All posts by Steve Brown

I am a member at Messiah Lutheran Church in South Windsor, CT - a member of the WELS. I worship, I write, I pray, I play guitar and I sing as I help to lead worship.

Letting Go


Here are a few things we should let go of:

M: Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. – Psalm 37:8 
C:  We let go of anger; Lord, fill and bless us with Your love.
M: You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you. – Psalm 69:5 
C:  We let go of guilt; Lord, fill and bless us with forgiveness.

M: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4 
C:  We let go of selfishness; Lord, fill and bless us with a humble heart.
M:  Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? – Matthew 6:25 
C:  We let go of worries and fear; Lord, fill and bless us with trust and faith.
All:  Bless and keep us steadfast, Lord.

A Prayer based on Isaiah 58:8-14


There is a beautiful prayer in Isaiah 58 but it’s a bit hidden in a bevy of “if-then” statements. Read the prayer below then hunt for it in scripture if interested.

    May your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing quickly appear.
    May your righteousness go before you, and the glory of the Lord be your rear guard.
    May you call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: “Here am I.”
    May your light rise in the darkness, and your night become like the noonday.
    May the Lord guide you always; he will satisfy your needs and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
    And may you find your joy in the Lord.

The Rocks Cry Out


What is the sound of grace?  Did you know that grace even had a sound?  It’s sound is described as sweet in the famous John Newton hymn titled “Amazing Grace.”

 

Worship also has a sound.  It can be as loud as a chorus of shouts or as soft as a whisper.  It can even include “silence” for personal reflection and meditation.  But have you ever sat in a congregation of believers during a time of silent mediation and found yourself praying and listening to the sounds of silence?  Yes, even a worshiper’s silence is audible.

Everything in God’s creation has a sound that is used to bring glory to His name.  From the crickets rubbing their legs together in perfect time, to the tree frogs answering one another’s call, to the rustling of leaves letting us know what the wind is up to, to the rhythmic grind of the ocean waves lulling us to sleep, and to the thumping of our very hearts; we see and hear the sounds of God’s creation all around us and it is just mind boggling how a Creator could have come up with such an array of sounds, let alone colors, shapes, textures, tastes and smells.

Is there anything that God has banished to absolute silence in this world?  How about the rocks?  To my knowledge, these have yet to produce a sound in and of themselves, but Jesus reminds us that the possibility actually exists.  In the gospel of Luke chapter 19, Jesus is quoted as saying:

I tell you if they (us worshipers) keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  – Luke 19:40

And so we are tasked with making a joyous noise to keep those rocks from crying out for yet another day or for another generation to come.

In biblical times, God’s people made joyous noise to their creator using harps, lyres, cymbals and drums – together with their voices; and the rocks remained silent for one more second.

Throughout time we have used acapella praise, praise accompanied by the organ, instrumental praise with brass, woodwind and bells, and lately we have offered praise to the guitar, piano and drum; each one of us participating in this glorious symphony of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more minute.

We have chanted, we have spoken, we have sung our hearts out, we have wept, we have laughed, and we have groaned all as part of the sounds of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more hour.

There is a unified rustling sound as we all rise for the Gospel reading and there is a cacophonous sound at the close of our worship time together as we all place our hymnbooks back in their racks, and the rocks remain silent for one more day.

From the bombastic singing of an Easter celebration service to the quietest moments on Good Friday to the anticipatory sounds of Advent and to the babbled languages of Pentecost as worship is held across the globe in every tribe, nation and tongue – God is continuing to be praised; and the rocks remain silent for one more week.

There is a sound as we receive the Lord’s Supper; a crunch inside our heads as we take and eat and a gulp; and the rocks remain silent for one more year.

The din and clatter of change jingling, bills being ruffled and plates being passed during the offering; and the rocks remain silent for one more decade.

Babies crying, doors opening and closing, ceiling fans whirling, heating and air conditioning buzzing – these too are the sounds of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more century.

