Equipping Christians & churches for whole-life discipleship in the world.

Whole-Life Worship

October 29, 2015
29 Oct 2015

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
Deuteronomy 10:12-13
 
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being…’
In a loud voice they were saying:
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!’
Revelation 4:11 and 5:12

It should come as no surprise that the Lord of the whole of life requires worship in the whole of life. In the Old Testament, we see it in regulations that touch on every aspect of daily existence, in psalms which embrace the highs and lows and everything in between, in prophets who call for justice and mercy as well as sacrifice and singing. As Deuteronomy 10:12-13 captures it, all of life was to be an expression of service to the Lord.

That’s completely in line with what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 – where bodies, minds and wills are offered back to God – reminding us that the Old and New Testament stand together on the necessity of whole-life worship. Across Scripture, acceptable worship is not simply a matter of praising God in music and singing, or of participating enthusiastically in rites and ceremonies; it involves honouring, serving, and revering God in every sphere of life.

And it all flows out of his grace towards us. The biblical story line from beginning to end allows us to trace the acts of God on behalf of the people of God and our response to the Lord in worship.

In the book of Revelation, John sees a door standing open in heaven. He’s given a vision of reality from God’s perspective. For the small and weak communities of believers scattered around what is now Turkey, John sees that the true account of the world is revealed not only in the Creator God who reigns over all things, but in Christ crucified who redeems all things.

The worship that John witnesses nourishes our identity and mission as the body of Christ – because it’s focused above all on Christ himself, who is uniquely qualified to bring to pass God’s redemptive purposes in the world. The scope of what God might be pleased to do through us in our everyday lives – our whole of life for Christ – is rooted in what God has done, is doing, and will do for us and for all creation.

So, John’s vision of worship becomes a call to worship, an expression of allegiance in a world of competing allegiances, a way of declaring who’s really in charge, as we allow our worship of God and the Lamb to permeate everything we think and say and do, and invite others to do the same.

Antony Billington

The Lord’s Prayer (5): Your Kingdom Come… On Earth

June 18, 2012
18 Jun 2012

At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed… The second woe has passed… The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’
Revelation 11:13-15

The Christian church has, over the centuries, been tempted by several contrasting ways of living in this world. Some have simply prayed for Christ’s return at the end of time, meanwhile enduring this uncomfortable and disaster-ridden world, where the main task is ‘winning souls’. Others pray for the kingdom to come now, seeing it as their task to get on with the really important and pressing matters of contemporary social concern and action.

So ‘Your kingdom come’ has, for some, simply been about the end of the age, the final coming of Christ as judge and king. And, of course, his kingdom will come totally and completely, and his will will be done in every corner of the universe. But a problem arises if we see heaven as a disembodied realm beyond the physical universe, and expect the final destruction of all evil to include the destruction of the earth. If that were true, withdrawal into personal piety and saving souls makes sense. But we believe in the resurrection of the body; we believe that Jesus rose from the dead in a physical body that was recognisable and indestructible. And the biblical images and metaphors of the end of time speak of a restored earth.

So, when we pray ‘Your kingdom come’, we need to look at our world through God’s eyes – the eyes of a loving Creator, who sees this wonderful world in all its beauty, and who sees humans made in his image, loving their families, creating art and music, building bridges and growing crops. This being the case, we affirm and encourage everything that is good, and pray that the life of God’s reign will be worked out in very corner of our lives.

But we also need to see it through the eyes of a grieving Creator, who sees untold damage done to the earth and its people, through careless waste, violence, corruption and destructive greed; we live in a world of injustice, hunger and evil, and this prayer calls out for justice, bread, forgiveness and deliverance. So, as we pray, we are also making a commitment to do all we can – as subjects of the king – to bring his kingdom’s blessings, his reign of love and forgiveness, into our world now.

