Holy God, Creator of the hills and valleys, Mountains and oceans, Maker of all that is, Give strength in weariness, Confidence in uncertainty, Wisdom in the unexpected, Peace in the busyness. God I give this, and every day to you. Amen
2020 has challenged our understanding of what it means to worship and to be church. I’ve talked a lot of about church and our worship being practiced in both gathered and scattered ways. Encouraging my congregations to worship where they are, as who they are, despite the challenges we have faced in seeking to gather together.
Whole Life WORSHIP is a really helpful tool in understanding more fully this approach to worship as being every part of our day; week; lives. The book challenges the idea that our gathered worship (services, house groups, meetings) is divided and cut off from our scattered living (our frontlines of parenthood, volunteering, working… ) – arguing that our scattered living is equally our worship and in fact is that place we live as disciples – on the frontline. Thus our gathered worship should do all it can to resource disciples for living whole lives of worship.
“Whole Life Worship is not another fad or crackpot theory. It is a passionate call to allow God to expand our view of worship: to take a step back and be amazed by the scope of God’s engagement with us, his love for the world he has made, and his plans for our lives.
It is an invitation to assess church worship less by style and preference or how it made us feel and more by how it revealed God, who it formed us to be ad how it empowers us to be disciples of Jesus in our daily lives.”
p.xvii, Whole Life Worship, Sam and Sarah Hargreaves
I’d recommend the book as a must read to any person who is involved in leading worship. In fact, I think any worshipper who was ready and willing to be challenged to think more deeply and carefully about what worship means to them, both in services, and their lives.
A word of warning, you will truly benefit from reading this book if you’re ready and willing to reflect on your own approach to worship, be it as a a member of a congregation, or one who leads worship. I found many of the pages challenging me to think more carefully and creatively about the content of worship and the language and resources I use. but overall, I felt empowered and encouraged. The books is easy to read, with lots of short chapters and brimming with resources and ideas.
The book is framed in 2 parts. Part 1 presents the concept of worship being both gathered and scattered, and presents a framework to help reflect on ways to structure gathered worship to resource and empower people in their scattered worship. This framework revolves around a simple concept, that worship should be 3 dimensional:
UP: relationship between us and God
IN: relationships as a community
OUT: relationship with our community and the world
The second part of the book takes us on a journey through many of the ingredients of worship, prayer and music, gathering and sending, communion and the offering. Throughout this journey we are encouraged to reflect on how each ingredient can support and empower people for Whole Life Worship and discipleship. This section is brimming with ideas and pointers to other resources.
Prepare to be challenged and empowered as a whole life worshipper, and as a leader of disciples in whole life worship.
Whole Life Worship Authors: Sam & Sara Hargreaves Publisher: IVP
Rev Dan shares a prayer form Remembrance Sunday, as we stand together in remembrance of our past and seek God’s hope for our future.
Life-giving God, Who breathed life into this world, and breathed the beauty of our diversity into humanity.
On this day of remembrance, we remember today, the perils of prejudice and violence, and the cost of war and conflict.
Peace-giving God, we remember Jesus, Who lived a life of peace and justice. Help us to live our lives as a reflection of the character of Jesus.
Hope-giving God, Help us learn from humanity’s past, Stir us to action to stand against injustice, to boldly strive for peace in our communities and our world. And show infinite love towards our neighbour. As we strive towards a world overflowing with justice, hope, peace and love.
I took a tumble this week. Walking home from school with my daughters I caught my foot in a ditch in the grass and twisted my ankle – resulting a sprain and chipped shard of bone.
Given so much of ministry is based at home at the moment it’s perhaps not been such a major issue, I can continue to work from office with my foot elevated, ice pack and painkillers. 12 months ago I’d have had a whole host of diary engagements to have to rearrange.
Things in life don’t always go to plan. Things are not always perfect or ideal. Life isn’t always without its pain and suffering and struggle.
As we’ve journeyed through the book of Colossians and dipped our toes into some of its riches, we’ve seen these last few weeks the fullness and joy and abundance that a life in Christ offers now, today, in the present.
Jesus, the gift we receive without catch or terms and conditions. Jesus is hope for today.
But yet, the letter recognises that even while Jesus is with us, giving joy and fulness and abundance in our lives today, life is still life, and things don’t always go to plan.
As we receive the gift of Jesus today, we not only have fullness and hope for today, there is a greater hope, a greater inheritance to come.
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.
On receiving Jesus, not only are we offered fullness and hope and abundance of love and grace for today, there is an inheritance, a hope to come, where things do go to plan, where the abundance of God’s love and grace is made more fully known.
A transformation to come that we cannot fully comprehend, that will be even better, brighter, lighter. Receive Jesus today, hope for today, and a hope to come.
