Expressions Of Worship

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Expressions of praise – giving to God the best

Each according to their gifts and understanding

For some it is with incense and noise

And others with silent prayer contemplating

Orthodox icons – precious artistic devotions

And Pentecostals dancing giving praise in motion

Silver and gold, or simplicity displayed

Offering back the Creator from whom all has been made


Padre

Praise


Worship

Adoration

Focused praise

Silent meditation

Continuing to pray

The mode and means

When we near the throne

Reflects our relationship to God

Which is ours alone

Greet not others’ devotion with reproach

For only He knows – the hearts of those that approach


Padre

Praise

Hallelujah, Dictionary, Page, Light
Pixabay

Praise: the expression gratitude and respect

When upon God we reflect

We salute His greatness extreme

And shower on Him our unbridled esteem

Let “Hallelujah” be our refrain

And let our admiration on Him remain


Padre

Bells

Bells, Bell, Bell Tower, Masonry, Metal, Ring
Pixabay

A ram’s horn signals to a chosen people

A high holy day

While in the minaret a human voice

Calls the faithful to pray

But among England’s villages and fields

It is the sound of clappers on bronze

With patterned peals

Bats and starlings take flight from the parish tower

Till the campanologists have finished their hour


Padre

Captive Joy: Philippians and Life’s Lockdowns

Padlock, Door, Lock, Key Hole, Macro

Pixabay

I have been in lockdown since the 16th of March.  In that time, I have really only been out of the house on four or five occasions and those were short walks around the block.   Many of us are feeling the burden of the limiting of our everyday freedoms.  It’s frustrating.  It’s easy to grumble.

If we are honest, how does our limited exercise of freedom compare to that of Paul?  What does the Holy Spirit and God’s word tell us?

If you think a couple of months of quarantine is bad, think about being a prisoner for the Gospel.  Paul spent four or five years in custody.

It is his attitude in this confinement that is an example to us.

Philippians 1, Paul notes his love and thanksgiving for his brothers and sisters in Philippi and then verses 7 – 14 says:

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Although physically isolated from them he is still in harmony with them as they shared the grace of Christ.  We may not physically be together today but we are linked and united in that grace.

Paul then continues in verse 12:

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Members of the Emperor’s household guard were coming to the Lord as a direct result of Paul’s captivity.   It may not seem it now, but you may well be making a bigger difference in this time of restrictions than you are aware.  It may be through your examples of faith and perseverance, or it may be through such links and forums as these online worship sessions which bring us together and link us to some who have never worshipped with us before.  We are only the sowers, but God will reap the harvest.

 

In Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul tells the church not to be disheartened by his tribulation.  He instead explains his wish for the saints:

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

Paul’s desire was for the church was for it to know that no matter what the outward appearance of things may seem, God is bigger than it.

 

So in a practical application, we can see in Philippians 2:14 and 15:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky   . . .

 

We need to examine where we are today.  Not only in this Covid crisis, but in all life’s other lockdowns, as well.   Job losses, bereavements, strained relationships, and the like are all lockdowns emotionally, but they don’t need to be spiritually.

 

What can we do?  Well look at the opportunities.  In this long isolation I have had more time for the word.  Have you?  More time to pray.  I have really focused on many of you, and for families around the world who have suffered loss in these times.  More time to encourage.  The internet is wonderful when applied to godly purposes.  I really have been blessed myself in being able to send little words of hope and encouragement to others.

 

In the end, in life’s lockdowns, it’s a time for joy.

 

Padre

 

If you have noted that the format of this isn’t exactly the same as my usual posts, it is because this in a manuscript of a sermon.

More Than Bricks and Mortar

imageedit_5_7186995301 (1).jpg

 

Lock-down, quarantine, self-isolation, and social distancing have had a major impact on our lives.   This is no less true of our worship, than with any other of our other social interactions.  But Pastors, Priests, and other faith leaders have been proactive in bringing what the modern world has to offer to keep their flocks together, and to fulfill the instruction of Hebrews 10:25, that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

This morning, as on the last several Lord’s Days, I “attended” worship on a live feed which linked the saints together.  The word was powerful as we were reminded that times of trial help prove us, and prepare us for the Lord’s work.  Our growth often has a “necessity” of such trials.  The worshiping of God from the vantage point of our physical separation from one another is one such trial.

It does show us another great truth, however.  The church (Ekklesia) is not the physical structure in which we gather.  We do not “go to church.”  Rather we are the church!  We, the Body of Christ, not the bricks and mortar are church.  The challenge then is for us the “Be Church.”  Nothing else is good enough.

Whether we are housed together with loved ones, linked by technology, or in near total isolation, we are tied together by far more.  We are bound by the blood of Christ!  We are family, and we are a body (I Corinthians 12).   We are Church.

 

Padre

 

Stillness in the House, Stillness of Heart

Dianne as teen

Young Dianne

My wife, Dianne was a talented musician.  She was a classical pianist, played for worship at several churches, and scored and accompanied amateur singing and dramatics groups.  During her illness she continued to practice, but as her energy levels waned, she dedicated herself to making recordings of her work so that I would not be without her “pretty noises,” as I called them once she was gone.

