Being present in our packed Cathedral last night for its Nine Lessons and Carols service was a powerful reminder of the power of music to draw people into the presence of God. It is not disrespectful to Scripture being the Word of God written to presume that if the Cathedral had advertised a service of "Nine Lessons (no music)" only the faithful few would have turn up. Even "Nine Lessons (with cracker sermon)" would not have drawn the crowd which came last night.
Music has the power to move us, to draw us from our homes to go to a concert or a party or a church service. The music in a church service (some minimal requirements of tunefulness and rhythm being met) has the power to move our souls into the presence of God, to help us feel that we are meeting with God. Why? I think it is the capacity of music to take us out of ourselves and lead us to the transcendent. There the God who is God meets with us: our restless hearts, as St Augustine knew, find their rest in him.
Reading something by Doug Chaplin on preaching the Christmas stories from Matthew and Luke (worth a look here) reminds me of a point.
My point is this, the church has a calendar, and when followed the Wise Men (i.e. Matthew 2:1-12) should be centre of attention at Epiphany (6th January). Not before. No posters, banners, or other depictions of the Wise Men before 6th January please.
An exception might be a Christmas pageant service in mid-December as the wash up for the Sunday School's year in which a whole narrative of the birth of Jesus is told.
The great advantage of holding back the Wise Men for Epiphany is that the joys and glories of Christmas are extended for greater enjoyment.
Is there any reason why a service should not flow, go well, and enable people to be focused on the Lord because they are undistracted by mistakes, clangers, and black holes of time and space occurring in a service?
Of course not. There is no reason why a service should not go well.
But it will take preparation, planning, purposive production and, well, you get the picture!
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
Be perfect. It's okay to be perfect in worship leading. People will be grateful.
On Preaching and Worship - Anglican style Down Under I aim to post weekly, usually on or about Sunday. Mostly I post on some aspect of preaching and worship, often with a 'how to' angle (sometimes, especially if talking about my mistakes, with a 'how not to' angle)!
I see this blog as complementary to a very important website on worship matters, Liturgy, presided over by my friend and colleague Bosco Peters.
In my present role as Director of Education for the Diocese of Christchurch (NZ) I am not tied to one parish so some Sundays I am a parishioner in the pews and other Sundays I am preacher or presider or both. If you have been to church with me recently please do not think I am blogging about that service (unless I explicitly do so). It is likely, however, that something in the service has got me thinking about how we can better prepare for worship, lead liturgy, and preach God's Word. We serve God. Why not aim to do it to the very very best of our ability?
The Liturgy site listed below is presided over by Bosco Peters, Chaplain of Christ's College, Canterbury. The Lectionary and Worship Matters pages are part of the Liturgy site, but listed separately for your convenience. The gift of these resources from Bosco to our church (indeed, to all churches) is gratefully acknowledged.
Digital NZ Prayer Book Project
Courtesy Bosco Peters, go here to access portions of NZPB electronically.
Postings on this blog will mostly be on the following areas: - Worship Leading - Preaching - Being Anglican - The Lectionary - Scripture (especially on the Gospel for the year: St Matthew (2008), St. Luke (2007).
Previously numbered posts can be found in the archive.
Two Year Cycle - the cyle of readings in the NZPB associated with Sunday themes, Sentences and Collects
ACANZP - Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia
NZPB - A New Zealand Prayer Book (or the 1989 'Red Book' of ACANZP
RCL - Revised Common Lectionary (3 year cycle)
Continuous - (in the RCL) mostly continuous reading of the Old Testament with that reading independent of New Testament readings
Related - (in the RCL) Old Testament reading and the psalm are related to the Gospel reading of the day
Words to encourage liturgy and preaching
It helps enormously to have not only the discipline of the daily Offices, the daily Eucharist here, but actually a praying community. Prayers are offered quite early. Every morning, therefore, I have an opportunity to remind myself that what matters is not the Church of England or the Anglican Communion but the act of God in Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. When I am inclined to think that the whole thing is falling apart and that I am making a more than usually bad job of it, the transforming thing has got to be, and in my experience always is, renewing a sense of gratitude. Whether the Church of England survives or not, whether the archbishop of Canterbury survives or not, Christ still died on the cross and rose again, and that’s enough to keep you going for quite a few lifetimes. Archbishop Rowan Williams
O Almighty God,you have built your Churchupon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined togetherin unity of spirit by their teaching,that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you;through Jesus Christ our Lord,who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever.
(Collect for St Simon and St Jude - originally in the 1549 BCP)