Pastoral Series

Worship Matters: Lift High

   I think everyone in our church family loves it that we end every sanctuary worship service by singing “Lift High the Cross” right after the benediction. This hymn is well over 100 years old, but I didn’t learn it until it appeared in our then-new United Methodist hymnal in 1989. Risky, fixating on this…

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Worship Matters: One Little Word

   A marvelous travel memory: my daughter Sarah and I were poking around in the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt, Germany, where Martin Luther figured out who he was and what God was asking of him. We stumbled upon a tour group listening to their guide – explaining that at that moment we were in the…

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Worship Matters: Pescador

  When our then-new hymnal came out back in 1989, I was delighted by many of the new-to-me hymns, including “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore.” The first time I heard and sang it, I was in Stuart Auditorium which looks out over Lake Junaluska. It wasn’t hard to find myself remembering times I’ve…

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Worship Matters: For Everyone Born

   Hymns extol God’s goodness, and bind the individual’s soul to God. Hymns also can have an impact on society, on us as people together, on the Church’s work out in the world. When the earliest Christians sang “Christ is Lord,” it was a protest against the Roman empire’s linchpin claim that Caesar was lord….

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Worship Matters: Loves Excelling

   Charles Wesley, the brother of Methodism’s founder or instigator John, wrote 6,500 hymns – a staggering number! The best of the lot? Walter Brueggemann suggests it’s “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” which he calls “a well-nigh perfect hymn.” If there’s anything perfect in the hymn, it is its realization of the perfection of God’s…

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Worship Matters: Beautiful Savior

  How intriguing is it that most of us have little snatches of memory from very early childhood, not a continuous story but a moment here or there that has stuck somehow. I can’t be sure how old I was – maybe 4 or 5? My mother took me with her to a white cider-block…

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Worship Matters: I will go

   When our denomination’s new hymnal came out in 1989 (30 years ago now!), resistance to the incorporation of new hymns faded when we realized how marvelous some of them were. Natalie Sleeth’s “Hymn of Promise,” Michael Card’s “El Shaddai,” and others like John Wimber’s “Spirit Song” became instant favorites. My immediate nod for a…

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Worship Matters: Holy

   The hymn I remember liking to sing as a child, for some reason, was “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Maybe the words were easy, since it’s repetitive! So many of our hymns and praise songs veer toward the touchy feely, the warm intimacy with God – which is good. “Holy, Holy, Holy” isn’t about our feelings…

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Worship Matters: Hymns agian

   I’ve heard much church music over the years. Brilliant, professional performances, and they off-key, plunky and a bit of a struggle. God enjoys hearing both – I believe, at least as long as we are offering God our best, heartiest, most earnest singing. When we sing hymns, we are one with the earliest Christians,…

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Worship Matters: One more on the Offering

   If we think about God and money at the same time, gratitude inevitably is in the mix. Our weekly discipline of collecting the offering might, if we’re attentive to it, foster gratitude, which none of us has an excess of. In worship every week, I have the chance to declare that I will not…

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