Before going to theological college, I spent 6 years managing a Christian bookshop. It had been something of a dream of mine for all my teenage life. I had a passion for business, for resourcing God’s people in mission and ministry, and reaching out beyond the margins of church.
The place often felt like a signpost, as well as selling goods we saw a growing ministry of pastoral care – welcoming all sorts of people from many different backgrounds with many different stories to tell. We would point people to support, spiritual, physical, economic, we would offer conversation about life and faith, sometimes we would pray with people, and one of the joys of this ministry was that through it God was at work and we saw a number people begin following Jesus.
It was through this pastoral ministry that God began to reveal to me a calling to a vocation as a Methodist minister. But one of the things that surprised me most when running the bookshop was not these opportunities for mission, ministry and pastoral care with those on the margins, but the conversations I had with ‘already Christians’.
Running the bookshop meant I was serving a wide and diverse range of Christian people, fellowships and churches. And I saw that as a great thing, an opportunity to learn from others, discover more about God’s church and celebrate our common faith.
What surprised me, as just how un-loving God’s church can be from within. I was amazed the first time I was criticised for stocking anything but the King James Bible – on one occasion I was told I was the antichrist for stocking a particular book (I can’t remember what the book was now! – just the accusation!).
I don’t think it’s wrong to have conviction in faith, but I do think we need to as God’s Spirit to watch over us that we don’t get to a point where we are so convicted of our faith that we show no openness to the diversity of faith present in God’s people.
In Colossians 3 we read the following verses, which come from a larger section where Paul is seeking to enable understanding of what living together as Christian community looks like.
8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
As the letter to the Colossians unfolds, the message of the gospel – the Good News -Jesus Christ – is being unpacked and given clarity. Christ is all and in all. Human labels that divide are superfluous to the power and grace of God.
One of the things that often saddens me is that Church, and society, spend so much time and energy highlighting our differences, and allowing that to lead to division and jealousy.
If we are kingdom people, worshipping Christ who’s kingdom we are welcomed into through God’s love and grace – surely it is our common faith in Christ who is all and in all that we should hold our main focus on.
John Wesley, who’s ministry contributed to the birthing of Methodism, was himself well aware of the way opinions led to division, and in one of his sermons argued that differing opinions need to be held in perspective with common faith, and that differing opinions should not lead to the cessation of fellowship.[i]
Friends there is much that has potential to divides us. Views on political and public health measures during the pandemic; contradictory convictions around communion, sexuality, gender & marriage; Brexit; immigration. The list could be endless, and these things are not things we should entirely ignore. But I think should be approached with the a recognition from all that by the love and grace of God human made division is wiped away – Christ is all and in all.
For me, these verses challenge me to hold our common faith in the un-boundaried love and grace of God at the centre of my relationships. Not focused on difference and division, but on the kingdom of God where Christ is all and in all.
[i] Sermon 19: Salt and Light, John Wesley’s 44 Sermons. Epworth Press, 1944
“I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero to the end of the night!”[i]
Are you looking for a hero?
Yes? No? Not sure? I think, truthfully a lot of us are, though we may not always realise it, or coin it in that way.
Society loves a hero. Someone who will save us, a figurehead to give hope. Film and TV is full of hero’s we love – from Marvel to Harry Potter to Poldark to Doctor Who, We love a hero, and especially love a hero that appears an underdog, that rises up to save the day against the odds.
Even in the real world, away from sci-fi and fiction, we like to look for a hero. We’ve spent a significant part of 2020 putting a ‘protective shield around the NHS’, trying to maximise it’s potential to save life. But of course we have to also cope with the painful reality that life one earth cannot always be saved.
I wonder if sometimes we expect our politicians to be hero’s too. Decisions have to be made, based on the best knowledge they have to had, but there will always be alternative choices that could have been – and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a curse.
I’m not wanting to defend all political choices here, but to remind us that we need be aware of our human propensity to create hero’s. Aware of who and where we place our hope. Remembering that we live in this world – not the world of sci-fi and fiction.
The letter to the Colossians is written to a group of Christians who are facing pressure. Pressure to put their trust, hope and faith in new ideas, alternative hero’s and unrealistic portrayals of salvation.
But here in Colossians we are reminded that there is someone who really did come to this world to save.
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.
Colossians 2:6-9, New Living Translation
If you know you’re looking for a hero – enjoy your sci-fi and fiction – I do – but look to Jesus. If you’re not sure if you’re looking for a hero – still look to Jesus. If you said you weren’t – still look to Jesus.
Jesus Christ was an underdog, and hung out with human beings like you and me. People with doubts and questions and uncertainties. People who were anxious and broken and unsure. People living with guilt and shame. People looking for truth, and disillusioned by the way of the world.
