Lent 2009 (8) – The best

If I am a father, where is the honour due to me? If I am a master, where
is the respect due to me? says the LORD Almighty. It is you, O priests, who
show contempt for my name. But you ask, “How have we shown contempt
for your name?”

When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you
sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them
to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?
says the LORD Almighty.

Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not
light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, says the LORD
Almighty, and I will accept no offering from your hands.

Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to
give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great
king, says the LORD Almighty, and my name is to be feared among the
nations.
Malachi 1:6-8,10,14

God challenges both priests and people about their attitude: they were bringing second-rate animals for sacrifice which was totally unacceptable. Rather than the very best.

God deserves the best in worship. Our personal worship at the best time and with maximum energy. Our collective worship planned with maximum thought, maximum preparation, maximum practice, and maximum engagement, so that it is the very best that we can offer. Only the best will “do” for God!

Create | Engage | Participate | Risk

I came across “Create | Engage | Participate | Risk” as a brief explanation of worship in the emerging church, Grace based in west London (www.freshworship.org).

Grace is a Christian alternative worship community/network. It has varying degrees of importance/significance/levels of commitment for the people involved. Some are involved in other churches and Grace is a supplement, some are involved in St Mary’s and Grace is part of that, for some Grace is their church. There are also the complexities of how people’s partners and children fit in or are part of Grace. But it is the people and the network of friendships/relationships that makes Grace what it is.

Grace is about worship in ways and forms that we can relate to. It is an authentic offering of worship to God out of who we are, not something we target other people with. Implicit in this is the idea that if we produce worship that we relate to, we will be able to invite friends.

Lent 2009 (7) – Worship and Action

I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. [The seraphs] were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:1,3,5-8

Worship and witness are part of the priestly work of all Christians (Rms 15.16). Isaiah’s vision begins with an overwhelming awareness of God, his greatness and his holiness. This makes him all too aware of his own unworthiness and sinfulness and he cries out to God in his need. One of the seraphs touches his lips with a live coal: symbolically, his sin and guilt are dealt with. Then he hears God’s voice calling for volunteers: “Whom shall I send?” And Isaiah volunteers: “Here I am. Send me!”

Worship should lead to repentance and renewal, and action for God. This is the recurring pattern of our worship, individual and in community. What we do together as a Christian community, let us also do personally in our own time.

Lent 2009 (6) – Celebration

All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. All the Levites who were musicians… stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:
“He is good; his love endures for ever”.
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God.
2 Chronicles 5:11-14

This is a favourite Scripture for my birthday! The occasion was the consecration of King Solomon’s newly completed Temple. It was a magnificent building. When all was ready, the service began: the musicians played, the choir sang and something quite amazing apparently happened. God turned up. Oh that he turned up with such presence every time his people worship together.

Lent 2009 (5) – Holy Ground

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a burning bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.’ When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ’Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Don’t come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’
Exodus 3:1-5

Driving through the Peruvian desert a little while ago, I realised that deserts are not necessarily sandy places. But they are barren ones. In this lifeless place, Moses saw what a burning bush that wasn’t burning! God now had Moses’ attention and was able to speak to him. We can be so focussed on our barren places, so busy with the ‘stuff’ of life, that God has to take unusual action to attract us, stop us, so he can engage with us.

Where are the places where we take off our shoes because it is holy ground! The places where God is present and therefore places which are holy.

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