Outlaws

22 May

Christ’s Church has been at the centre of the culture for a very long time. Over recent years and at increasing speed that central position has been lost. The church is hurtling towards the margins. Followers of Jesus have often felt that they need to be in the place of power and influence to be effective….Is this really true? On the night before he goes to the cross, hours before he is arrested, Jesus tries to tell his disciples otherwise. This is Luke 22:

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. 28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel….35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

Power Struggle

Do you see the struggle? They dispute over who is the greatest. They sense that power will be at the secret of their success. We believe the same thing don’t we? Jesus gives them another way, his way, the way of the upside down Kingdom of God; Jesus calls them to the way of service. Although he was the greatest one in the room he is the one that serves, although he created all things he serves them dinner and washes their feet (John 13). Jesus assures them that there will be a day when they will sit on thrones, but until that day, the way is service at the table rather than sitting at the place of power. Jesus followers are to be marked by humble, loving,  sacrificial service like their Lord. Jesus reminds that his work will be accomplished by serving, he had every right to be at the table but he is the one that serves. It’s through service this king will conquer and rule, we must do likewise.

Numbered with the transgressors 

When we hear what Jesus has to say next (v35f) we might be happy simply to be on the margins. Jesus tells the disciples that within 24 hours he will be executed like an outlaw, “numbered with the transgressors.v37” In these verses he tells his followers that they will also find themselves in the same position. V35-36 is like this “Remember those days you went on mission and were supported? When you needed nothing with you? Those days are over! Now instead of support, expect war!” He tells them in days to come they will need to support themselves, they will need to prepare themselves for trouble and danger and sword, where they were once welcomed. I don’t think Jesus calls them to take up literal swords (Luke 22:51 suggests otherwise) but he prepares his followers for hostility towards them. We feel the need to be embraced by the society if the gospel is to take hold, that’s not what Jesus teaches here.

We long to be “in power” but that is not where we are supposed to be. We think that the gospel spreads as we find ourselves as the dominant voice within the community, apparently not so. We want to be the darlings of the wider culture, but that is not where we should expect to find ourselves as Jesus’s followers. Jesus was executed like an outlaw, all who follow him should expect to be “numbered with the transgressors” too.  Jesus gave his life in loving service in order to save, we should go and do likewise.

Benediction: The End of Worship (The Send of Worship)

4 Oct

James KA Smith in Imagining The Kingdom talks about the end (conclusion),  and the end (aim) as the send of worship. He writes this…

 “The end of Christian worship comes with a responsibility. Like all those prophetic encounters with the living God, this encounter with the Triune God sends one away with a commission and a charge: “Go and Do”, in the the power of the Spirit, as a witness to the risen Christ, inviting your friends and neighbours to become citizens of the coming kingdom. What we’ve just done in worship is both a rehearsal of the entire history of the world and a rehearsal for the kingdom come. The end of Christian worship brings us back to the beginning of creation, to our commissioning in the Garden and our deputising as God’s image bearers, those responsible for tending and tilling God’s good – but now broken – creation. “

He goes on to say, I think with great challenge

“The culmination of Christian worship is is s/ending. In this time of already-not yet, the end and goal and telos or worship is being send from this transformational encounter as God’s witnesses and image-bearers. Christian worship is not some religious silo for our private refuelling that replenishes out “inner” life. It is not merely some duty we observe in order to keep our eternal ducks in a row; nor is it some special sequestered “experience” that fills up a religious compartment in our souls, unhooked from what we do in the world Monday through Friday. Worship isn’t a weekly retreat from reality into some escapist enclave; it is our induction into “the real world” Worship is the space in which we learn to take the right things for granted precisely so we can bear witness to the world that is to come and in accord with his desires for creation…. when worship ends on Sunday, it spills over into our cultural labor on Monday.”

He concludes

“What happens at the end of historic Christian worship is a benediction – a blessing- which is also a commission; go in peace to love and serve the Lord. The blessing is also a charge, and it echoes the blessings and the commission originally given to humanity in the Garden: to be fruitful and fill the earth, to compassionately rule over creation, and to cultivate the garden of creation (Gen 1:27-31; 2:15).   The ending of Christian worship, then, is a sending. Having encounters God in Word and sacrament, we are transformed and renewed and empowered by the Spirit to take up once again the original vocation of humanity: to be God’s image bearers by cultivating all the possibilities latent in God’s creation, now renewing and restoring a broken, fallen world. Drawn into union with Christ, the “end” of Christian worship is bound up with our sending for Christian action…”

Benediction

 

 

Worship Matters

25 Sep

Bob Kauflin from Worship Matters

“I think leading God’s people in worship is one of the most fulfilling, enjoyable, exciting, sobering, life-changing jobs on the planet. We’re helping people connect with the purpose for which they were created – to glorify the living God. We’re pointing their hearts toward the Sovereign One who is greater than their trials and kinder than they could ever imagine. We get to display the matchless Saviour who died in our place, conquering sin, death and hell…”

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Worship Series Continues… Preaching

19 Sep

Worship Series Continues... Preaching

The Second Helvetic Confession… Wow!!

“THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.”

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The Bible is God’s Word

18 Sep

This is El Shaddai. She is an Ethiopian orphan who is being raised by her adopted Ethiopian parents to love Jesus and to sing about His Word. This is her act of worship… Brilliant

Worship : A Means Of Grace

17 Sep

Ed Clowney says…

[In  worship] we experience the meaning of union with Christ. We worship most fully when we together hear his words and encourage one another to grow in grace and in witness to the world…. In the Spirit, we worship in the great assembly where Jesus is. In the Spirit, Jesus worships on earth in the congregation where we are. In heaven and on earth, we are in the presence of Jesus. His presence in corporate worship assures us that our corporate worship is for us a means of grace. We taste grace in corporate worship, when, by the Spirit, we know the LORD is with us. That reality we perceive by faith.

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Liturgy… The Gospel in The Heart

13 Sep

Our series on Worship continues as we look at confession in public worship…

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Bryan Chappell on the common pattern of Gospel Worship and how it reflects the pattern of the progress of the gospel in the heart.

The gospel first affects the heart by enabling us to recognise who God is. When we truly understand the glory of his holiness, then we also recognise who we really are and confess our need of him. The gospel then assures us of the grace that he provides, and our hearts respond in both thanksgiving and humble petition for his aid so that we can give proper devotion to him. In response to our desire for his aid, God provides his Word. We heed his instruction, knowing that we are both charged to do so and have the promise of his blessings as we live for him. The common liturgy of the church through the ages reflects the sequential flow of the gospel in our hearts.

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