Jesus comes not to irradicate that. But to live in it. To experience it. To live with us. Jesus came to earth, living and walking in our shoes. Jesus understands what it is to be human.
These words from Colossians tell us Jesus wasn’t simply human, Jesus was the fullness of God in human form. Jesus is human, and Jesus is God.
I believe Jesus is our Saviour – who came to save the world, you and me, because of God’s love for the world, for you and me. And to point us to a way of living that is filled with hope and truth.
But – Jesus isn’t a hero who comes to save us because we’re helpless. He’s not that sort of hero. He’s the hero who knows who we are, knows our potential, and so wants us to grow and be built up. Need a hero? Let your roots grow in Jesus.
This month the Methodist communities I serve in Bognor Regis, Felpham and Westergate are going to be studying the letter to the Colossians, and my Sunday reflection videos are going to take a sneaky peak too.
This week we’re looking at Colossians 1:1-23, which forms something of the trailer for what’s to come in the rest of the letter. It sets the scene for us.
The Colossian Christian community have been coming under pressure. Colossae had been a busy riverside city, a centre of trade – but other cities had overtaken them and Colossae had become a bit of a has been place.
As a result, there was a lack of hope, there was uncertainty in the community. And pressure was building from many corners of their society. All vying for attention, cults presenting themselves as truth and hope and salvation.
Paul, who writes this letter from prison, and has never met the Colossian Christians face to face. He’s heard of their faith, and he writes to them. Much like me speaking to a camera right now, hoping that you who are watching will be encouraged in your faith, Paul wanted to encourage them.
And so he writes:
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
Paul writes to encourage and affirm the Colossian Christians in the faith they have…
‘you’re doing good’
Keep at it…
Despite the pressures around you, keep at it.
Keep focused on Jesus.
There’s much more Paul wants to say about Jesus – and why keeping focused on Jesus gives hope – and we’ll come back to that more next week.
But this week – I want to encourage you.
Life is full of pressure and uncertainty right now.
And here in the UK we’re in a patchwork of restrictions across the country, there’s very live debate about whether the restrictions are going to far, or not far enough, what the scientific evidence is…
There’s so much vying for out attention.
Some much competition for truth.
Just as Paul encourages the Colossian Christian community to keep on keeping on, despite the pressure around them, my encouragement to you is to keep on keeping on.
If you a Christian – keep at your relationship with Jesus.
Paul goes on to celebrate the truth that the Colossian community’s faith is bearing fruit and growing among them (1:6).
Church – keep growing, keep praising, keep praying, keep encouraging one another in faith.
Keep asking questions and looking to God for answers.
If you’re not a Christian, then I want say to you – that despite all the noise around us, and around you, presenting itself as truth and hope – there is one true source of hope that will be faithful to you, and never leave you – Jesus.
Jesus is hope, and truth, and light.
Jesus has, and continues to make such a difference to my life.
Jesus is the one certainty, the one truth, we can hold onto.
We’ll look at more on how Paul presents the hope Jesus gives next week.
Use of this service is subject to the terms and conditions printed in size 3 font on the back left wall of the store – next to the white display unit.
Alternatively you can access our Terms and Conditions through our website by finding the link somewhere on our homepage – usually in pretty small grey font, but it depends if you’re viewing our website on computer, tablet of mobile device.
Ok, so it’s not always that hard to find them, but they’re not always easy to make sense of are them. Terms and Conditions are often long, full of legal jargon, and it’s not unusual that I’m still not sure what they really mean after I’ve read them. In fact, I confess I sometimes just tick the box to say I’ve read them and move on.
Terms and Conditions are part of 21st Century life, every social media account, every purchase we make, every contract we sign comes with some sort of conditions. Rules, guidelines, commitments, legal requirements – from the provider, but also from me the receiver.
I’ve heard lots of times people saying things like ‘God doesn’t love me, I’m not good enough’. Every time it fills me with sadness because somehow the world thinks God has a long list of complicated, undecipherable terms and conditions that mean no one can ever live up to them.
But it’s just not true, this misconception.
In the Bible there’s a letter that Paul writes where he talks about this sense of being cut off from God. I’m putting into my own words here – you can look it up for yourself if you want, it’s Colossians 1:21-22.
once you were cut off from God because of your evil deeds, but now you are reconciled because of Jesus, made holy and blameless and no longer cut off.
In the gospel of John we read Jesus saying:
“anyone who comes to me I will never drive away”
A relationship with God doesn’t need to start with terms and conditions of us being perfect or thinking we’re good enough. There are no legal requirements.
Relationship with God starts with accepting the wonderful, amazing fact that God loves us for who we are and will drive no one away.
If you haven’t already, start a relationship with God today – he’s ready and waiting to hear from you, and accept you with open, loving arms.