Worship Services

Symposium on Worship: January 29 – 31, 2015

Grand Rapids, MI, USA

Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians

New Covenant Reconciliation

The Apostle Paul’s correspondence with the church at Corinth occupied a great deal of Paul’s time and energy. The two letters (and nearly thirty chapters) to the Corinthians that we have in the New Testament are just a part of a larger correspondence. Paul had to write as much as he did because, not unlike congregations today, the church at Corinth had many struggles, many concerns, and not a few questions as to what it means to live into a baptized identity in Christ. When Paul addressed his beloved Corinthians in what we call 2 Corinthians, he took care to lay out what it means to be people of a New Covenant in Christ and that a major part of that New Covenant is the need to be reconciled to one another across all of our differences and all of our “jars of clay” frailties. Only through reconciliation in and through Christ can we become God’s new people, ambassadors of God’s grace to a hurting world as we spread the sweet aroma of love and unity to and among all people.

All worship services and vespers are free and open to the public. See the program book for details.

Texts, service themes, and preachers for the five main worship services are 

2 Corinthians 1:1-11: The Comfort of God, Tim Blackmon 
Thursday, 8:30 am & 7 pm, College Chapel

2 Corinthians 2:12-3:6: The New Covenant, Pablo Jimenez
Thursday, 8:30 am & 7 pm, Covenant Fine Arts Center auditorium

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2: The Ministry of Reconciliation, M. Craig Barnes
Friday & Saturday, 8:30 am, College Chapel

2 Corinthians 4:1-12: God’s All-Surpassing Power, Meg Jenista
Friday & Saturday, 8:30 am, Covenant Fine Arts Center auditorium

2 Corinthians 9:6-15: God’s Generosity, closing communion service, Denise Kingdom Grier 
Saturday, 4 pm, Covenant Fine Arts Center auditorium


Journeying to the Light: A Pilgrimage of Prayer and Praise
On Friday night, the 7 pm worship service focuses on Psalms 15-24. 
Covenant Fine Arts Center auditorium

Scholars and pastors have long known that the Book of Psalms is not a random, haphazard collection of Israelite poetry. Rather, the book was thoughtfully edited and ordered. Psalm 1 lays out the most basic rudiments of the worldview to be reflected throughout the Psalter. Psalm 1 teaches that in this world there are two kinds of people: the righteous who root themselves deeply in God and so find stability and fruitfulness and the wicked who reject God and so lead lives that are tossed about by the wind, lacking substance or stability.

After Psalm 1 we find pious poetry that, taken together, manages to encompass every conceivable season of life. “Our prayer life is our autobiography” C.S. Lewis once observed. As the prayer book for Jews and Christians along the ages, the Hebrew Psalter likewise includes psalms for all of life’s ups and downs, good times and bad times. And precisely because all of life can be brought to speech before the holy and compassionate God of Israel, the Psalter concludes on the rousing notes of praise found in the final psalms, capping it all off with Psalm 150’s riot of worship in which everything in creation is mustered to give God his due praise. A big part of the praise due to God as the Psalter concludes stems from the fact that all of life got included in the 149 poems preceding 150’s capper. Our God is a great God because nothing is excluded from his love and care.

The Book of Psalms has an overarching order and purpose. Thus it should be unsurprising to learn that within the Psalter there are likewise patterns among the poems that are likely the result of the editor’s intentionality so as to teach God’s people key truths about the nature of God, creation, and their relationship. Some have detected such a pattern in Psalms 15-24.

If we take the well-known Psalm 19 as the focal point of this clustering of poems, then we can see that flanking that 19th psalm are psalms with corresponding themes (this is a chiastic structure, to invoke the exegetical technical term, and to learn more about the scholarship behind all this, see the “For Further Reading” items at the end of this article). We begin with an initial approach to God (the key theme in Psalms 15 and 24) that then leads to ardent statements of trust in God (Psalms 16 and 23). But those who live before God and trust him know that trials come, too, and so we find a reflection of life’s crisis moments when we wonder if our trust was misplaced after all (Psalms 17 and 22) followed by a return to confidence in God’s providence and salvation (Psalms 18 and 20-21). At the climax of it all is the 19th psalm where believers who have been through a lot in life celebrate the gifts of Creation and Law, finally resting in God’s presence with a prayer that all of life will be acceptable in the sight of the “Rock and Redeemer” of all.

Cognizant of what this pattern among these ten psalms has to teach us, what follows is a series of brief reflections. These thoughts could become the rudiments from which sermons on these psalms could be built or occasions for a devotional/worshipful approach to the God whose goodness and mercy in all seasons of life are the substance of these prayers.