The recordings are precious to me, but as of yet, I have not begun to play them.  But I shall.  For now there is stillness in my house.

Having come from a religious tradition of A Capella music, it took me some time to truly come to appreciate the praise that musicians can shower on the Lord.  Dianne taught me that making harmony in one’s heart is just as much harmony with the glorifying of God as it is with that of other worshipers.

Music is indeed an aspect of our human experience.  It can move us, lift us, humble us, and encourage us.  There is a theological concept called numinous, “having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity.”    I have felt this presence of God on several occasions in my life.  The earliest memory was a vespers service at a Benedictine house when I was a teenager.  The Spirit of God sent shivers through my body, and the devotions of the monks were life changing for me.  Later, I had a similar experience during a particularly powerful acapella worship in Tennessee.  Most recently, not long before Dianne’s passing, I again felt it during a Pentecostal service of praise and worship.  Dianne used to sit quietly during such periods of worship, not singing, but mediating upon the Spirit’s washing over her, and through the congregation.   Her praise (despite being a musician) was at those times was meditative, and personal between her and God.

I have come to truly value the act of praise, and I hope that my heart’s reaching out to God is more complete than just what I can offer with my voice.  But I can also, as Dianne taught me through her example, just “be still in the Lord.”

Padre

 

Praise to the Three in One

Trinity

 

Hallelujah, to the Three in One,

hallelujah –

 

Blessed be the Alpha, in whom at the beginning all was made

Blessed to the Emmanuel who came to walk with us

Blessed be to the Omega in whom it was finished on the cross

Blessed be the Comforter who with us stayed

 

Hallelujah, to the Three in One,

hallelujah –

 

Praise to the Father – On His throne

Praise to the Spirit who guides us amidst life’s strife

Praise to the Son who for us did atone

Praise to the Three in One that gives us life

 

Hallelujah, to the Three in One,

hallelujah –

 

Trinity a word in the Bible not to be found

But single terms of reality are not the test

But God’s three part nature in that book does abound

And at Jordan River all were manifest

 

Hallelujah, to the Three in One,

hallelujah –

 

Praise to the Father – On His throne

Praise to the Spirit who guides us amidst life’s strife

Praise to the Son who for us did atone

Praise to the Three in One that gives us life

 

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Praise God All Nations

Psalm 117 is the shortest of the tehillim or praises. In the Christian Bible it is the shortest chapter, and centre most chapter in the scriptures. Despite its brevity, it is a powerful statement calling the entire world, and not just Israel, to praise the Creator.

In the NIV version it is worded, “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever Praise the Lord [Hallelujah].”

In two short verses, we are called to praise Him, and to recognise His love for us. It further emphasises his unwavering care and concern for us, even when we are less that perfect in our fidelity. To such a God praise should be unreserved. Hallelujah!

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Mountain Tops

The Rock 3

We often speak of the outstanding events of our lives as mountain top experiences. We want these experiences to last for ever, and this is understandable.  They often are full of joy and exhilaration.

Often worship lifts us to these heights. We are in the presence of God, and of like minded a d purposed people.  God is in the house, and we explicably want to retain this taste of heaven.

It is interesting therefore that in scripture we find that such mountain top moments are not opportunities to stay put, but clarion calls to move on.

In Exodus 19:20, the “Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain.”  He then called Moses to climb the mountain engulfed in cloud and smoke, and the sounds of thunder and trumpets. Moses was called into God’s very presence! “Then Moses went up on the mountain, which was covered with a cloud.  The shining-greatness of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai. And the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day He called to Moses from the cloud. To the people of Israel, the shining-greatness of the Lord looked like a fire that destroys on the mountain top.  Moses went into the cloud as he went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights (24:1-18).” Yet, he was not called there to remain, but rather to receive a mission. Moses is given God’s commandments, then sent back to lead the people.

Similarly in Matthew 17 we find another mountain top moment,

 “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.  Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead (vs 1-9).” [italics mine]

The three disciples are accompanying Jesus on a mountain top.  There they come into the presence of the great men of faith Moses and Elijah. The experience is electrifying for them.  Peter in his zeal wants to make the experience last.  Let’s build shelters her for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  In a sense he is saying, “Lord, this is great let’s just stay.” But then mission comes into play again.  The voice of the Father interrupts Peter’s planning.  And as a bright cloud falls on the mountain, God’s word, again as at His baptism, affirms Jesus’ identity.  But what’s more the disciples are given a direct command from the Father – “Listen to Him.”  And what are they told? “Get up,” and then led down the mountain.  There was work still to be done.

Should we then shun the mountain top moments? Absolutely not.  They are tastes of things to come for us.  They empower and enrich us. But, they are not the do all and end all of our walk. Once energised we too have a mission (one incidentally given on a mountain top):  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).” This is a mission difficult to complete if we build shelters on the mountain top. We need to go beyond our church doors, and into all the world to help lead others upwards!

Padre