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O come, O come Emmanuel… we pray that you will…

unwrap our doubt to make a space for love…

unwrap our grief to make a space for joy…

unwrap our resentment to make a space for peace…

unwrap our sentimentality to make a space for life…

unwrap our skepticism to make a space for hope…

unwrap our darkness to make a space for light.

(from a prayer by cheryl lawrie in the book hold this space (see proost.co.uk) – christmas confession)

Watch a video by Jonny Baker with this prayer.

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According to a biblical understanding, from both the Old and New Testaments, worship is an ordinance of grace… there is always a double movement in worship—a God-humanward movement and a human-Godward movement—and both must be understood in terms of the gift of grace, the gift of the God of grace who provides for us a way of loving communion.

Communion with God and community with others who are seeking Him is the heart’s cry of many people. Many do not know that their heart is hungry for the power of God to touch their lives; that they are looking for a genuine encounter with the life of God. They do not realize that the triune God is in the business of creating community, in such a way that we are never more truly human, never more truly persons, than when we find our true being-in-communion.

In the emerging worship settings of what some are calling “progressive emerging worship,” worship leaders and pastors try to create a worship experience that engages all of the senses, the heart and the mind. These experiences move away from being a “spectator sport” as so many contemporary services have been, toward a more inclusive, participatory model – as the work of the people. These gatherings are about the saints gathering to live out Psalm 95:6, which says, ‘Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.’ It is a multisensory approach of bowing, kneeling, listening, learning, looking, singing, caring, touching, and loving with our minds, our hearts, and our bodies.

Now and in the future, the power of the story of God’s interaction with people, is and will be, an integral part of worship. The Church into which worship enfolds believers is a community of people who have, throughout the ages, participated. Telling the story through visual media, drama, dance, and liturgy, teaching and preaching creates worship within a tradition that enables us to be actively conscious of the Church’s past as well as of its eschatological future in Christ.

Sadly, many see the church today as totally irrelevant. The church seems antiquated and out-of-date. Preachers and worship leaders seem to go through the motions week after week, year after year, and the power of the story of the gospel of God is absent. Marva Dawn quotes H. Benton Lutz as writing “these pastors force stale, dry words into our hearts rather than telling the stories of Scripture in ways that illuminate our lives. They do not crack the kerygma open and let those stories spill over the real events of our daily lives.” As churches keep God at the center, they will tell the stories of faith so that God’s presence and intervention will become visible in people’s lives.

(continues in installment 4)

Worship is dialogue between God and His people, a dialogue that continually expands to encompass all who will respond to his grace. When Christians meet together to minister to one another, there is a corporate, spiritual engagement with God, in the Holy Spirit, through his words.

The Apostle Paul believed that God interacts with his people through the Word – the spoken word, the written word, the shared word and the word in song – “a whole range of verbal ministries in the congregational setting. For example, as they ‘sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’, with gratitude in their hearts to God, they fulfill the apostolic injunction, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (Col 3:16; cf. Eph. 5:19-20).”

The experience of the presence of God during times of personal and corporate worship enriches and strengthens the life of the Christian. John Wesley maintained that the elements of works of piety–worship, prayer, reading of Scripture, fasting, the Eucharist–are all means by which the grace of God transforms the Christian to be more like Christ. Especially in the gathering together to worship God and to celebrate the Eucharist, we find the bi-directional flow of God’s power and our response. The people of God continue to be the Spirit-filled community when they disperse and go about their daily affairs, but their identity as ‘the temple of the Lord’ finds particular expression when they gather together in Jesus’ name, to experience his presence and power in their midst.

In approximately the last forty years, the worship experience of many believers has changed dramatically. Previously worship liturgy had not varied much since around 300 A.D. but with the advent of the pop culture in the 50s and 60s, a revolution began in worship. New musical and lyrical forms entered the church, first through youth movements and then into the mainstream of worship life. Much controversy still rages in some groups, to such an extent that people have even termed the controversy, “the worship wars.” Contemporary praise and worship genre of music became the primary focus of worship in many non-denominational free worship churches, and in the past ten years, has made inroads into mainline denominational churches. Many of these churches have focused on the Baby Boomer and Generation-X generations. However, there is change again in the wind, perhaps we could say, “in the wind of the Spirit.”

Worship leaders have been taking a fresh look at the ancient forms of worship of the early church, at the historical forms of the church over the centuries, and the forms of worship during this time of “contemporary worship.” No one knows what worship will look like in one hundred years, or even fifty, because we have no crystal balls. But we can learn from the younger generations of this postmodern culture to enable us to see the need for oral and visual story-telling, for experience and emotion, for interaction with sacred memories, for the use of varied art forms and for the use of space to connect the worshipper to God. Youth and young adults express a deep need for spirituality in their lives. They desire a way to connect with and experience the presence of God. They seek something outside of them that is greater than them. They need an experience of grace and hope from the Triune God.

(continues in installment 3)

Installment one:

Worship is “the act of adoring and praising God, that is ascribing worth to God as the one who deserves homage and service.” People use the word “worship” to mean many things… singing, recitation of creeds and the Lord’s Prayer, contemplation of nature, activities that honor God, strategies to reach others, liturgies and musical styles. The essence of worship is a reciprocal relationship with God, a type of “revelation and response.” As God in his grace and mercy speaks to his people through the power of His Spirit, his Word touches the deep places in one’s heart. We experience his grace, his conviction and forgiveness, his love, truth, comfort and guidance. In response, “we love God with heart, soul, mind and strength.”

The Word of God records the response of creation to God, the response of the first human beings and the response of people throughout centuries of interaction with God. In worship, God engages us in a holistic experience that touches all aspects of our human experience.

Through worship, we retell the story of the Gospel, the good news of all that God has done with his people, through the Creation, the Fall, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and his death, burial and resurrection. We tell the story of the saving power of the Savior. We do not simply reenact the events of God’s history with man, but we personally interact with and response to God’s presence.

Worship is a dramatic enactment of the relationship that we have with God, a relationship that stems from historical events. Enactment may be done by means of recitation and drama. Recitation (creeds, hymns and preaching) and drama (or ritual) have their basis in the Old Testament and the New Testament, particularly in the Passover and Eucharist. In worship we enact or act out the Gospel.

(continues in installment 2)

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In the upcoming, ongoing visual curriculum series To Be Told, Latino pastor Claudio Oliver asks the question, “Do you have a mission or does the mission have you?” A short film, Missio Dei is from Red del Camino Network for Integral Mission in Latin America (www.lareddelcamino.net). To Be Told is an alternative multi-media, alternative teaching series featuring stories that reveal God’s Kingdom on earth. To see the video go to: http://emergingumc.blogspot.com/

God has been using stories to reveal himself since the beginning of time, but today many of these stories are never told. We are called to tell them. And like Jesus, we seek to tell them with creativity, and passion.

The stories that are told in the series To Be Told come from the margins. They are stories about a quiet revolution of hope among the mostly unnoticed citizens of God’s Kingdom. They are stories about people and communities of faith that are actively participating in God’s restorative plans for all of creation. They are stories that reveal new ways of thinking about faith, and new ways of living out that faith today.

To Be Told is an initiative of Del Camino Connection in strategic alliance with The Work of the People. Del Camino Connection (DCC) is a not-for-profit organization that was created to serve and support the Del Camino Network for Integral Mission in Latin America and the Caribbean, a movement of local churches committed to living out God’s plan to make all things new. The Work of the People is a community of artists and storytellers that creates visual media for worship and mission. (www.theworkofthepeople.com)

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