A few years ago I posted a litany for Mother’s Day here as an offering for those who found that day hard. I didn’t post a prayer for Father’s Day. For me this has always been a good day. Since I’ve been a pastor, I have stepped into the pain of others who have profound difficulty with their dads. I offer this prayer up for anyone who finds today hard and struggles to connect with the God Jesus called Abba.
Holy One reigning in heaven and on the earth, Your will be done.
Have mercy on us.
Some of us do not know dads. We know abandonment, fear and insecurity. We feel our fathers’ absence in our lives. We can’t imagine what their presence might mean.
Lord have mercy on us.
Some of us are wounded, hurt by a man who should have protected us and provided for us. We’ve been abused and broken and so have steeled our hearts against pain and unlove. We’ve grown numb to tenderness. Our hearts rage.
Lord have mercy on us.
Some of us long for approval, to hear our dad say I love you. We’ve struggled to earn his love and his respect.
Lord have mercy on us.
Others of us are the fathers who failed: failed to love, to nurture, to protect, and to care for our kids. We carry wounds, and we have wounded.
Have mercy on us.
Prodigal Father be Our Father.
Hold us safe and welcome us back when we wander.
Show us Your strength and mercy,
Your just love and tender care.
Heavenly Father father us and re-make us like You:
I know that I’m not alone in loving the Psalms. Many of us have found comfort, strength and words for prayer. My own love for the Psalms was whetted years ago when I read Eugene Peterson’s devotional works (especially The Long Obedience in the Same Direction and Answering God). Since that time I’ve read many good many more books on the Psalms, some devotional, some academic. I have a short list of books I really like on the Psalms, and am happy to add a new book to my list!
So I was excited when I saw Gordon Wenham’s The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms.Wenham is one of my favorite commentators and is an adjunct professor at Trinity College, Bristol. I have appreciated his writings but have never read his treatment of the Psalms. In the Psalter Reclaimed, Wenham culls together his lectures on the Psalms delivered between 1997 and 2010. Despite the occasional nature of these essays, there is a remarkable cohesion to the book as a whole. Wenham examines the liturgical use of Psalms and their personal devotional use in prayer. He also discusses the Messianic nature of the Royal Psalms (and in what sense they are Messianic), the ethics of the psalms, the value of praying the imprecatory Psalms, the vision of God’s steadfast love as expressed in Psalm 103, and the Psalm’s vision of the nations (enemies of God who at last lift their voice in praise).
This may be one of the greatest introductory books on the Psalms for the sheer breadth of what Wenham is able to cover in a short book. He comes from a strong Reformed Anglican tradition and therefore has a lot to say about the liturgical use of Psalms to enrich our corporate worship and to provide moral instruction. He discusses the various genres of Psalms in his section on ‘praying the Psalms’ and demonstrates how the various types (i.e. Pslams of Lament, praises, Royal Psalms, etc.) speak to the various seasons of the Christian life. This emphasis on the liturgical and personal use of the Psalms makes this a great introductory book for anyone seeking to enter deeper into the Spirituality of the Psalms
But Wenham is not simply writing a lay introduction. These essays also discuss how current scholarship enriches our understanding of the text. And so he shows how speech-act theory helps describe the performative nature of the Psalms, Canonical l criticism reveals the meaning behind the Psalm superscriptions and the internal organization of the book, he proposes a theological hermeneutic which takes the Royal Psalms past their historical-literary context into the realm of New Testament fulfillment, and he reviews historic and current discussions of the imprecatory Psalms and whether they may be appropriately prayed by Christians. Wenham’s skill as an exegete and a scholar are evident throughout.
I especially liked his treatment on the ethical import of the Psalms because Wenham’s Story as Torah was the book that alerted me to the way ethics were embedded in Hebrew Narrative. In abbreviated form he gives a compelling case for the ethical use of Psalms to provide moral instruction and encourages modern readers to mine the Psalms for what it tells us about Biblical Ethics.
Because this book is an edited collection of earlier lectures there is some overlap in the chapters which you wouldn’t expect in a full length monograph. Wenham also doesn’t say everything that needs to be said on the Psalms (though he points us to some great resources). But this book is an introductory text and I think that anyone’s understanding of the Psalms will be enriched by reading this. I recommend this book to scholar, student, clergy and lay-person alike. I give it five stars: ★★★★★
Thank you to Crossway books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.
I love hearing the Bible read aloud in my worship service. It is a powerful experience. Unfortunately the scripture reading can be the low point in many services. In many contexts when the scripture reader stands up to read, eyes glaze over all over the congregation. The living and active Word obscured by a bad reading.
