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Do Not Fear the Valley - Psalm 23, Luke 8, John 20

A service plan for Lent of quiet reflection on the care of Jesus our Good Shepherd. Such quiet and deep reflection is intended to stir deep devotion. Part of a Lenten series focused on "Walking with God through Psalm 23."

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Two matters shape the theme of this service. First, the Scripture lesson and sermon focus on the promise of God to walk with his sheep through the valley and the illustration of such care within the ministry of Jesus Christ. Second, this worship service is patterned after the style of worship developed and practiced in the Taizé community in France. Taizé worship is quiet and reflective in character.

So the theme of this service should be that of quiet reflection on the care of Jesus our Good Shepherd. Such quiet and deep reflection is intended to stir deep devotion.

About Taizé and Taizé Worship

Taizé is a small community in the hills of Burgundy in eastern France. This worshiping community began in the 1940's under the leadership of Brother Roger as an ecumenical community with a very Reformed flavor. Each summer thousands of worshipers, most of them young, come from all around the world to experience the reflective nature of the community. Worship is the nourishing center of Taizé's life. Brother Roger has written, "Nothing is more conducive to a communion with the living God than a meditative common prayer with, at its high point, singing that never ends and that continues in the silence of one's heart when one is alone again."

The style of Taizé worship is different from what many congregations usually experience. It is reflective and meditative in spirit. Music is its mainstay. The service we are proposing here has been adapted and modified some, yet still is an accurate expression of Taizé worship. Such worship is intended to have a slow and leisurely pace. Lighting is subdued. The music of Taizé, which is now known and published throughout the world, tends to be quiet, repetitive, reflective, and accompanied with a variety of instruments. Times of silence are included in the worship for periods of reflection and meditation.

It can be difficult for worshipers from the western world to enter into this kind of worship. We are accustomed to noise, activity, talking, and a rather fast pace. To enter into this worship requires us to leave our hurry behind, slow down, calm our spirits, be silent, and enjoy a leisurely time with God.


Prelude: "My Jesus, I Love Thee," Sanders [handbells], Wilson [piano], or Goode [organ]
"The Lord's My Shepherd," Page [handbells], Sanborn [piano], or Wood [organ]
"How Can I Keep From Singing," McFadden [handbells]

Introit: "How Can I Keep From Singing," Honoré

The Welcome and the Call to Worship

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Magnify the Lord" PsH 622, RN 131, SFL 13

(Sung multiple times by the choir and the congregation at the cue of the leader.)

The Corporate Reading of Psalm 23
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Song: "Alleluia" PsH 639
(Sung multiple times by the choir and the congregation at the cue of the leader.)




Silence for Personal Reflection

Song: "My Shepherd Is the Lord" PsH 162
(The congregation will join the choir on the refrain at the cue of the leader.)


The Reading of Scripture: Luke 8:22-25
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.



Silence for Personal Reflection

Song: "Jesus, Remember Me" PsH 217
(Sung multiple times by the choir and congregation at the cue of the leader.)


The Reading of Scripture: John 20:19-29
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.



Silence for Personal Reflection

Song: "Shepherd Me, O God" SNC 181
(The congregation will join the choir multiple times at the cue of the leader.)

The Offertory: "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need," Wilberg

The Offertory Prayer


*Song: "Shepherd of My Heart," O'Brien
(Sung multiple times by the choir and congregation at the cue of the leader.)

*The Benediction and Congregational Amen!

*Choral Postlude: "The King of Love My Shepherd Is," Beck

(Please exit the sanctuary in reflective silence, letting the message of Psalm 23 soak into your heart as your enter a new week. Please use the center aisle only.)

