Jesus is risen! He has conquered sin and death, and He reigns forevermore. This weekend holds so much meaning for the church, and it was truly a joy to celebrate Christ's resurrection together. This weekend, we had two services on Good Friday, and then six Easter services through Saturday and Sunday (two on Saturday and four on Sunday). It was a marathon, but it was completely worth it. I am so proud of our team for stepping up and serving with excellence in all of the services, giving their best for our Savior and His church. Here's our set from Good Friday:
"Jesus Messiah" (G) [Chris Tomlin, Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, and Ed Cash] "Because of Your Love" (G) [Phil Wickham] "Lamb of God" (G) [Bill Horn] Message - "The Heroic Rescue of Humanity: Jesus the Savior" [Joe Hishmeh] Response - "The Wonderful Cross" [Isaac Watts, Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Lowell Mason, J.D. Watts] Communion Intro "Nothing But The Blood" [Matt Redman] "You Saw Me" [Mia Fieldes, Ben Fielding, and Reuben Morgan] Taking of the elements Dismissal
And here's how we celebrated the resurrection in our Easter services: Pre-service - "God is Alive" (A) [Steve Fee and Eddie Kirkland] Call to worship - Mark 16:4-6 "Happy Day" (Bb) [Tim Hughes and Ben Cantelon] Welcome/ Offering/ Announcements/ Greeting time "You Alone Can Rescue" (Bb) [Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin] "Stronger" (Bb) [Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan] Message - "The Heroic Rescue of Humanity: Jesus the Restorer" [Joe Hishmeh] Response - "Jesus Paid It All" [John Thomas Grape, Elvina M. Hall, and Alex Nifong] Dismissal - Joe Hishmeh
I am thrilled with how this weekend's services went. Our Good Friday services were sweet times of reflection on the cross and on Jesus sacrifice for us. We used a distinct instrumentation for the service, with predominantly acoustic instruments. We had two standard acoustics, a high-strung acoustic (Nashville tuning), viola, fretless bass, and a percussion set up for our drummer with djembe and cajon and a few toys. It was very organic in the way that we put the songs together and in the way we presented it. I thought it came across the way we wanted, and people were pointed to the cross. We had the large, wooden cross lit in all red, and the band was all in black in the background on the stage, and that helped to communicate the desired focus for the evening. In all, it was a strong and sincere evening. Good Friday is one of my favorite occasions for worship, as we praise our Savior for His great sacrifice on our behalf--in our place, for our sins.
One Easter, we pulled out the stops, and pushed things forward a bit with some new elements. We opened the pre-service time with "God is Alive," and we used a brand-new element in our context: our drummer, Jordan, is a master beat producer, and he brought out his Akai MPC 4000 to create a loop to play underneath the whole song, which would be brought into focus during the intro and the breaks. I was giddy when he put it all together and we started to play together as a band. It was such a fresh addition to what we have been doing, and it is and element that I have wanted to incorporate (in any worship setting) for years. The click track was step one to getting to this point, and we got here a lot quicker than I anticipated. It was pretty special to finally experience it in that way. I thought it added even more energy to an already exciting song. It was a perfect moment for me, as we sang out "Everyone/ Glorify the risen Son/ The Holy One has overcome/ Jesus is alive/ The enemy/ Is broken underneath His feet/ Death is crushed in victory/ Jesus is alive/ Jesus is alive." It's a beautiful thing!
We followed the call to worship with "Happy Day," which felt like a great fit for the weekend. This song was a little more familiar to our congregation, so they sang out and participated more than on "God is Alive" (which is part of why we did "God is Alive" in the pre-service slot). I love the truth in this song, and I think it is one of Tim Hughes' best songs. He captures the gospel message clearly and simply. The verses say it well: "The greatest day in history/ Death is beaten, You have rescued me/ Sing out, Jesus is alive/ The empty cross, the empty grave/ Life eternal, You have won the day/ Shout it out, Jesus is alive/ He's alive!"
After the welcome time, we moved to "You Alone Can Rescue" and "Stronger," which are two songs that focus on God's unique ability to save us and rescue us from sin and death, and to give us eternal life. I love the choruses of each of the songs. "You Alone Can Rescue" sings, "You alone can rescue/ You alone can save/ You alone can lift us from the grave/ You came down to find us/ Led us out of death/ To You alone belong the highest praise." In particular, my favorite line is the one that describes the divine condescension, His coming down to find us and leading us out of death. I am moved as I sing those words. This song really took hold with me as Matt Redman led at a week-long event in Daytona Beach last summer, and the weight of these words really landed. It remains a powerful expression of worship for me. The chorus of "Stronger" sings, "You are stronger/ You are stronger/ Sin is broken/ You have saved me/ It is written/ Christ is risen/ Jesus, You are Lord of all." This echoes Scripture in a few places, one of which is Philippians 2, where Paul writes that "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:8-11 NASB). Because of Jesus' humble and obedient sacrifice to conquer sin and death, He now has the name which is above every name. He is Lord of all, and worthy of being worshiped as such.
We finished the service by responding with "Jesus Paid It All," but we did it a little differently than we had previously. We treated the original hymn in a very standard way. We played it in a way that would be very familiar for guests and regular attenders alike, in a gentle and slowly building manner. Then, we finished with an instrumental chorus, with the piano playing the melody. When we landed on the tonic chord (Bb), we let it ring out, and then quietly sang Alex Nifong's added chorus: "O praise the One/ Who paid my debt/ And raised this life/ Up from the dead." We went from gentle to full-bore in a matter of moments, and it was a powerful moment as we declared praise and truth about our risen King, who has also given us life when we were dead in our sins and transgressions (Eph. 2). It was a great fit with Joe's message this weekend, which talked about two ways to live - either submitted to Jesus as the true King by faith and trust in His finished work on the cross to make things right; or attempting to reign over our own lives and to make things right on our own, unsuccessfully.
Our Easter weekend has been a true highlight of my time with Fellowship thus far. I can't wait for us to continue to develop things and build from here. We have an amazing Worship and Arts team here, and I love their servant hearts. God is doing great things among us. He is alive and moving in His church!
I hope you had a great weekend of worship wherever you were. Be sure to check out The Worship Community to see what other leaders and team members experienced in their worship gatherings this weekend.
In the name of the risen Son!