Tag Archives: Worship

Being protected and sacred space

One of the themes at the General Assembly last week was our ideas of secular.  In particular people were keen to attack the secular as a hostile, abandoned place, and a place that we should have little to do with.  It does strike me that often the people who make the strongest attacks on the world’s values seem to drive the biggest cars.

In contrast, a minister I was with recently, who might be criticised for his stance on same-sex marriage, or his links with other faith communities, lives a life of simplicity in one of Scotland’s poorest parishes.

A friend of mine after was saying that if we constantly attack the secular, then we are in effect demanding a theocracy, which is incredibly dangerous.  The secular is an idea at the heart of the Protestant Reformation, and also asks us profound questions about the presence of God, and the place where we meet the stranger.

So I liked this clip as an example of the interaction between the spiritual and the secular.  Often these kind of clips happen in large metropolitan rail termini.  That this happens in an ugly, concretised side platform, next to an unpleasant bar, I kind of like.

Also out there at the moment is this picture, which made me think of protection, God being our Guardian and Psalm 121.

The Finality of Worship

Piper on the finality of worship, of the full appreciation of God:

 

“God is the dreaded voice on the phone.  God is the island on the horizon.  God is the bear and the setting sun and the “most favoritist” rocket and the mother who gave it and the big, strong, fourth-grade brother.

 

From Augustine, the highest good is “that which will leave us nothing further to seek in order to be happy, if only we make all our actions refer to it, and seek it not for the sake of something else, but for its own sake.” (page 92)

With God – Law

– the offering is costly worship, and there is even the thing here that the Israelites bring so much that Moses doesn’t know what to do with it.

– takes a $100 bill, his own money, and says to someone, what are you going to do with this.  What happens when you realise that what you have been given is from God, and is precious, you want to do the very best with it, and you keep giving.  And so, people give and give.  What if people said to us “stop” because we were giving so much – there were no more homeless people to shelter, no more hungry people to feed, no more unreached peoples to tell about the gospel.

– worship is central because the tent is at the heart of the community, because God is at the heart of the community

– turn the central places in your life – your desk, your car, your kitchen, into places where you worship

– make worship pure

– make worship joyful, when the Church has suffered, you see joy like you can’t imagine because of the way that people have discerned God in terrible places.  They caught a vision of what God is doing in this world.

When we sing and we dance and we confess and we pray and we give and we love and we the hurting and the left out and the shut out and the unwanted and the unsung and the unseen and the celebration of the crucified, suffering, risen King’s presence into our world, into the needs of the poor and We make it joyful when we do not just worship for ourselves.

We make it joyful when we bring our celebration of the crucified, risen King’s presence into the world, into the needs of the poor and the hurting, and the left out and the shut and the unwanted and the unsung and the unseen and the unwanted.  When we sing and we dance and we confess and we pray and we give and we love and we sacrifice, then the curtain comes down all over again, and the Holy of Holies keeps spreading and God is glorified and heaven rejoices and we have some little sense of what lies before us in an eternity of limitless love and our victorious God. We worship him then.

 

Inspired

 

This is John Ortberg on the inspiration of Jesus, how Jesus has inspired art and inspired the Church more than any other.

 

He begins with the Colossians 1, and the way that Paul takes this hymn (pointing out the Chiastic structure) to point to Jesus – if you think the creation is impressive, think how impressive is the creator.

 

Talks about Bach being inspired, talks about the way that Durer (13 minutes – story may not be true but encapsulates a deeper truth) was inspired to paint his brothers hands (hands which had worked to fund his art career, which were disfigured and yet were able to pray).  Then relates to the Heidelberg Catechism. (19 minutes)

 

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

“I am not my own”

 

Looks at a painting by Hans Holbein, showed the price that Jesus was willing to pay (20 minutes), this moved Dostoevsky to stare at the picture for days, and to write this in “The Idiot”:

 

Death has senselessly ceased

Cut to pieces and swallowed up, impassively and unfeelingly,

A great and priceless being

A being worth the whole of nature and all its laws

Worth the entire earth

Which was perhaps created solely for the coming of this being

 

Dante: above the doors of hell are written a single statement

“Abandon hope all you who enter here”

 

When all hope was gone, on the third day he rose again, and the tomb could not hold him, and the grave could not contain him.

