God’s Generous Rule (Essentials Blue Fall 08)

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt (ICEWS, eb 08)

 

Recently, at our National Gathering, Greg Trainor led us all through some excellent teaching on the Kingdom of God.

 

For example, his succinct phrase for the Kingdom of God was God’s generous rule.

He talked about the arrival of His generous rule through the Mission of Jesus in His message and ministry. We heard strong emphasis on the good news being the future has come into the present, and the age to come has dawned. Greg also taught about the gathering of the divine community, to live out the life of the Kingdom, which he named a preview or display community.

 

This language ‘God’s generous rule’ being put on display by a community loving Him, (through a ‘display community’) was a new expression catching my attention. Maybe these phrases have been around for ages, but Greg’s descriptions were brimming with new life and empowered livability for me.

 

Since then, I haven’t been able to let it go. I knew it was having its effect on me, and on those around me.  It was re-capturing the reality of the words Jesus taught “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10: 8-9)

 

It painted a different picture.

It opened a door to a new way of thinking.

It unfolded a whole dynamic of engaging with the Kingdom ‘at hand’

I was beginning to see and experience afresh, the power of new language unlocking new understanding.

 

This week in our Essentials course, where we are bumping up against even more expansive teaching from NT Wright, and Dan Wilt, along with other contributors, (including robust, honest, theological discussions in the ‘classroom’).

 

Then, Dan hits us with a challenge at the close of this week.

He acknowledges the centrality of the Kingdom of God in all the teachings of Jesus, as well as in our theological understanding within the Vineyard movement.

 

With a twinkle in his eye, Dan urged us, to enter into ‘a challenge’ for a short time.

He asked us to replace all our ‘kingdom language’ with this phrase, ‘new creation’. 

 

So instead of our prayers being filled with ‘Let Your Kingdom come,” Dan has encouraged us to replace kingdom language with ‘new creation’ language.

Eg. “Lord let Your new creation break into this moment…” or “ this is God’s new creation activity happening among us …

When we do kingdom actions, he challenged us to try something different…and call them new creation actions.

Eg. When we forgive, we are enacting an age to come.

 

As we are living in the new creation, Dan’s focus sharpens the use of that language in our world, knowing nothing is outside the reach of God’s new creation.

 

The ‘Dan-challenge’ caused me to reflect on what’s just happen since our Gathering.

I know engaging with the new kingdom language Greg gave us, (ie.the ‘generous rule of God’) transformation began in me.

 

I found my prayers formed out of a bedrock of God’s generous rule already at work.

I found myself delighfully care-free to pray in situations, with people, that in the past may have intimidated me.

I discovered my increased awareness of God’s kindness and goodness being present meant there was much less anxiety or fear. It meant I was living in an air of heightened expectation of His involvement.

I noticed the new language assisted to ‘see’ from a different perspective and my heart followed in new ways. I could give examples, but this blog is getting too long!

Good signs! I suspect time will tell whether this shift in language has changed the outworking of faith in concrete ways, as well as theological re-shaping.

 

God is longing to restore, re-claim and rennovate my understanding in so many areas. I need it.
I am under no illusion that this ‘Dan-challenge’ could add immense depth and understanding of a ‘concept’ and ‘reality’ that is veiled in my/our western mindset.
 

So, I’m in! I’m jumping into this challenge…

Valuing Liminal Moments (Essentials Blue Fall 08)

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt (ICEWS, eb 08)

 

I’ve joined 30 Vineyard worship leaders and influencers in another Essentials Blue course for the next 5 weeks. It’s exciting to see this group gather, from 8 different countries, all carrying the same DNA of the Vineyard movement.

 

If you are interested in tracking with some of their blogs, you can find them here

Already there’s a sense that we’re going to mine some gold with this group.

 

Nic Gee, has done a great post this week on liminal spaces which we attempt to provide as we lead others into worship.

 

Nic’s thoughts sent me off in a totally new direction as I made a connection with liminality found in Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways. Alan has written expansively relating to the rites of passage in African people groups to the massive adaptive challenge the Western church is currently experiencing.

 

(I don’t want to get off on a tangent, but to come to grips with these primal shifts in community dynamics, anthropologist Victor Turner’s ideas of liminality and communitas are particularly useful. The study has linked liminality with communitas – where a community encounters God and one another in a new way.  It involves adventure and movement, and it describes that unique experience of togetherness that only really happens among a group of people on a dangerous journey to unfamiliar places.)