*you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

View sermon notes for this sermon

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. The music of Taizé has a free-flowing character which is developed through repetitions of simple refrains. Many Taizé choruses are now printed in denominational hymnals. If you do not have access to many, you can find them in Songs and Prayers from Taizé published by Geoffrey, Chapman, and Mowbray (ISBN 0-264-67256-9) and distributed by GIA Publications. In our planning for this service, we have taken into consideration the need for the worshiper to know some of the songs well enough that they don't always feel like they are doing something new. Because of that, we have included a couple of responses that are in the Psalter Hymnal and are consistent with the Taizé style.
  2. We suggest that all musical participants (with the exception of the music leader) be seated unobtrusively near the front of the sanctuary. The goal of the musicians is to aurally assist the congregation in their worship, not to visually model their song. We desire to keep the front of the sanctuary free of any possible distraction to the meditative nature of this service.
  3. Uncertainty can kill congregational singing! The musical leader needs to be visible to give a welcoming hand gesture to invite the entire congregation or the congregation divided by location in the sanctuary [i.e. east, west, (or north, south), center] into the singing. The choir, ensemble, or team that serves as prompters can sing the stanzas or pre-planned repetitions of the refrains.
  4. High school and adult instrumentalists can easily play the music of Taizé. Transposed parts for B-flat instruments can be found in Music from Taizé, Vol. 1 (1981), G-2433 for vocal, G-2433A for instrumental; Vol. II (1984), G-2778 for vocal, G-2778A for instrumental; also in Taizé: Songs for Prayer (1998, G-4956 for vocal, G-4956A for instrumental. For other hymns incorporated into the service, it might be wise to transpose the parts for the younger instrumentalists. You can incorporate the instruments only on the melody line, or have them play the different voice parts, or have them play some of both alternatives.
  5. Additional information on the Taizé community and planning a service can be found in Reformed Worship Vols. 8, 46, 58.
  6. The suggested prelude music for this service is a set of three reflective hymn tunes arranged for handbell choir, piano, or organ. You may wish to have the entire prelude played by only one of the three types of instruments, or you may wish to include only one hymn tune played by the three different instrumental suggestions. You may find them in the following sources:
    - "My Jesus, I Love Thee," settings on Gordon found in:
    "My Jesus I Love Thee" by Patricia A. Sanders for 3-4 octaves handbells with C instrument, published by Beckenhorst HB96 [1990] (M).
    "This Is the Day" by John Wilson, a piano collection published by Hope 243 [1992] (E).
    "Seven Communion Meditations" by Jack Goode, an organ collection published by Flammer HF-5084 [1976] (E)
    - "The Lord's My Shepherd", settings on Brother James' Air found in:
    "Brother James' Air" by Anna Laura Page for 3-5 octaves handbells, published by Alfred 19650 [2001] (M).
    "Piano Music for the Care of the Soul" by Jan Sanborn, a piano collection published by Ron Harris RHP0403 [1997] (M-D).
    "Wood Works" by Dale Wood, a organ collection published by SMP KK357 [1986] (E-M).
    - "How Can I Keep From Singing" by Jane McFadden for 3-5 octaves handbells, published by Augsburg Fortress 11-10984 [1999] (M).
  7. The introit "How Can I Keep From Singing" by Jeffrey Honoré is arranged for SATB voicing and is published by Choristers Guild CGA-6 [1991] (E-M).
  1. Taizé music is flexible enough to accommodate few instruments or many. It is wonderful if you have a bassoon or cello to play a bass line, a viola for a tenor line, and violins, flutes, clarinet, and muted trumpet for soprano and alto lines, with piano, keyboard or organ serving as the constant unifier.However, Taizé music works just as effectively with one flute (or any other instrument), piano, and/or guitar.
  2. All the Taizé responses in this service should be sung a number of times-four to nine times with variations on the repetitions. These variations could include parts of the congregation singing on specific repetitions, different instrumentation for different repetitions, having the vocal ensemble begin and conclude the singing, or singing in a round (with cues from the director!). We suggest you begin quietly and add both instruments and more voices to the mix; then after building the sound reverse the process and end quietly.
  3. Note that there are three separate settings of Psalm 23 for both the congregation and the choir to sing together. The setting from the Psalter Hymnal has the choir singing the verses and the congregation joining them on the refrain. The other settings come from anthems that include both instrumental parts and refrains for the congregation to sing. "Shepherd Me, O God" by Marty Haugen is published by GIA G-2950 [1986] (E-M) and can also be found in Sing! A New Creation 181. "Shepherd of My Heart" is composed by Francis Patrick O'Brien and also published by GIA G-3770 [1992] (E-M). All three of these settings, while not authentically Taizé music, are very consistent with the spirit of that worshiping community.
  4. The offertory music, "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" by Mack Wilberg, is an SATB anthem published by Hinshaw HMC1424 [1995] (M). This music includes instrumental parts for two treble C instruments. The anthem could be sung or the voice parts could be played instrumentally.
  5. The choir provides the postlude music-another setting of Psalm 23: "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" by John Ness Beck, published by Beckenhorst BP1247 [1985] (E-M). Please note the encouragement to the congregation as placed at the conclusion of the order of worship.
  6. When you first worship in this tradition, it is valuable to remember that your planning will focus on a very complex service that must be offered in a simple manner. A Taizé service involves much preparation on the part of instrumentalists and vocalists. It is important that these "prompters" in worship know what they are responsible for and when they need to take the lead in the service so that the congregation can feel secure in their responses. As all the participants become more comfortable with the free-flowing nature of this type of service, less direction will need to be given, but not less preparation!

Liturgy Notes:

  1. In order to lead this service well it is necessary to be familiar with the spirit of quiet reflection that marks Taizé worship. The worship leader must be comfortable with that spirit of worship, but so must the worshipers. The "Welcome and Call to Worship" is the ideal time to explain briefly that this service of worship will follow such a pattern and direct the worshipers' attention to the printed introduction (we suggest that the material in the box above be printed at the head of the worship sheet).
  2. Because this is a Taizé service which utilizes a different pattern of worship, you will notice that a service of confession of sin is not found in this service. We usually insist that worship includes such a service of confession and renewal, but it is not in this one because of the uniqueness of the service.
  3. A prayer follows each of the three messages. We suggest that this prayer be brief, warm, and reflective so that it creates the comfort in the presence of God that will aid the time of silence for reflection.
  4. How long the times of silence should be will be determined by your estimate of how comfortable the congregation is with silence. Most western worshipers are not very comfortable with silence. We have found that 30 seconds for the first two, and 45 seconds for the third one is about right. The length of silence should be enough to provide reflection time, but not so long that it creates discomfort and awkwardness. It often helps to give worshipers a brief suggestion of what to reflect on during the silence.