worship, the Word and his loving relationship with man. At first I thought, this is weird! I'm not Lutheran, not Catholic: Why am I here? But as I spent more time in dialogue with the pastor, in discussing the rich theology and history of the church, I began to understand that there is more to worship and more to observe in the Christian faith than what I realized. This propelled me into an everlasting pursuit to understand the true biblical sense of worship and not just “singing” and “listening” through songs and sermons. I learned the worship service in itself is not for you to do cool songs and hear snappy messages, experience over-sensory media and the bells and whistles of other AV technologies. All of these tools (and that’s what they are not our focus) are great, but how are they used in the context of a worship service in teaching and demonstrating who God is to our lost, broken and fragmented communities? Here's another challenge, how do you highlight the significant days such as Lent in a church that does not follow the Church Calendar or highlights unmentionable celebratory days? How do we use message, media, song and other art forms to convey important Church days and/or significant elements in Christian worship?
Finding words, prayers, songs and videos that relate to Lent, we can speak of its importance in a relative way. In other words, as much as we declare the hope and salvation that Christ brings, we also need to examine why Christ came to save sinful man. This brings us into a greater wonder and discovery of God's deep love and the splendor of his mercy and grace. When you think about it, we are like ashes; without Christ's love and presence, our lives are meaningless, worthless, lonely, separated and disconnected. When we come into relationship with God through Jesus, we experience His kindness, nature and love. We receive his grace, a welcome seat at the Table, an opportunity to share in the heavenly feast of God's Fellowship and to bring with us others that they too, may partake in the life and family of Holy God.
I encourage you, during this season, to look into in the study, significance and the meaning of Lent. One book I recommend is by author Robert Webber, entitled, "Worship Old & New". As you discover the impacts of the Early Church, important marks of history and significant events, discuss them with your pastor, share your learnings with your worship team, include your own family household and ultimately plant the seeds of truth in your worship services. Many art forms can be used to illustrate and teach the season of Lent and meaning of Christ (i.e. 16th Century Church icons, stained glass and relics). Whether by message, visual art, film and/or music, it is essential to declare biblical texts that denote the time of preparation before Christ's sacrifice.
May this Lenten-Easter season be filled with inspiration and wonder as God leads you into a deeper understanding of himself through worship, the Word, prayer, and communion as you respond to his mercy and grace. As together, we later conclude on holy week, as one Body and one voice: Halleluiah, Christ has come, Christ is risen and Christ will come again! Amen!
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