Jeffrey Arthurs wroteDevote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture to increase the quantity and quality of scripture reading in church services (11). As professor of Preaching and Communcation and the Chair of Practical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Arthurs is invested in helping ministers communicate the gospel. Yet this is not a book written exclusively for clergy. Anyone who is involved in the ministry of public reading will benefit from this book.
Borrowing the phrase ‘Eat this book’ from Eugene Peterson (who stole it from Ezekiel), Arthurs whets the appetite and discusses how public readers can set the stage for a congregational feast on the Word. Seven chapters explore the eating/feasting metaphor. The first three chapters lay the groundwork while the last four chapters explore the dynamics of effective public reading.
In chapter one, he ‘builds the appetite’ by making the biblical and theological case for reading the Bible in public. In chapter two, Arthurs ‘sets the table’ by discussing what a reader of scripture does and does not do and the necessity of spiritual, emotional and mental preparation. Chapter three talks about ‘inviting the guests,’ that is, creating a culture which values the public reading of scripture.
Chapters four and five talk about ‘serving the meal’ and the dynamics of effective communication. Chapter four focuses on nonverbal communication (i.e. distracting mannerisms, gestures and body language, posture, facial expressions). Chapter five examines the dynamics of verbal communication (projection, phrasing, pauses, pace, pitch and punch). In the final two chapters, Arthurs discusses creative methods by ‘adding some spice.’ Chapter six gives suggestions for solo readers and churches seeking to develop their public reading ministry. Chapter seven discusses using a team of readers.
The book closes with sample scripts which demonstrate the dynamics of public reading, and group readings. Additionally, the book comes with an accompanying DVD where Arthurs demonstrates visually what the book says about verbal and non-verbal communication and some examples.
Arthurs field makes him attuned to the dynamics of communication and he emphasizes that in the text and DVD. He recommends paying attention to bad habits and communicating with body language, diction and a good delivery. I think a lot of the suggestions he makes are really helpful and I like the book enough to give it 5 stars; however some of the most powerful readings of scripture I’ve heard were technically flawed. When someone opens up their Bible and reads a passage that is meaningful to them something special happens. They’ve taken the time to internalize it and the Word is not merely in their mouth but in their heart. This is real power. Arthurs alludes to this in chapter two when he talks about the reader preparing themselves spiritually but I would lay a stronger emphasis on living with the Word we speak.
But I didn’t write this book and I find it helpful, sound and informative. I would recommend this book to anyone entering the ministry of public reading or for those who would like to hone their skills at it. I am passionate about public Bible reading and Arthurs is a good guide as to how to do it well. ★★★★★
As a frazzled father of three, I know how hard church can be. While life at home is often pandemonium in church I feel like I have to reign those kids in. At the very least keep them from kicking the pew in front of them. Author Robbie Castleman challenges us parents to enlarge our vision of what our kids can experience in church. Parenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children into the Joy of Worship, now in its third edition, brings together Castleman’s skill as a theologian, and her experience raising her sons in church. This is a thoughtful book which challenges readers to invest in teaching kids to worship God (not just behave themselves) and leading them to a fresh encounter with God. Along the way Castleman shares insights, personal anecdotes and stories of how other parents have been able to ‘parent in the pew.’
Castleman’s book begins with a plea for parents to ‘pay attention’ to their children, how they learn and how they can participate in worship. She argues that participation in worship is formative for children (and the rest of us). But she knows the challenge. In one witty chapter, she discusses ‘Worship BC and AD,’ that is, ‘before children’ and ‘after diapers.’ When we seek to enter into God’s presence our children may be a distraction. If we are not careful we will end up teaching our kids to be ‘quiet in church’ without really teaching them the meaning of worship and failing to participate in worship ourselves. Worship is about giving God his due glory, not about our own experience. God is not the least bit bothered by our kids participating (just ask Jesus).
From there Castleman explores the elements of worship and how to prepare your kids to participate. For those who worship on Sunday morning, this preparation often begins the night before (making sure kids get enough rest, are awake and ready for church, the tone you set for the day, etc.). Castleman provides various strategies for maximizing attentiveness to the sermon, getting kids to sing, pray and participate in the liturgy.
This edition updates the examples for a new generation (the original edition was published twenty years ago). Earlier editions talked about Castleman’s experience of training her own sons in worship. Those stories are still here, but now her sons are grown and are parenting their own children’ in the pew.’ Additionally there are examples from other parents she’s encountered at ‘parenting in the pew’ seminars and workshops.