 

As I consider the teaching Dan Wilt includes in the Essentials Blue course regarding liminal (‘threshold’) spaces, I’m exploring this dynamic of liminality further, as perhaps there is a strong thread connected to what happens to a community of faith, when they touch these God-initiated liminal spaces.

 

I am off to seek more understanding about this. If you are reading this, and can point me along the way of discovery, let me know!

 

Other sources:

1. A.J.Roxburgh, the Missionary Congregration, Leadership and Liminality, 1997, p 61

2. Victor Turner, The Ritual Process (1969) and Passages, Margins and Poverty: Religious symbols of communitas, Part 1 Worship 46, 1972

The Final Post (Essentials Blue Fall 08)

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt (ICEWS, eb 08)

 

 

 

 This piece, Because You Are, puts the spotlight on God as Creator. He is the author of all life. Through this course, I’ve been hugely impacted by seeing in fresh ways, how our Creator God has made us in His image. We have been given the amazing capacity to gather up all that creation is doing and saying, and give voice to it, reflecting it all back to Him. We are given a mind to understand He is worthy, and therefore we choose to worship Him. (1)  

We are also caught up in the groaning of all creation, as we long for redemption. We recognise that “God Himself, by the Spirit, dwells in our hearts as we resonate with the pain of the world”. (2) We are to be messengers modelling the message of putting the world to rights, as we ourselves “are put to rights by the same healing love.” (3)   

 

We are the new creation who expresses true humanity through Jesus. We ‘realise and extend creation through human re-enactment’.(4)  As those fully alive, we respond with worship, wonder and adoration understanding that “worship makes you more truly human”.(5)  We respond with belief, embracing things we cannot see, the things of His Kingdom, to release them on earth. In doing so, we reflect God’s redemptive mission..

I would use this in any gathered worship context, as a tool to reflect on Creator God, and on the invitation He’s given His children in His redemptive story.

I plan to use this with our worship leaders, as part of extending our thinking towards including more visual/sensory expressions.

I have intentionally chosen a form of media (i.e. Movie Maker) that I have personally not ever used before (normally, I would invite someone “skilled” to do this for me). I felt that it was part my commitment to this learning adventure, moving into areas that I am not necessarily familiar with.

1. NT Wright, Simply Christian, Part 2, Staring at the Sun. Wright amplifies this thought based on the activity of worship in Revelation 4 and 5.

2. NT Wright, Simply Christian, p 139

3. NT Wright, Simply Christian, p 175

4. Levinson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil, p xxi

5. NT Wright, Simply Christian, p127

 

 Should the above YouTube link not work for the video go directly here to view it.

 

Postscript:

I have been really challenged about how word-based our expressions of worship can be. I have been struck by some people in our community who are unable to read well, and considering how to find ways to engage their expression. There’s also been a challenge for me personally, as someone who loves words…to live with restraint at times. This piece also symbolizes my personal reminder and pursuit to live in simplicity and restraint.

Themes: God as Creator, Humans as Sub-Creators; Creation Theology; God’s redemptive story.

Lyrics:  because-you-are

Credits:

1. Music and Lyrics by Because You Are, Simon Carter. Simon is one of the worship leaders at Soul Survivor Melbourne, so if you’re interested in checking out more of his music go here.

2. Epilogue The Prayer of the Trinity by Tom Wright

 (Originally published in New Tasks for a Renewed Church, 1992, London: Hodder.  Also published as Bringing the Church to the World, 1992, Bethany House, U.S.A., 209-15.)

3. Emerging Grace Posters (HT to Grace)

 

 

Ready for Action (ICEWS eb 08)

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt (ICEWS, eb 08 )

 

“Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light!”

Ephesians 5:13-15 The Message

 

Are You Awake?

NT Wright says: “As with ordinary waking up, there are many people who are somewhere in between. But the point is that there is such a thing as being asleep, and such a thing as being awake. And it is important to tell the difference, and to be sure you’re awake by the time you have to be up and ready for action, whatever that may be. With the resurrection of Jesus, the world was being invited to wake up.” (NT Wright, Simply Christian p176)

 

As the Essentials Blue course concludes, I personally needed to put a ‘stake in the ground’ or these big ideas and discoveries might get neatly packed away and gather dust. I was reflecting on how to wrap this rich gift of discovery in a way that will be perhaps translate to my own context, with those I walk alongside in my community. On many levels, hanging the ideas on being awake sits well for me at the moment.