 

Question – is he your only hope?

 

Jesus is our reconciler – number 6

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him”

 

Fullness I important – God loves to create spaces and then fill them.

 

The fullness of God is a huge theme in the Bible – all of his fullness to dwell in him, and through Jesus to reconcile to himself all things

 

Tolstoy – War and Peace

 

Men need only trust in Christ’s teaching and obey it and there will be peace on earth.

 

Went up a hill, going up the Cotswold for Olympics, there was contest called shin kicking, and kick until someone falls down – until someone falls down.

 

In this pathetic, you hit me, I’ll hit you back,

And someone has torn down the dividing wall of human hostility.

He himself is our peace.

 

In London, went to see Les Miserables – a scene where the convict is shown kindness by the priest, and he takes some of the priests silver from the table,

And instead the priest says

These are my gifts, and he gives the silver candlesticks that are worth more than anything, “now you must always remember my son that I have bought your soul for God “ to love another person is to see the face of God. (26 minutes)

 

Jesus is our Sin-Sacrifice

 

By making peace through his blood shed on the cross.

 

There is one more symbol that adorns more art, marks more graves than any other in earth.

 

The oldest poem of the English Language – the dream of the Rude

“I saw the God of hosts, harshly stretched out

All creation wept, Kings fall lamented,

Christ was on rude

May he befriend me, who here on earth died on that Gallows tree for mankind’s sin”

 

John Bunyan “I saw a man with a face turned away from his own house,

 

A book in his hand, a burden on his back

 

I carry that burden “

 

 

Paradise Lost

The first lines of pilgrims Progress (25:02)

 

Satan “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven”

I would rather reign without with God, than submit, yield serve under him,

 

Jesus is the crucified God, the question is “Are you ready to meet him”

 

Met Prince Charles two weeks ago – etiquette lessons

Just five or six in the group, nervous – needed to buy new shoes

When we met, Nancy Curtsied, never for me

 

A tiny little frame of reference – what would it be like really if Jesus were in the room,

What would that mean, with the truth about our lives,

The shabby little secrets that nobody ever knew,

 

One day we will be in our presence

One day every knee will bow

One day everyone tongue will confess, every tongue.

You can be ready for that, if you will humbly confess your sin

 

Ask God to forgive you, for his death on the cross,

Trust him to be your forgiver and your friend.

And he will send his spirit to inspire you, because nothing is too much for him

 

We are going to worship him.

 

He is the maker of the universe

He is the sustainer of existence

He is the ruler over every power no matter how big it looks to us

He is the image of God, the eikon

He is the fullness of God

He is the wisdom of God

He is the presence of God

He is the death defeater

He is the sin conqueror

He is the guilt obliterator

He is the final sacrifice

He is the blood giver

He is the cross bearer

He is the tomb breaker

He is the peace maker

He is now head over his body the Church

He is the reconciler of all things

He is the maker, redeemer, saviour, forgiver, Lord, friend, guide, shepherd

And hope for all of eternity

And his name is

 

JESUS

 

Formative Liturgies

 

On apocalyptic literatures capacity to unmask rival kingdoms: (page 92)

Revelation’s readers in the great cities of the province of Asia were constantly confronted with powerful images of the Roman vision of the world.  Civic and religious architecture, iconography, statues, rituals and festivals, even the visual wonder of the cleverly engineered “miracles” (cf. Rev. 13:13-14) in the temples – all provided powerful visual impressions of Roman imperial power and of the splendour of pagan religion.  In the context, Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world: how it looks from the heaven to which John is caught up in chapter 4.  The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.  (from Richard Bauckham)

The Gospel According To Moulin Rouge

 

(page 78)

The proximity to Sacre-Coeur almost invites us to look for parallels and comparisons between the bohemian artists and the mendicant friars, the decadent painters and the celibate priests, both of whom reject a life of moneymaking for the sake of very different visions of the kingdom, of the good life.  But if both the bohemian and the friar desire a kingdom that rejects the pursuit of comfort and wealth, could it be that there are some covert similarities between their visions of the kingdom?  Does the Moulin Rouge already point up the hill toward the Basilica?  What at the end of the day is Christian after? Emotion

 

(page 78-79)

“Never knew I could feel like this, like I’ve never seen the sky before.” Sings Christian.  The world is “seen” differently because of love.  By the end of the film we learn that all of this has constituted a kind of education: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.”

