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“For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.”

The theological phrase the “Kingdom of God” has been pushed out of its original shape in my mind because of my readings this week.  My interest was especially piqued by Jesus’ words “The Kingdom of God is at hand” that N.T. Wright speaks of in Simply Christian, p.85. I had always considered these words as meaning God’s Kingdom is nearly here, it is yet to come.  We may see glimpses but it is a weakened version at times of what will one day be.  Yet, as I read the text, I felt that perhaps the meaning was much deeper than this.  If something is at hand, it is there, ready to be touched, tapped into, and used.  I don’t often live in this reality.  I pray for God’s Kingdom to come but it is here already in part and in power.  I want to live in that truth more and more and tap into what God has brought to us here and now in his son Jesus.

The theological idea I believe has the most importance for the next 10-20 years is that of God as King.  I find it difficult to behave as a subject under the reign of a sovereign king – I know for myself, I enjoy sitting on the throne of my own life, having total control.  As I read the material, I was again challenged to ask the deep question “if God is my King, what does that look like for me?”

I am challenged most by the notion of God as King.  I don’t struggle so much with knowing God saved me and living out of this truth.  Yet to say He is King means to surrender to His sovereign control over all things, to defer to His judgement, to worship Him, to speak my allegiance and live out of that allegiance in all things.  Can I do that?  Do I truly understand what it means to do that?

I remember as a child at school having to recite the following at weekly school assemblies:

“I love God and my country, I honour the flag, I serve the Queen and cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the law.” 

No longer are these words spoken at school.  Our focus on allegiance on God and on a Queen/King has dissipated.  What does allegiance to God as my King look like – would it be obvious to others that I serve a risen King who came to save all of humanity?

I am always challenged, each time I engage in the worship experience, whether that be in song or in prayer or in quiet times, to behave as if I could see Jesus.  It is the biggest challenge for me – would I behave any differently if Jesus were here in the flesh?  Would I pray differently, would I worship differently if the King of my life and the King of this universe were standing before me and I could reach out and touch Him?  We would do well to think about this because I know I often attend church and behave as if God is not present.

N.T. Wright. Simply Christian. (London: SPCK, 2006) p. 85.

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“For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.”

N.T. Wright speaks of the four echoes of God in the world. The echo that most resonates with me as evidence of God’s reality is relationship. In a moment in time we began, in the mind of God, because He desired to be in relationship with us. From the instant we are born and take our first breath, we are invited into relationship with our parents and also with others. It is within the context of relationship that we glimpse God’s heart of love and of mercy. Because of our fragile state on this earth, we know in part what it is to love and to be loved. We know what it is to belong and also to be rescued from our own frailties.

I am always drawn and moved by songs that are about the character of God and His thoughts toward me and all of humanity. Songs like “Breathe” by Marie Barnett, remind me of my deep need of God and also that He has given me the life I live, the breath I breathe. Brooke Fraser’s “Hymn” also brings me back to the truth that God longs for me to dwell where He dwells and to have Him dwell in me. I can so easily live my life in a self-sufficient manner and worship songs that call to mind the need in me for God cause me to stop and again humbly submit to Him in relationship.

There tends though to be a greater focus on celebrating creation and worshiping God’s majesty, celebrating relationship with God and also that God would “open the eyes of our heart” so that we may see more of Him and know more of Him. The aspect or echo of justice is not so prominent in my own worship time or even in the corporate church worship setting I belong to. Do we shy away from justice and singing about this aspect of God because it is the echo that eludes us more? It can matter to us but is perhaps less tangible because we see less evidence of it in society. This is certainly something I would like to ponder more as the weeks go on as I read more and interact more with the experiences of others during Essentials Blue.

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For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt.

Throughout the Essentials Red Course, new life has been breathed into many of the aspects of my faith and I have been particularly challenged to rediscover many symbolic practices, such as Lent and Communion and  recognise the power in celebrating such events.  We must be proactive and ensure that we are not discarding the old and its power to show us the deeper truths of God.

I am challenged to create time and space for God and to be deliberate about it.  I desire in a greater way, for my engagement with God to be more fluid and not limited to designated quiet times or in church.  I hunger to lead my heart toward a greater intimacy with God that defies time and space.