 

Margaret Killingray

The Lord’s Prayer (3): Our Father in Heaven

April 30, 2012
30 Apr 2012

See, I will create new heavens and a new earth… be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
Isaiah 65:17-18

Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’… I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.
Revelation 21:1-2

If you were to ask your fellow Christians in church next Sunday how they would answer the question ‘Where is heaven?’, I wonder what range of answers you would get.

I have been challenged by reading Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope (SPCK, 2007). He argues that many Christians have very vague ideas of heaven that have no real place for the resurrection of the body or the new creation of earth. So, what do we understand by the word ‘heaven’? Where is the Lord in his heaven now? Is it a ‘home for little children above the bright blue sky’? Or, when we get there, will it be a recreated recognisable earth?

Several factors contribute to the confusion. Firstly, there are the popular, sentimental ideas of heaven that surface at public demonstrations of grief and in some hymns. Secondly, there is the expansion in our knowledge of the universe we inhabit – space and time beyond human imagination, where telescopes of huge magnitude can probe space to see, not today, but the beginnings of time itself. Changing ideas of cosmology can confuse our understanding of the biblical use of metaphors of ‘up’ and ‘down’. ‘On the third day he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.’ Is heaven up there, then?

Metaphorical ‘up’ and ‘down’ are deeply rooted in our language – happy and good is up; sad and bad is down; we say ‘my spirits rose’ – or ‘sank’, ‘he’s at the height of his power’ or ‘he fell from power’. Although it’s apparent that these are spatial metaphors, they have spatially shaped our ideas of heaven – and hell.

So, where is heaven? Our Father in heaven is the one almighty, transcendent God, who was before all things, and in whom all things hold together, who created everything out of nothing. And our Father in heaven is the one God, who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, whose kingly rule has begun on earth. Heaven’s morning will indeed break; but earth’s vain shadows will not flee, but be transformed into a new creation. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ is our assurance that heaven at the end will be very physical and will be here.

Given this, how should we live now, today even, as children of our Father in heaven?

 

Margaret Killingray

The Kingdom of God (1): Two Kingdoms

February 14, 2011
14 Feb 2011

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah,
and he will reign for ever and ever. 

Revelation 11:15

Cecil Spring-Rice’s poem, ‘The Two Fatherlands’, begins, ‘I vow to thee, my country…’, and I remember singing it in school assemblies and on Remembrance Sundays. Probably only the lyrical power of Gustav Holst’s melody could allow us to get away with offering our nation state a love that ‘asks no questions’! After the passionate commitment of the first verse, the second is almost an afterthought – ‘And’ (by the way) ‘there’s another country’…

Indeed, the Bible tells us that we live in two realms. Jesus, standing before Pilate, the representative of one of this world’s powerful empires, said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest… but now my kingdom is from another place’.

So how do we work out our relationship to these two realms? Some Christians have, as far as possible, shunned the systems of this world; the closed Brethren, the Amish communities in the US, the silent orders of monks and nuns. These responses can be a challenge to some of our easy compromises and accommodations with our world today. Others have walked out of their church communities each Sunday, taking only a hidden inner pietism into their daily lives. Others have seen their work in the kingdom of this world simply in terms of evangelism; that our work for the Kingdom of God is to preach the gospel so that ‘soul by soul, and silently, her shining bounds increase’. The ‘social gospel’ is seen as a false diversion.

This relationship between our being subjects of the King of kings, and citizens of an earthly polity has given rise to a number of pithy aides-memoire: in the world but not of the world; Christ’s ambassadors; God’s co-workers; John Stott’s double listening to the word and the world; and whole-life discipleship.

So we can ‘vow’ to our country that we will, by the grace of God, bring his transforming life to our workplace, our neighbourhood, our country, our world, affirming all that is good, and challenging all that opposes his will and purposes. It may be, however, that our commitment to the Kingdom of God will present us with difficult and dangerous choices in a world where evil is sometimes in the ascendant.

 

Margaret Killingray