Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
April 8, 2001
I realize that the week before us is just another week on the calendar, but I still
approach with awe and wonder the seven days of the year known as Holy Week. Perhaps
that is because I am a pastor. Or perhaps it is because for millions of Christians it is the
most significant time period of the year.
However you explain it, every year there is something very special to me about celebrating Palm Sunday and beginning the countdown of the final days before the Sunday we call Easter. The exhilaration I feel is akin to that which the astronauts feel as they sit on the launching pad waiting for the liftoff into outer space. Frankly, I can hardly wait!
Like many other churches Trinity invites the children to march into morning worship on Palm Sunday waving palm branches. Though they have little understanding of its meaning, the children love it. Later they will learn that they are imitating what a throng of cheering people did as Jesus rode that humble donkey into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his crucifixion. Every year we sing the same hymn, which we sing only on that Sunday, "Hosanna, loud hosanna the little children sang."
Singing that song is a tradition, of course. Traditions can become trite and hollow, I know. But they can also serve as powerful vehicles to help us remember sacred values. Does that mean I prefer "traditional worship"? Yes, for some occasions it is definitely the best choice.
Take Christmastime, for example, the season the church calls Advent. I could never be satisfied merely singing choruses. I have to sing "Joy to the World," "Silent Night," and other traditional Christmas songs. Once again I must admit my strong preference for the traditional music.
Does that mean I don’t like so-called "Contemporary Worship"? Heavens No! I love it! The music we are using in our contemporary service at Trinity (nine o’clock on Sunday mornings) stirs my soul so deeply I can hardly express the joy it brings me. I cannot imagine giving up what Mike Stough and his worship team are doing every Sunday!
So I cast my vote for what is best about both traditional worship and contemporary worship. A church that intends to stay alive needs both. A church that wants to reach young adults will offer contemporary worship. It is not really a question or either/or. I love green beans. But I would tire soon of a diet limited to green beans. Adding carrots, squash, or even one of those dreaded casseroles, will add some variety and excitement to green beans. And the same is true with worship.
But back to Holy Week. At Trinity one of our traditions is that of offering to our community a weekday luncheon/worship service. We will do that again this year from 11:45 to 12:45 Monday through Friday. I have the privilege of preaching about what happened to Jesus as He walked from Sunday toward the cross upon which He was crucified on Friday.
On Friday night many of our churches are sponsoring a community worship service which will be hosted by Emmanuel Episcopal Church at 6:30 Friday night. There the focus will be on the seven last words of Christ. The church will no doubt be packed out with standing room only.
Then comes Sunday! Easter! There will be a sunrise service at Moore’s Stadium and I plan to be there sipping coffee with the other early risers. After that we will offer our regular three morning worship services celebrating the resurrection!
Are our three worship services different? Yes, that is what is so good about it: you have a choice. The 8:30 service offers more formality in the liturgy. The 9:00 o’clock service offers the new and exciting contemporary style of worship. The ll:00 o’clock service is less formal that 8:30 and offers a good blend of old and new music.
I am the fortunate one. I get to enjoy all three services, and I love them all. Especially on Easter after experiencing the awe and wonder of another Holy Week. Forget the Easter clothes. Forget the Easter bunny. It’s time to worship! It’s time to join the angels in shouting, "Go, God, Go!"