I am prompted to consider the patterns I am teaching my children in regards to both prayer and the value of Scripture and its relevance within contemporary culture.  Dan Wilt speaks of the importance of reflection in The History of Worship Part One (Essentials Red) 1Likewise, when it comes to our own emerging understanding and application of prayer and scripture in our own spiritual journey “we must ask ourselves why we do what we do in life”2.  Am I simply replicating the patterns I have learned or am I open to discovering new and innovative ways to encounter Christ and who He is?  Can I bring my spiritual heritage to bear on the way I teach my children biblical truths? 

Symbolic action is an imperative part of our faith if it is to have life and breath!  What a promise to us of the power of the baptism experience, one that we live out daily as we remember that we have been made new and the old man has died in the waters of baptism.  Living in this truth proves the challenge – the old man loves to rear his ugly head, old patterns weave a thread, old ways of thinking control our actions and thoughts.  I am challenged to daily surrender again to the truth that I am new in Christ and can live in a new way because of that truth.  Focusing on the centrality of our faith in symbolic ways ensures we always remember the relationship into which we have chosen to enter.

Art and Music give a picture and a sound to our faith respectively.  The ability of both of these worship mediums to draw us closer to God cannot be underestimated for they engage both the mind and our emotions.  They can awaken our senses and show us the many facets of God’s character, like light flowing through a diamond, and His creative expression in and through us.

In conclusion, I have been challenged to consider the patterns of the past and to recover the value of symbolic actions and realise again their power to break into my relationship with Christ.  As Gary L. Thomas warns, “we sometimes assume that if others do not experience the same thing, something must be wrong with their faith3. We need to have before us the knowledge that ‘one size does not fit all’ and that we can find and speak the “soul language4 that is spoken in diverse ways so that all who participate in worship, can be drawn to God in new ways.

1.        Wilt, Dan. History of Worship Part One: Essentials Red.

2.        Webber, Robert E. Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year. (Michigan: Baker Books, 2004), p.47.

3.        Thomas, Gary L. Sacred Pathways. Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), p.16.

4.        Wilt, Dan. Essentials in Worship History: The Language of Art. Essentials Red.

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For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt.

This past week I have been encouraged to consider History and where we have come from, the journey we have taken to the place where we stand today.  As an avid scrapbooker, the idea of remembering and rekindling history is very important to me. As I take photos of all the events in our families life, as I document our stories in my journaling and as we retell the stories in our sharing of our precious albums with others I realise that I am leaving a legacy for generations to come.  It is a deliberate act on my behalf to remember our history and to celebrate it time and time again.  It is my hope that our children will see in our history the ever present handprint of God on every event and in every space.

In the same way, as I leave this legacy for my family, I am constantly reminded how often God invades my space and my time, even if I am not aware of it immediately. As I reflect on my readings this week and on Dan Wilt’s discussions, I am further challenged to look for God in all the spaces I find myself whether that be my home, in nature, in church, at the shops, at school, alone or in a crowd.  I desire in a greater way, for my engagement with God to be more fluid and not limited to designated quiet times or in church.  I desire to lead my heart toward a greater intimacy with God that defies time and space where my “worship celebrates historic events that happened in the past and anticipates the eschatological event that will happen in the future.” 1  God is good and is ever-present and it is the very act of remembering that often calls that truth to mind.

1. Webber, Robert E.  Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year. (Michagan: Baker Books, 2004) p. 27

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For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephens University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt.

Surrender, verb: To deliver up to the control or power of someone or something else.

Yesterday I found myself thinking deeply about the concept of surrender and God has laid many things on my heart that I feel I need to surrender to Him as an act of worship.  Oh how I have hung on to many things because I have not wanted to lose control over them in some shape or form.

When I think of surrender, I think of having a “hands off” attitude in my heart.  Of loosening my grip on my dreams, my hopes, my fears, my vision and my purpose.  I long to not hold so tightly to these things.  I sense that I have been suffocating myself in the process and there is much freedom to be had in letting go and letting God.

Today I was moved as I listened to Dan speak in The Introduction to Essentials Red of the early Christians who surrended their lives as an act of worship.  I struggle to surrender even part of my life at times, let alone every aspect of who I am.

The practice of surrender is the challenge and for me is a moment by moment experience.  I remind myself that God is in control , that He alone is central and I eagerly look for the evidence of that as I “give up” more of my heart to Him in an attitude of worship.

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