Today’s post is written by Geoff Twigg, Adjunct Professor at North Park University in Chicago. Geoff is a pastor, singer/songwriter, worship leader and ministry consultant, and serves the ECC as a member of the denomination’s Commission on Worship.
As we leave the Holidays behind and focus on a new calendar year, Covenanters everywhere across North America see another milestone in the near future; the Midwinter Conference. I’ve had a lot of preparation to do before the Conference this time, and so I have an even greater sense of anticipation than in previous years.
I’m reminded of a great Hebrew tradition, honed by many years of repetition, a tradition that can inspire us as we approach this new year, and particularly if we’re planning to gather together in San Diego. The practice leads us to focus on a subset of the book of Psalms, called the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) which form useful devotional guidelines as we consider our pilgrimage.
No, dear reader, don’t worry; I’m not misinterpreting the Midwinter Conference as being more than it is. However, it can be a time when we seek the Lord for new revelations about our practice, or a time of refreshment and renewed spiritual vitality. In fact, I am praying that’s true for each of us, even those pastors and staff who have to stay home so that others can go.
I should, however, mention here that there is a rich offering this year for those involved in worship ministry. We have workshops, conversations planned over lunch, the opportunity to record your own song ideas or talk over how best to approach recording, a full class on worship and the Bible, an open-mic night, a hymn-sing… the list goes on and on. You can sing in the choir, or just ‘chill’ in sunny San Diego.
Meanwhile, back to the point; getting ready to let God re-focus your vision. In this devotional for a pilgrimage, we find a wide range of subjects covered. Be open; any or all of them might have special meaning for you. Here is a cursory analysis of the topics covered, roughly in order. You might care to hear them spoken by a variety of voices:
“It is God who protects and helps us” (I lift my eyes to the hills…), “it’s good to get together to worship God!” (and we pray for peace of our city and our Kingdom).
God shelters us and we’re devoted to God; “we thank God for constant help and protection”, (remember how God helped us in history?). There are reminders that unless the work is established by God it’s all in vain; that despite opposition I’m flourishing through God’s help…
I’m desperate for God, “I trust God as a child trusts”, (remember how David established this special place, and was rewarded?), and a reminder that working together in unity brings a special blessing. We end with a final song of praise in celebration.
This year, when we’re finally at Midwinter, our thoughts will be guided towards God’s preparation of his servants (Ps.139), God’s protection (Ps.46) and the provision of everything we need to do God’s work (Ps.126).
Before we get there, however, would you care to join me as we consider the themes that formed the thinking of believers on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for many centuries past?