Time marches on, seconds turn into minutes, minutes to days, days to weeks, weeks to years, years to decades and decades into centuries.  Worshipers hand down their distinctive sounds from one generation to the next and tomorrow’s generation brings with them a new sound of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more millennium.

And yet, buried among these quiet rocks are a promise.  A promise for all worshipers.  An invitation to worship as we participate in creation’s symphony and yet another day without hearing even one rock cry out.

But I wonder what these rocks would say.

One might tell how a little shepherd boy named David used a small stone to slay a giant to show that we can do anything when God is with us and for us.

Another might tell how the prophet Elijah used stones to build an altar to God.  This altar was used to offer a sacrifice to God to prove that He is the one, true God.

Yet another rock might tell how Solomon had used stones to build a beautiful temple for people to worship God.

Still another rock might remind us that Jesus once told a story about a wise man who built his house upon a rock.  When the storms came, the house on the rock stood firm.

Yes, these stones might have a lot of stories to tell, but we won’t let them.  Just as the followers of Jesus lined the streets to praise their King on that first Palm Sunday, you and I are here to praise our King.  And as long as we praise him, there will be no need for these stones to cry out.

Lessons Learned From Starting A Contemporary Service In A Traditional Church


Worship is so precious for so many reasons, but one thing that impresses me is that we are all so different and we come into worship with differing mindsets and expectations, yet we all leave feeling equally loved and equally saved by the Almighty One.  I cannot think of any other mass gathering where this is the case.  If you go to a ball game, some will leave happy (their team being the winning team) and others will leave angry (fans of the loosing team).  Not true in worship.  Everyone leaves a winner. 
  1. In spite of those who will tell you otherwise, most under 60 will enjoy it, most over 60 will not.
  2. There are members in your church who will fight against it more than your Pastor will.  It’s simply not about personal preferences.
  3. The hardest part for the congregation will be to follow the flow with the repeats, multiple endings, codas, etc.  Add as many instructions as you can in the bulletin to help in this regard.
  4. You will most likely see children swaying to the music and dancing around as much as their parents will allow.
  5. People will understand the lyrics instantly.  Some will see this as being too simple and others will rejoice saying “hallelujah!” 
  6. It is very difficult to put chords to hymns because almost every note in the melody line will be a different chord.  If you haven’t been able to put your finger on it yet, this is the reason why hymns sound foreign to the unchurched who listen to chord based music on the radio.  A seasoned guitarist can find his way through the chordal mud to accompany most hymns.
  7. You should use at least one hymn in a trial contemporary service.
  8. If it’s your first attempt, please don’t use electric guitars or drums.  We’ve been using contemporary service formats for almost 10 years at my church and have still not made this transition.  We are waiting for “contemporary” to be completely and utterly out of world-wide vogue and traditional to be the new thing, then we’ll take the plunge. 😀
  9. Traditionally minded people don’t like change, so if you do attempt a contemporary service, pick a format and don’t deviate from it.
  10. The Pastor should dress the same way he does in the traditional services.
  11. If you don’t use a video screen in the traditional services, don’t use it in the contemporary service either.
  12. Do not put the band in the front.  Put them in the back and out of sight.
  13. Keep the volume down.
  14. Don’t rename your contemporary service to something like “relevant”, “uber”, “celebration”, “passion”, “diverse”, “natural”, “the journey”, “elevation”, “illumination”, “new generation” or any other word that ends in “tion.”
  15. The contemporary service planning needs to be spearheaded by someone who is into contemporary Christian music.
  16. Focus on an ADDITION to the current worship music versus elimination. 
  17. Train members how to sing contemporary music. Consider involving the teen and youth groups if possible. Start off with simple tunes. Start by having the band offer the songs as pre-service selections and during the offering for several months before asking the congregation to sing.  
  18. Ease into the change slowly; perhaps with one service per month, or even one song per month.
  19. It is a very dangerous thought to think that God prefers only one style of music or one accompanying instrument.  The fact is, God is the creator of variety.  If He didn’t like variety, we would have only one type of tree and one type of bird.
  20. Both hymns and contemporary music have God’s fingerprints all over them.  Both can be useful.  Both can be worshipful.  Both can be reverent.  Both can be profoundly biblical.  Both are needed.  Both are important.
  21. A few commandments:
  • Thou shall not mess with “A Mighty Fortress” on Reformation Sunday.
  • Thou shall not mess with “Now Thank We All Our God” on Thanksgiving.
  • Thou shall not mess with “For All the Saints” on Saint’s Triumphant Sunday.
  • Thou shall not mess with “”Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” on Trinity Sunday.
  • Thou shall not choose any song with a lyric that is repeated more than three times unless it’s “”holy, holy, holy” or “hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.”
  • Thou shall not choose songs with sounds in the lyrics like “la, la, la”
  • Thou shall use any hymn that your Pastor calls a “Lutheran Gem” 💎 when requested to do so.  Trust me, this is a strong hint.