 

(page 79)

The kingdom might look more like the passionate world of the Moulin Rouge than the staid, buttoned-down, talking head world of the 700 club.  The end of learning is love: the path of discipleship is romantic.

 

(page 79)

I think a philosophical anthropology centred around affectivity, love, or desire, might also be an occasion to somewhat re-evaluate our criticisms of “mushy” worship choruses that seem to confuse God with our boyfriend.  While we might be rightly critical of the self-centred grammar of such choruses (which, when parsed, often turn out to be more about “me” than God, and “I” more than us), I don’t think we should so quickly write off their “romantic” or even “erotic” elements (the Song of Songs comes to mind in this context).  This too is testimony to why and how so many are deeply moved in worship by such singing.  While this can slide into an emotionalism and a certain kind of domestication of God’s transcendence, there remains a kernel of “fittingness” about such worship.  While opening such doors is dangerous, I’m not sure that the primary goal of worship or discipleship is safety.

Liturgy Puts A Brake On Narcissism

 

When a song isn’t working for you, consider praising God, because that probably means it is working for someone else who is very different from you.  Offer your worship as a sacrifice rather than requiring others to sacrifice for your pleasure or contentment.  There is something to the notion of becoming one as God is one it doesn’t mean that we are the same; it just means that we are united by one Spirit.  After all, we can become one only if there are many of us to begin with.

 

Liturgy puts a brake on narcissism.  Certainly there is something beautiful about contemporary worship songs, where we an take old things and add a little spice to them, like singing hymns to rock tunes or reciting creeds as spoken word rhymes.  But liturgy protects us form simply making worship into a self-pleasing act.  So if a song or prayer doesn’t quite work for you, be thankful that it is probably really resonating with someone who is different from you, and offer a sacrifice of praise.

The Bible Jesus Read

 

Next year country

Key Words Hope Future Prophecy
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 187
Quote Kathleen Norris, who lives in the farm country of South Dakota, speaks of “next-year-country,” a landscape farmers know well; next year the rains will come, next year hail won’t fall, next year winter will hold off a few weeks. Yet, continues Norris, she doesn’t know a single farmer who uses the idea of “next year” as an excuse not to get out and do the work needed now.

 

On apocalypticists

Key Words Apocaplypse Prophecy Future
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 187
Quote From Hans King:The apocalypticists asked about the kingdom of God, the absolute future, in the light of the present situation of man and the world. That is why they were so concerned about the exact date of its arrival. Jesus takes the very opposite line: he asks about the present situation of man and the world in the light of the imminent advent of God’s future kingdom. That’s why he is not concerned about the time or manner of the arrival of God’s kingdom.

 

Wisdom, wealth and might

Key Words Wisdom Money Knowledge Might Power
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 189
Quote According to Abraham Heschel, ancient society cherished three things above all else: wisdom, wealth and might. (Has anything changed since then?) The Hebrew prophets blasted all three of these values, any of which could become idols. None provides the kind of foundation a society needs; only trust in the living God can do that. The moral view of history differs markedly from the newspaper view, which tends to focus on fame and power – tokens of the very wisdom, wealth and might that the prophets denounced.

 

Joy beyond the walls

Key Words Joy Happiness Glad
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 194
Quote The prophects call us to a vision of a deeper, underlying reality, to “joy beyond the walls of the world, more poignant than grief” (Tolkien’s phrase). By giving a glimpse of the future, and of the cosmic present, they make it possible for us to believe in a just God after all.

 

Interupting ourselves

Key Words Prayer Worship Praise
Source The Bible Jesus Read
Author Yancey, Philip
Page 127
Quote From Eugene Peterson, Leap Over A WallWorship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God. Worship is the time and place that we assign for deliberate attentiveness to God- not because he s confined to time and place, but because our self-importance is so insidiously relentless that if we don t deliberately interrupt ourselves regularly, we have no chance of attending to him at all at other times and in other places.