 

Consider those who are heavy sleepers! In ‘sleep world’, I am envious of their ability to sleep through all sorts of drama.

 

Have you ever had to wake someone up?

Sometimes, a gentle shake is needed. Others may need a rousing shout.  

Some need shocking tactics, others need simple whispers.

So while our levels of ‘awake-ness’ is diverse, so is our depths of sleep.

 

Sleeping and waking is the most basic image used in early Christianity for what happens when the Good news of Jesus impinges on someone’s consciousness.

‘Sleep’ was a regular way of talking about death in the ancient Jewish world.

In the New Testament we also see it as a metaphor for spiritual dullness and lack of watchfulness. (even referring to laziness in Proverbs!)

 

The awake metaphor offers me the ‘reminder’ personally towards this end…

 “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” (Irenaeus of Lyons. Dan Wilt, Rise of Worship Artisan, p 5)

 

It also anchors what NT Wright writes about in Part One of Simply Christian, in the Echoes of a Voice, raising a shout to us to continue to engage in our search for justice, in the quest for spirituality, in our deep-seeded longing for relationship and in the yearning for beauty in our world.

 

There are many references to sleep and being awake in the Bible.

I’ve included a handful below that have shaped some of my reflections.

Notice some of the ‘effects’ and ‘responses’ and ‘action’ that come through being awake.

 

“And I—in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” Psalm 17:15

“Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” Psalm 57:8

“Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendour, O Jerusalem, the holy city.” Isaiah 52:1

“Stay awake, alert. You have no idea what day your Master will show up.” Matthew 24:39 The Message

“Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.” Luke 9:32

“But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break.  Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!” Romans 13:11-12 The Message

“Think straight. Awaken to the holiness of life. No more playing fast and loose with resurrection facts.” 1 Cor 15:34 The Message

Awakened Worship (ICEWS eb 08)

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt (ICEWS, eb 08 )

I see so many elements of ‘being awake’ as a good metaphor to the worship lifestyle and leadership, so will use that as a hook on which to hang this all.

Awake: to the foundation of worship.
We were designed to worship God and reflect His image. When God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, created the world, we were invited into the eternal, circular dance of relationship with the Trinity. Even with this divine invitation, we see our inclination to turn away from the embrace of His love. This causes various levels of ‘sleep’ over our souls, some even to the point of death. Yet still God continues His pursuit toward us by self-revealing as Creator, King, Trinity and Saviour. Through the rescue mission of Jesus, we see the Imago Dei (1) again awakened as His redeemed Sub-creators, Imagebearers, Community Builders and Salvific Storytellers.

Awake: to what worship is
Worship means literally, “acknowledging the worth of something or someone. It means recognising and saying that something or someone is worthy of praise.” (2)

Worship is a living act, which is only possible because God loved us first. (3) He is always the initiator, we are always the responders. He is the always the giver, we are the recipients. He is God, we are not.

As we learn the sacrifice, surrender and lifestyle of worship, we see that worship is also what makes us fully human. It is reconnecting, through Jesus, to the creational and redemptive Biblical Story. (4) It is something that He has called us to live out as individuals, but also as a redemptive community of followers. (5)

There are echoes of His voice, speaking to us in our sleepy state of consciousness, and we hear the whisper increase in volume in our search for justice, in the quest for spirituality, in our deep-seeded longing for relationship and in the yearning for beauty that throbs in every human heart. An awakened worshipper will begin to join His story to reclaim these aspects of His nature in our world. (6)

Awake: to the power of music and the arts
We will be calling people out of various states of brokenness in thousands of different ways to allow truth to reveal Himself. Using every creative tool available to us, we will give voice to hope and justice, re-shaping of culture, through the power of the Gospel encounter. We will open the way for the story to be re-told and re-framed for our day.

Song allows “affection to be expressed and thoughts affirmed”. (7) It also carries the power to educate our hearts and minds. We see much song expression in the Bible. It gives witness to the salvation story, telling of the acts of God. They expressed their belief in salvation in lives of prayer and obedience, social structures of justice and compassion, and a moral life that honoured their core identity, male and female, as the image of God. It covers all of economics and politic, science and geography, literature and arts, work and family, body and neighbourhood.” ( 8 )

Through-out history, singing has been a unifying act for participating together. Music is an art-form that is significantly the primary language of our culture. It carries revolutionary power if we are awake to it.

