Sunday, February 25, 2007

Complexifying the Liturgy

After giving a worship workshop this past weekend in New Jersey, and lecturing the week before that on liturgical ordo, I have been thinking some about the ways in which structure the elements in our worship services -- why we put in the elements we do, and why we order them in a particular way.

This led me to remember an article I wrote last year while at Fuller seminary, about experimenting with the worship ordo of our All-Seminary Chapel services.

We were struggling with three related problems: liturgical boredom, thematic coherence, and sacramental expectation. To summarize, our default liturgical structure was on the simplistic side: 20 minutes of singing (led by a group from the right hand side), followed by a sermon (preached by a professor from the left hand side). In addition, it was hard to give that "singing time" any focus because we often didn't learn what the professor/preacher was going to talk about in enough time to do anything about it. Finally, both the singing and sermon time became freighted with sacramental expectations that neither could regularly meet.

Our experimental solution was to borrow a simple worship pattern from the rites of daily prayer. Those rites were developed long ago as the devotional times used by monks and academics in the precursors to our universities and seminaries. We divided up our time together into four categories, mnemonically remembered as "Praise / Psalm /Proclamation / Prayer." We found this pattern most helpful for a number of reasons...

But exactly how it did that is a bit too much for this family blog. Instead, check out WorshipHelps, where I've re-posted the whole thing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Well, it's Shrove Tuesday, (or to those of French extraction, Mardi Gras), which means that tomorrow we begin the Lenten journey.

We've often decided collectively, as a family, to engage in some modest mortification as a part of our devotional discipline during this season. Some years we've given up television, other years chocolate. We have chosen the usual suspects, things in which we indulge and that do us little good, and perhaps some small harm -- things we would be better off without, so that suffering their absence we are made aware of our dependence upon Christ. We tell the kids that this discipline is like doing weight training. You work and strengthen your "I can say 'no' to that" muscles during Lent. Then, if (or rather, when) you are seriously tempted by something you know is best left alone, by God's grace you've got what it takes to turn away.

Well, this year we don't have television in the house; and so the discussions have begun about what else we might give up during the upcoming 40 days. I am not sure that this year we'll all choose the same things. The kids are now old enough to identify budding dependencies and recognize the wisdom of nipping them now. Pip is considering a season without computer games. More than a month without Moose Trax ice cream will be a genuine sacrifice for Mia. Jacob will work on foregoing his need to get his own way in encounters with his little brother. And me? Well, I think that I would do well to put aside my daily web-trawling. Though I sometimes find interesting bits of information, there is way too much by-catch.

Debra, however, is in a rather different spiritual place than the rest of us. She doesn't need much toning of her "I can do without that" muscles. No, she's the Arnold Schwarzenegger of self-denial. She is working so hard these days at Calvin, and so long... and truth be told, lately without much enjoyment. Life circumstances and spiritual disposition have given her an especially deep awareness of her own shortcomings, a keen sense of her many responsibilities, and along with these, the melancholic outlook so fitting for Lent.

We are wondering therefore, if what she needs to mortify, i.e., what she needs to put to death this Lent, are the overbearing senses of privation, obligation, and condemnation she carries with her. She needs not less of the world's delights, but more of them. More music, more poetry, more prayer, more laughter, more chocolate -- more sabbath repose in the good gifts of God.

Of course, if she ends up indulging in all the things the rest of us are denying, it will make for a rather interesting 6 weeks around here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Stick it to the Mouse, Corbin

So I was trawling the web the other day, and found this item on, about a fellow we know, and some bumps on the way to the sequel to High School Musical.

For those of you who don't know, HSM was Disney's huge movie last year. Soundtrack #1 in the nation in 2006, massive DVD sales, a traveling concert tour, and more. Well, the Disney folks aren't dumb: they're rushing to make a sequel. But turns out that some of the cast members from the first flick aren't so dumb either. Now that Disney has locked themselves into using these same actors (with promotional materials and a poll offering ordinary viewers a chance to help write the storyline), three of the young folk are in a rather strong negotiating position. So they're refusing to go to rehearsals -- holding out for a slice of the merchandising pie. It doesn't take much to see that could be quite a lot of pumpkin.

Well, one of the hold-outs is Corbin Bleu, a fellow we got to know just a little bit during our time in California. His sister, Hunter, was on Mia's soccer team, and we often sat on the sidelines with their whole family. We can personally verify that Corbin really is the sweet, pleasant guy he appears to be on screen. He comes from a terrific family, especially his folks David and Martha, two immensely gifted but down-to-earth, warm, funny people. By the way, if you think Corbin is good-looking, you should see his three gorgeous sisters.

Anyway, our family loves HSM, partly because there are no drugs, no gangs, no angst, and only the most innocent sort of romance. It's a reality-challenged Disney fantasy world and hooray for innocence and youthful energy.

Still, the Disney Corporation is not all sweetness and light, and we've seen reports about their hardball negotiations, especially with child actors. So it's nice to see that by holding out in these negotiations, Corbin is willing to do what teenagers do best: stick it to the man mouse.

Of course, this strategy will only work if all the holdouts cooperate. In the words of the hit song,

We're all in this together
Once we know
That we are
We're all stars
And we see that
We're all in this together
And it shows
When we stand
Hand in hand
Make our dreams come true.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Stuck inside...

It's a bit cold around here lately. The temperatures are supposed to reach all the way to +5° degrees later on today with the promise of sunshine; right now it's -10°F, with windchills in the -20 to -30 range. Yeesh.

Plus about a foot of snow.

So we've been stuck inside for the whole weekend. No events Saturday, Church canceled Sunday, and school shut down today.

I actually got out of the house Saturday -- doing quite a bit of shoveling, trying to keep up with the three types of snow we have in Michigan: Falling Snow, Blowing Snow, and Drifting Snow.

But on Sunday, I didn't shovel even once. Why? Because all my neighbors -- members all of the brand-new Christmas-present snowblower club -- seemed to be competing with one another to see who could do more good deeds by blowing the drives of the block's less fortunate. I guess they were feeling either very full of love for their fellow human beings, or guilty for not going to church, and thought that blowing the driveways of those who hadn't yet was a way for them to earn God-points. I'm not complaining. :)

So we had a very restful Sunday afternoon. We read, played and listened to music, and the boys enjoyed quite a chess tournament, using their favorite alternative chess pieces. I'm hoping for more of the same today.