A Secret Weapon

I'm taking a Sunday school class called "Parenting With a Purpose." A couple of weeks ago the topic was one I tend to dread: "family worship." It is precisely in the midst of our busy, hectic lives that a family needs to self-consciously hit the "pause" button and acknowledge that it is not all hustle-bustle: there is a Lord. God is involved in our affairs, and moving through life only happening to notice on Sunday morning is a sure-fire recipe for cold hearts and indifference.

So why do I dread the topic? Because I'm really, really bad at this thing called "family worship." And that's probably a reflection on just how cold and indifferent my own heart is. Talking about it is like holding up a mirror to my face and staring at the ugly truth reflected back at me.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago our Associate Pastor was teaching on this, and he did a marvelous job encouraging me instead of discouraging me. He gave all sorts of practical advice that made it seem possible. Sometimes it seems like that is more than half the battle. One practical thing he suggested is to not throw away the church bulletin after the service on Sunday. It contains a liturgy filled with content: content that can be revisited and re-used throughout the week.

Last night my girls and I were sitting at the dinner table talking about church yesterday morning. I was commenting how I liked all the songs we sang. Then my girls chimed in telling me their favorite parts, which led to me trying to remember a particular lyric, which spontaneously led to Number 1 running and grabbing the bulletin, which led to me grabbing my guitar (I am the church guitarist, after all), and all of us joining in as we sang every song again.

And then we remarked on amazing words, like this one from Psalm 139: "If I say the darkness hides me and the light becomes the night / to you the night will shine as brightly as the day." I asked them: if that is true, do you think you can hide from God? I discovered that my kids have the general confession of sin memorized (without ever trying). And the Lord's Prayer. And the Apostles' Creed. Except yesterday we recited the Nicene Creed, so I was asked about the differences. I told them the crucial distinction between homoousios ("of one substance") and homoiousios ("of like substance") and the deity of Jesus. There is God and there is creation, and Jesus belongs on the God side!

None of it was "planned." My kids were so enthusiastic.

Why, again, do we not do this all the time? Because I'm pathetic and lazy, that's why.

But I did discover first-hand that a church bulletin is sort of a secret weapon, if you learn to use it. As I write this the day after, my kids are doing their chores, singing "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise."

That's actually just a long prologue. This all started because I wanted to recall and share with you the brilliant words to our closing song, written by Thomas Troeger and set to music by my collaborator, Trudy. I found them again in the bulletin. Because, well, I didn't throw it away. 

View the present through the promise; Christ will come again.

Trust despite the deep'ning darkness; Christ will come again.

Lift the world above its grieving through your watching and believing, in the hope past hope's conceiving; Christ will come again.

Probe the present with the promise; Christ will come again.

Let your daily actions witness; Christ will come again.

Let your loving and your giving and our justice and forgiving be a sign to all the living; Christ will come again.

Match the present to the promise; Christ will come again.

Make this hope your guiding premise; Christ will come again.

Pattern all your calculating and the world you are creating to the advent you are waiting; Christ will come again.

Brian Mattson