Awake: to imagination and explanation
As worship artisans, (9) we give space to allow flourishing imagination.
In the life of the kingdom, (where everything originates and depends upon what we cannot see and is worked out in what we can see), imagination and explanation cannot get along without each other.

Explanation pins things down so that we can handle and use them – obey and teach, help and guide.

Imagination opens things up so that we can grow into maturity – worship and adore, exclaim and honour, follow and trust.” (10) When the Story is given robust and healthy expression, the two work in graceful synchronicity.

Awake: as leaders
As spiritual leaders we have the privilege and responsibility to disconnect from unhealthy cultural perspectives, and reconnect with solid theologically-based understanding. (11) We recognise we live in one sacred world, in the mysterious mix of brokenness and beauty, and we are part of God’s recovery mission. If we are wide awake, we will be approaching this wholistically with heart and head, hands and feet, orienting our whole lifestyle to honouring God.

Awake: as life-long learners
It is important for us to be life-long learners. We are always to seek understanding to our faith. We need to be creatively exploring fresh ways to connect the people we lead in this kingdom story. As the dominant language of the Holy Spirit is through story, we allow the Story to bring out the childlike in us – we venture in as expectant, wondering, responsive, delighted discover-ers, not approaching as experts.

Awake: as Kingdom participants
We intentionally make space for liminal moments, when the kingdom intersection of heaven and earth is present. We integrate the mysterious mix of brokenness and beauty, of joy and grief, of pain and healing. We ‘realise and extend creation through human re-enactment’. (12)
Through every gift we have been given, we release the freedom for each unique, redemptive, creative voice to be heard in our community. We expect the Spirit to continue to uncap new expressions which will re-cover the story for this generation, and those to come.

Awake: to the past, present and shaping future
We are to engage with the past, live fully in the present and look to the future. We intentionally grasp the pivotal, ongoing salvation action of God in history. We join with creation’s longing to express the beauty, greatness and goodness of God. We do this through thought and emotion, using Scripture, prayer, rituals, silence, stories and symbols integrating the best wisdom of the past. This is to shape the way we craft our emerging forms. We will embrace the value of both the formal and informal expressions, building avenues of honour inside and outside the faith community.

1. The image of God
2. NT Wright, Simply Christian, p 124
3. 1 John 4:19
4. Luke 10:27
5. “We grow, when we worship. We shrink as a human being when we give that same total worship to anything or anyone else.” NT Wright, Simply Christian, p 127
6. see Fully Human Response blog
7. Dan Wilt, What is Worship DVD
8. As we see with Moses and the Israelites. Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places p 180. 2005 Hodder and Stoughton, London
9.
Dan Wilt, The Worship Artisan Article
10. Eugene Peterson, Subversive Spirituality, p134. 1997 Regent College Publishing
11. Romans 12:1,2
12. Levinson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil, p xxi

 

 

The Arrival of the Kingdom 2 (ICEWS eb 08)

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt (ICEWS, eb 08 )

 

Part 2 

It is important to say that worship is an event based thing,

particularly in Luke and Acts.

(See The Arrival of the King 1)

 

I’ve been observing many conversations regarding the current state of what we understand of the worshipping, ‘gathered church’.  I think there’s a heart-cry from those who perceive a reality that many of our ‘corporate gatherings’ are at times, devoid of obvious signs of the arrival of the kingdom.

 

I believe we have to fight for the life of the kingdom among us, not in a performance-oriented way, but in a way that keeps us active and growing in our dependence on Jesus.

 

Passivity can often over-ride our expectation of the Kingdom.

I can see that passivity can easily be fed when we create environments which can wrongly give the perception that we are spectators not participants. But I also see that we can carry hearts which can subscribe to that passive nature.

 

It blinds us to the arrival of the King and the response then is also diminished.

 

Reading Luke’s writings with this framework, has given me new questions as I consider the role of the worship artisan.

  • In what way is the kingdom arriving today?
  • In what way can I assist that joy response? (whether it is born in the heart of an individual and spills over to the whole ‘gathered’ community or whether it arises all-together)
  • And further, will this overflow of the expression of Holy Spirit generated joy be contained in joy-filled songs alone?

Singing is very much a part of it. It may not be the first and only expression.

 

I envisage a broadened, exuberant, dynamic, vibrant explosion of celebration which will not be contained in song alone. Song is such a God-given gift to assist us to release our feet a-dancing and our bodies a-movin’, connecting and giving outflow to the joy, but what else is to erupt? It will be loud enough to shatter our pre-conceptions about much we ‘think’ we know about the Kingdom!