Desiring the Kingdom – Part 1

More specifically, I want to distinguish liturgies as rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations.  Admittedly this might include rituals not associated with traditional religions (e.g. rituals of Nazi facism or other rituals of totalising nationalism); indeed, expanding our conception of what counts as “worship” is precisely the point.  Our thickest practices – which are not necessarily linked to institutional religion – have a liturgical function insofar as they are a certain species of ritual practice that aim to do nothing less than shape our identity by shaping our desire for what we envision as the kingdom – the ideal of human flourishing. (page 87)

 

So one of the most important aspects of this theology of culture is first a moment of recognition: recognising cultural practices and rituals as liturgies.  We need to recognise that these practices are neutral or benign, but rather intentionally loaded to form us into certain kinds of people – to unwittingly make us disciples of rival kings and patriotic citizens of rival kingdoms. (page 91)

 

On apocalyptic literatures capacity to unmask rival kingdoms: (page 92)

Revelation’s readers in the great cities of the province of Asia were constantly confronted with powerful images of the Roman vision of the world.  Civic and religious architecture, iconography, statues, rituals and festivals, even the visual wonder of the cleverly engineered “miracles” (cf. Rev. 13:13-14) in the temples – all provided powerful visual impressions of Roman imperial power and of the splendour of pagan religion.  In the context, Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world: how it looks from the heaven to which John is caught up in chapter 4.  The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.  (from Richard Bauckham)

Pleasures and Sorrows of Work – Part 1 – Biscuits

(from page 42)

The supermarket will never again let the shifting axis of the earth delay its audience’s dietary satisfactions: strawberries journey in from Israel in midwinter, from Morocco in February, from Spain in Spring, from Holland in early summer, from England in August and from the groves behind San Diego between September and Christmas.  There is only ninety-six hours’ leeway between the moment the strawberries are picked and the moment they start to cave in to attacks of grey mould.  An improbable number of grown-ups have been forced to subordinate their slot, to move pallets across sheds and wait in rumbling diesel lorries in traffic to bow to the exacting demands of soft plump fruit.

 

(from page 44)

This gargantuan granary is evidence that we have become, after several thousand years of effort, in the industrialised world at least, the only animals to have wrested ourselves from an anxious search for the source of the next meal and therefore to have opened up new stretches of time – in which we can learn Swedish, master calculus and worry about the authenticity of our relationships, avoiding the compulsive and all-consuming dietary priorities under which still labour the emperor penguin and Arabian oryx.

 

(from page 76)

Manoeuvres which one might briefly have carried out on one’s own in the kitchen (readying an oven, mixing dough, writing a label) had at United Biscuits been isolated, codified and expanded to occupy entire working lives.  Although all employment at the company was ultimately predicated on the salve of confectionery and salted snacks, a high percentage of the staff were, professionally speaking, many times removed from contact with anything one might eat.  They were managing the forklift trick fleet in the warehouse or poring over the eighty or so words written along the side of a typical packet of salted nuts.  Some had attained extraordinary expertise in the collection of an analysis of sales data from supermarkets while others daily investigated how to ensure a minimum of friction between wafers during transit.

 

(from page 78)

During a series of often bewildering conversations with members of staff, I came to realise that a Paretan utopia was now a realistic prospect at United Biscuits.  But however great the economic advantages of segmenting the elements of an afternoon’s work into a range of forty-year-long careers, there was reason to wonder about the unintended side effects of doing so.  In particular, one felt tempted to ask – especially on sombre days when the eastward bound clouds hung low over Hayes – how meaningful the lives might feel as a result.

 

(from page 82-83)

The company headquarters might have borrowed its aesthetic from a roadside motel, but only because, unlike the inhabitants of Versailles and the Escorial palace (distracted as they had been by thoughts of God, power and beauty), the leaders of the biscuit company harboured no doubt as to the divinity they were worshipping.

 

Perhaps for this reason, I was to encounter no jokes at any biscuit’s expense.  The minders of the Ginger Nut and the Rich Tea , of the Jaffa Cake and the Moment, resembled a flock of patient grave-faced courtiers ministering to the needs of a nursery of wilful infant emperors.