What Castleman says here is really valuable. As Christians we were made to worship God and I believe our participation in corporate worship is formational. The vision she has for including kids in worship, preparing them for Sundays and cultivating attentiveness to the Word is commendable and I think right on target. She also communicates her vision of intergenerational ministry with wit and grace. I appreciate that while she has some clear directives (don’t bring a coloring book to distract your kids but seek instead to get them to participate) she also honors the differences in children’s personalities. If worship is about paying attention to God, teaching worship to our kids begins with paying attention to them.
Putting this book into practice may be challenging for parents if their church doesn’t have a vision for intergenerational ministry and the participation of kids in worship. My family and I are lucky enough to be a part of a church community which really values getting the kids involved in the worship service. Other churches in town do not have the same value. For parents seeking to carry out Castleman’s suggestions, they may find that they are kicking against the goads. There is enough in this book which challenges leaders to make the worship a more hospitable place for children but Castleman addresses the leadership challenge more directly in Story Shaped Worship(forthcoming IVP May 2013). Another challenge for parents is that some of Castleman’s suggestions work better for different developmental stages. Still parents of toddlers to teens can all benefit from this book.
I think this is a great book and would recommend it to both parents and ministry leaders. There are a lot of kids who grow up ‘quiet’ in church who later quietly leave out the backdoor. I think getting parents to invest in teaching their kids to worship and leading them to an encounter with God is necessary if we want our children to grow up in the faith. Pastoral leaders also need to properly care for children and families in their midst and encourage their spiritual growth. Castleman’s focus on worship is particularly refreshing. I give this book ★★★★.
Thank you to InterVarsity Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.
Why do we Worship? What is Liturgy? What are the main periods of liturgical history? What characterizes liturgy in each of these periods? What does it mean to sanctify time? How is liturgical space arranged? How is the body used in worship? How are children formed in Christian worship?
These are just some of the questions which Frank Senn answers in Introduction to Christian Liturgy. In this book he describes, catalogues and commends a thoughtful appropriation of liturgical practices in worship. This is a solid introduction to liturgy and covers topics like: what liturgy is, history and culture (and how liturgy inculturates), the order of service, the liturgy of hours, the church calender and the history and meaning of various seasons, life passages, liturgical arts, and how congregants participate in worship. While Senn himself is a Lutheran pastor and liturgist, his approach is ecumenical. He is able to synthesize the insights of liturgists and scholars from various traditions (i.e. Schmemann, Wainwright, Lathrop, White, Bradshaw, etc.) and he surveys liturgical traditions from the Orthodox to the Vineyard movement.
This is a very good book for anyone interested in liturgy. In each of the chapters (which explore the topics listed above), Senn answers a series of questions. This makes this book a quick reference for each of the various elements. Senn calls his book a ‘pastoral liturgical handbook’ and envisions that this book will be most useful to pastoral leaders by making them knowledgeable of the liturgical tradition and enabling them to answer specific questions lay people may have (1-2). His contention is that pastors who are knowledgeable of the history and trends can help shape the liturgy for a particular context in a way that is congregationally and culturally sensitive. He does not articulate a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to Christian liturgy, but commends to you the rich resources of the Christian tradition.
Three groups will find this book helpful. As Senn envisions, this book will be helpful to pastoral leaders and other worship leaders as a resource on liturgy. It will help pastors answer questions about the liturgy and help them lead congregants into the significance of various rituals and ceremonies. Secondly, this book will be well used in an academic context. The comprehensive way in which Senn addresses the various pieces of Christian liturgy makes it an ideal text for courses on liturgy and worship. I would have loved a text like this in seminary which described the various elements of worship in various traditions. Third, the educated lay person will also find this book helpful. The question-and-answer organization to this book, makes it a quick and accessible resource. This is the sort of reference book which is great addition to a personal or church library.
My own ecclesiastical tradition is not directly named in this text. The church I attend is not particularly ‘high church.’ We have a worship team and don’t often follow the Lectionary but we do have some liturgical features we hold dear. We celebrate weekly communion, observe the Christian seasons and our pastor will ‘robe up’ to perform baptisms and dedications (significant life events). This liturgical ‘hodge podge’ is due to the fact that my denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church retains some of the traditional elements from their Swedish Lutheran roots, but their churches also bear the influence of revivalism. Senn names and describes both of these influences and there is a lot here that would be applicable to my context. Likewise, Christians from a wide swath of Christian traditions will also find various entry points into this subject matter.
I am happy to recommend this book to students, pastors, worship leaders and any one interested in liturgical practice. This is an ‘introduction’ so does not say all that needs to be said about liturgy, but Senn points readers to other resources at the end of each chapter, so that they may deepen their liturgical understanding. Senn does what any good guide does and names the flora and fauna of the terrain he traverses and points the way for those who wish to explore further. I give this book five star: ★★★★★
Thank you to Fortress Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.