 

Hopefully our reaction to the arrival of the Kingdom breaking in will carry the language of response that is deeply transformational!

 

I see it being like the restored ‘blind’ man in Luke 18, who followed Jesus everywhere.

After receiving the Kingdom event of his healing, this man was chasing Jesus, and glorifying God.

This healed, changed man was fuelled with an amazed joy, and we see him filled with the Holy Spirit.

  

And…’everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God.” (Luke 18, The Message)

The Arrival of the Kingdom 1 (ICEWS eb 08)

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt (ICEWS, eb 08 )

 

Part 1

 

We are moving at a fast pace on the downhill run with this Essentials Blue summer online course. Before I move into The Nature of Worship topic this week, I need to reflect on a slight tangent, but I think it’s partly foundational, bringing together of some of the worship themes.

 

Derek Morphew (The Arrival of the King video) presents a brief outline on how worship is an event based thing – particularly in Luke and Acts. His insight has initiated a fresh viewing point in understanding to the essence of worship.

————————————————–

(I can see why books are written on such thinking, I hope I can do justice with this very brief outline and then I’ll comment in the next post).

 

Worship is a reaction to the event of the kingdom.

The Kingdom of God is not simply the idea that God is King but the idea of the intervention of God’s rule arriving in our lives.

 

We see the Arrival – The Break in – The Reaction.

There is always a ‘time and place’ – His Kingdom arriving (in history, in our communities, in our lives, in moments, and so on) The Kingdom breaks in, and then comes the Reaction.

 

The essence of worship is a reaction to the arrival of the Kingdom.

 

Derek Morphew unpacks that in light of the Biblical theology of the kingdom, highlighting two strands of that theme in:

Luke –where the Kingdom of God has come in Jesus, and

Acts – where the Kingdom of God has come in Pentecost.

 

As the Kingdom comes in Luke, there is a continual language of response.

People react in all sorts of ways to the coming of the Kingdom, and themes we see in Luke.

 

People are amazed.

People break into song.

People are taken up in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the agent who brings the intervention of the Kingdom.

 

There’s a whole string of examples if you unpack that.

 Some examples in Luke:

a)  The Infancy narratives:

The baby leaps in Elizabeth’s womb.

(i.e. John the Baptist who is the prophet of the coming Kingdom).

See how she sings a prophetic song/poem, and is filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. It’s the song of the arrival of the kingdom.

We see it from the very opening of the story.

b)  The Heavenly hosts sing at Jesus’ birth

c)   The Ministry of Jesus begins

Eg. The paralytic healed – people are amazed and start praising God.

Eg. The guy given sight – he follows Jesus praising Him.

d)  The Lost Son, Lost Coin, Lost Sheep

We see the picture God as King who comes to seek that which is lost and see the strong language of response.

Eg. Lost Sheepsee the joy of heaven over one lost sinner that is found; the idea of heaven’s singing at the event of the kingdom finding somebody.

Eg. Lost Son Jesus pictures the celebration that follows the event, with dancing and a party – in the event of kingdom as the Father/Son found each other.

e)  The Triumphal Entry

f)  The Resurrection Narratives

 

Luke is connecting the language of response to these examples.

 

In Acts, we see the same language follows all through.

Eg. We see Pentecost and the response was overwhelming.(tongues, different languages spoken)

Eg. Evangelism/signs and wonders/healing – people are responding with amazement and joy.

 

The joy theme is interwoven with the response theme and the amazement theme.

Layer upon layer, Luke is building this language of response.

 

The joy is not simply natural joy, but the joy of being visited by God.

We see joy is triggered off by things like healing, and by forgiveness.

Eg. Acts 3, the cripple healed and he dances and praises God;

Eg. Acts 8, the eunuch finds Jesus and is baptised, continuing on with his journey filled with the Holy Spirit and great joy.

 

When Luke talks about joy, he describes it is manifested in loud exclamation. A strong, loud response!

The joy of the Holy Spirit comes on people and they experience something which is not simply human generated joy, but it’s like the time Jesus responded when He saw Satan falling from heaven.

 

Much more detail could be given.

 

A brief summary – Luke maps out:

The arrival of the kingdom in Jesus

The arrival of the kingdom in Pentecost

 The writings give detail of the response language and how it relates to worship.

 

It is important to say that worship is an event based thing,

particularly in Luke and Acts.

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