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Beyond the Tragedies

Whether people in your church are still reeling from the September 11 tragedy, school shootings, summer fires in the West, summer flooding in the Midwest, or crises of a more personal nature, a worship service focused on moving beyond tragedy can allow God to soothe and heal raw nerves and emotions.

Here are elements of a “tragedy and triumph” worship service.

Scripture—Read Romans 8:17-28, a brief, yet remarkable and hopeful message on what awaits those who endure suffering. God comforts us in our troubles, promises 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, and desires for us to comfort others who are suffering. Our suffering’s also a way God reveals himself to the world through us, proclaims 2 Corinthians 4. Using these and other Scripture passages as part of your services will let worshipers know that God identifies with their suffering, and that there’s a bigger purpose to it than the pain it causes.

Prayer—In the 21st century, we don’t use the word “petition” much when it comes to prayer. But when people are suffering, it’s a perfect time to revive the depth that word entails. Ask God to heal individuals’ hearts when they’re hurting or bitter, for his will to be done in tragic situations, for understanding and reconciliation, for forgiveness, for trusting God when it’s hard to understand why something happens, and for spiritual growth in individuals and in your church.

Music—When the kings of Israel and Judah asked the prophet Elisha for his prophecy about a battle, he first answered, “bring me a harpist” (2 Kings 3:15). Who knows why, except that perhaps the soothing notes moved him closer to God. Music has a wonderful way of calming and leading people into worship, even if they’re feeling bitter about their circumstances. Choose choruses and hymns that focus on God’s love, resting in his care, and enjoying his presence.

Praise—God owns the ultimate victory! As his children, we can live in anticipation of Christ’s return and eternal life: “Then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

Lord’s Supper—Remember that Jesus instituted this covenant as a way to remember him the night before he faced his own suffering (Luke 22:15). Place a different emphasis on your observance of the Lord’s Supper, thanking him for his redemptive work on the cross, and for making his followers part of his plan—suffering and all.

Art—In the early church, the arts were an integral part of worship, and creativity has once again become an important aspect of society. Allow people to express their thoughts and feelings about crisis through various mediums of art that can be displayed throughout your building. Use the theme of moving beyond tragedy as your guideline.

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