I hope you saw my little meditation about snow, enjoying the beauty of creation, and the wonderful gift book (with excellent Biblical essays within) edited by Norman Wirzba, The GIft of Creation: Images from Scripture and Earth. Scroll back a day if you missed it. I enjoyed telling folks about it as it really is beautiful. (And, yep, I was right—the snow was deep and if one took the time to look, it was breathtaking. And, yep, my bad back (and Beth’s bad knees) took a beating as we shoveled Saturday and Sunday.)
And so, many churches were closed. Our nearest city banned cars the day before, making it hard for staff to get in to shovel at the church or even clear the parking lots, such as they were. Our church canceled Sunday school and although I was stoked to show another week of our Ken Bailey DVD about the Christmas texts, it was, frankly, good not to have to get up early. A sheepish hoo-ray.
Which made me think of pastors, their loyalty to get up and show up, week after week after week, usually preaching week in and week out, officiating at worship, up front, like it or not. It isn’t easy work, and while there may be some jobs that are more demanding, I am positive that most folks really don’t understand the stress that their clergy friends endure. And this time of year isn’t easy.
Why not give a thank you gift to your pastor here at year’s end? It could be a Christmas gift, an end-of-the-year thank you or a true Christmas gift, given on Epiphany (the 12th Day.)
I’m sure BookNotes readers have their lists of good books they’d love to share, and I’d encourage you to do it. We’d be pleased if you ordered from us, of course. Call or email me if you want more custom-made recommendations for your favorite preacher. (Just tell us a bit about him or her, of course, so we can suggest things that would work well for such an honoring occasion.)
Or, consider giving this, our vote for one of the very best books for worship leaders to come out this year: Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry by Debra Rienstra and Ron Rienstra (Baker Academic; $19.99; 285 pages.) We’re sure you’d be pleased giving it and they’d be pleased getting it.
It is an eloquent and lovely book, very nicely written. (Debra is also an English prof and has written an excellent book on spirituality and a memoir on being pregnant which we loved.) Ron teaches preaching and worship at Western Theological Seminary. It seems that the book has been inspired somewhat (and given a practical tone despite its erudition) from being involved as lay folk for years in a parish that is renown for its creative, interesting, Biblically faithful, thoughtful, artful, contemporary/classic Reformed-ish liturgical experiences. (Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids, if you want to know; I only say this because we have visited there with dear friends and know of the congregations intentions in this area.)
The authors have also been involved in the fabulous workshops at the Calvin Center for Christian Worship where they have listened and learned and thought long and hard about worship and the sorts of words we need for engaging, reverent, spiritually-mature worship. It is really insightful and quite interesting how they honor various sort of human experiences we need from worship, and various tones and styles that are appropriate in different settings. And, of course, different cadences, rhetoric, verve and mood to accomplish the appropriate feel for each context. It is wise like this or this stuff, and theologically informed. A truly great book!
Marva Dawn says it is “an extraordinarily rich treasure chest of new insights, the best of research, and time-tested wisdom” which offers “phenomenal contributions.” Sally Morgenthaler calls is “classic.” Tom Long says that it moves us towards language that is “lively, crisp, inviting, profound, and full of wonder.” I cannot think of a pastor or worship director or church leader of any denomination who wouldn’t appreciate this balanced and thoughtful guide.