…and get ready because we are going to worship the almighty, the uncreated, the timeless, the ageless, the awe-inspiring, life giving Lord that beautifully crafted you and me; that loves us dearly, that continues to love us despite our continual sinning, that has saved us, that has given His life for us, and He deserves to be worshiped in every language, in every nation, in every tongue, in every style, by every generation, and with every musical instrument ever created.  And yes, this can still be done in a heart pounding unity of faith.  In fact, that might just be what’s happening in heaven as we speak.

Ephesians 1 -Responsive 


M: He chose us. 
C: He adopted us. 
M: He predestined us. 
C: He gave us His grace. 
M: He redeemed us. 
C: He forgave our sins. 
M: He lavished God’s grace on us. 
C: He made known His will to us. 
M: He marked us with a seal. 
C: He guaranteed our inheritance.   
M: That, brothers and sisters, is how much favor we have with God.  

– Ephesians 1

Of course!

A Simple Prayer


God, please teach, lead, inspire and help me…

To listen intently, before I speak.

To think things through, before I write.

To earn, give, share, invest and save, before I spend.

To throughly investigate before I invest.

To forgive – always and forever.

To never gossip.

To try again before I quit.

To diligently plan before I retire.

To increase my giving as the year’s roll by and the graces accumulate.

To proofread one more time before I hit send or submit.

To pray for others, continually.

And to be always thankful for all that you have done for me, continue to do for me and will always do for me – blessings, grace, family, friends, wisdom, love, a house, a loving wife, a church, a faithful Pastor and a good life.

Amen.

Who am I? – A Responsive Reading


Who Am I?
If you read through the Bible and try to answer that question, you will find the following (put into the form of a responsive reading):
M: You are all children of God:
C: The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. – Romans 8:16 
M: You are all God’s handiwork:
C: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10 
M: You are all forgiven:
C: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. – Ephesians 1:7 
M: You are all a new creation:
C: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17 
M:  You all have been reconciled:
C:  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:18 
M:  You are all heirs of eternal life:
C:  And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. – 1 John 5:11
M:  You All live by faith:
C:  For we live by faith, not by sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7 
M:  You are all co-heirs with Christ:
C:  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  – Romans 8:17 
M:  You are all blessed in the heavenly realms:
C:  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. – Ephesians 1:3 
M:  You are healed:
C:  “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24 
M: You are all strong:
C:  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13 

“You may not have ever realized this before, but your story is written somewhere in the Bible.” – Cherrie Hill

I’ll Begin


I think my brother nailed it with this one…

I’LL BEGIN

I’ll BEGIN the hour in silence
I’ll begin with God so near
For in this realm of solitude
God is surely here

I’LL BEGIN the day with meditation
I’ll begin the day with prayer
For there is beauty, praise, and wonder
When his presence is truly there

I’LL BEGIN the month with worship
I’ll begin with depth and length
For outside of three dimensions
The joy of the Lord is my strength

I’LL BEGIN the year with singing
I’ll begin the year with glee
And I’ll bask in his presence
In each year of jubilee