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Worship Study and Worship Symbols

This year our Worship Music Ministry is slowly going through Robert Webber's Together We Worship: Recovering God's Story. This short book is meant to be studied everyday over the course of thirty days, one 2-3 page session per day. The book is actually part of Webber's 30 Days of Worship Discovery, which includes a DVD and other resources. We have customized it to our ministry's needs, reading and discussing one session of the book every two weeks. There are a couple questions at the end of each session, and so I start an email every other Monday, to which we "Reply All" with our answers. The purpose of this study is for all thirty of us to expand our understanding of worship, getting to the roots of what we do in worship. I highly recommend leading your team members in this very accessible curriculum as an introduction to the deeper things of worship.

(I believe you'll have to purchase the entire 30 Days curriculum in order to get the Together We Worship book. I don't think you can purchase it separately. Maybe if you beg the publisher. Of course, if you get the DVD you'll see my lovely face and all of my classmates who studied together under Bob. Plus, you'll see snippets of Bob sporting a mighty fine mullet. Click here to watch the DVD Intro video. Can you find me?)

Our team has already gone through the first four sessions of Together We Worship, and it has been awesome! We have learned that worship is primarily about re-presenting God's accomplishments (Day 1), the importance of a Trinitarian understanding of worship (Day 2), the story of the Father expressed in the language of mystery in our worship (Day 3), the story of the Son expressed in the language of story in our worship (Day 4). And yesterday we began our discussion about the story of the Holy Spirit expressed in the language of symbol in our worship (Day 5). Before reading it I would have had to rack my brain for any symbols we use in worship besides the bread and cup of communion. After reading this session I am awestruck by the regular symbols I have been overlooking, such as the assembly of believers symbolizing the welcoming nature of God, the ministry of believers symbolizing God's presence and power in our preaching and serving, and the Bible as a symbol to be festooned and read with enthusiasm.

This really gets me thinking about our need to view these things as Holy Spirit symbols that communicate God's life-giving work. The last paragraph (p. 31) really got me thinking about how often we talk about the move of the Spirit in our church, and yet without these symbols we really have no tangible means of identifying with certainty His activity.

The challenge for us is to recover how the Holy Spirit communicates God's life-giving work through signs and symbols. So, someone may ask, "Did you experience the worship of the Holy Spirit in such and such a church?" "Oh, yes! The welcome they gave me, the sense of servanthood there, the reverence with which they treated the Bible, and the way they celebrated the bread and wine. Yes, I was moved by the Holy Spirit, filled with the grace of the Spirit and was led by the Spirit into a deeper relationship with the triune God!"

The truth is we can't just rely on our feelings or emotional experiences to be indicators of the Spirit's move. I am so grateful that our church is already committed to the four symbols Bob mentions here. Now I want to be more intentional about identifying them, and other symbols, for what they are: avenues through which the Holy Spirit fills us with grace and leads us into a deeper relationship with the triune God.

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Regrets and Reshapes

The further removed I get from my seminary days, the more I realize how much I missed while I was there. For example, I would have taken full advantage of a fellowship opportunity Bob Webber offered every week. We'd all walk to Starbucks after class, he'd buy us drinks, and we'd casually discuss life, theology, culture, anything and everything. I could kick myself for only attending one or two of these.

But perhaps the biggest mistake I made was skipping out on student chapel. In my three years of school I attended only a handful of these. I am now realizing how foolish I was. Chapel was an opportunity for me to apply through worship all of the knowledge I had been accumulating in my studies. And regular worship within the gathered community of students would have made my heart fertile for receiving more of the truth. Indeed, it would have shaped my understanding. I was too busy complaining about the fact that the school didn't offer any classes on the subject of worship, which kind of is a shame (I had to take my worship courses with Bob at a different school), but my frustration kept me from worshiping. My current lament was brought on by something I just read from Bob's pen in Ancient-Future Worship on page 40.

In a world where worship follows the culture and becomes like another TV program - presenting, entertaining, satisfying to religious consumerism - it is no wonder that even a pastor trained in seminary knows little to nothing about the meaning of worship.

Bob continues,

The problem goes even deeper, however. It goes to the heart of the Good News. Worship - daily, weekly, yearly - is rooted in the gospel. And when worship fails to proclaim, sing, and enact at the Table the Good News that God not only saves sinners but also narrates the whole world, it is not only worship that becomes corrupted by the culture, it is also the gospel. Not only has worship lost its way, but the fullness of the gospel, the story which worship does, has been lost.

Let's allow the gospel to shape our worship, and let's allow our worship to shape our understanding.

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Originals: Love Has Won (An Easter Song)

Love Has Won
Sean Carter & Ryan Flanigan







Download: mp3 / chords

Lyrics
Where, O grave, is your vict'ry?
Where, O death, is your sting?
Christ is risen in glory
Christ is living in me

Love, love has won
Christ has overcome
my heart and I can't fight it
I can't hide it

Where, O sin, is your power?
Where, O law, is your curse?
Christ completely devours
Christ fulfills ev'ry word

Love, love has won
Christ has overcome
my heart and I can't fight it
I can't hide it
Love, love has done
something deep inside
my heart and I can't fight it
I can't hide it

Nothing can ravage my soul
when I give up control
Love never fails
Nothing too high or too low
nothing else in this world
Love never fails

Song Story
I began writing this song several months ago. This rarely ever happens anymore, but I found a few hours to sit down and play my guitar. In the midst of worshiping God, this melody came out of my heart. No words came with it, though, not even a lyrical concept. So I recorded the melody in "la da das" and sent it to Sean to see if any words came to his mind. He immediately heard 1 Cor. 15:55, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" He also heard a victorious song of Christ's love that comes down from above us, defeating hell and the grave. I agreed and began working out the words.

One day, while I was raking leaves in the backyard, the idea came into my mind to make this a song about deep, personal resurrection, about the inner struggle between flesh and spirit. But as children of God, who have been purchased by Him, even though we constantly put up a fight, love wins. Christ has completely devoured sin and death within each of His own, not only in the external cosmos. Think about it, the extent to which Christ's love reaches throughout the whole universe, love travels that same infinite distance into each of our hearts, defeating sin and death in us once and for all. Not only is Christ's resurrection a cosmic event, it is a deeply personal one. Let's remember that this Easter season.

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Fasting

Fasting is a practice I've always had a difficult time wrapping my heart around. Passages such as Isaiah 58 and Matthew 6 to this day leave me feeling a bit too overwhelmed to take it on. Perhaps it's because every time I've ever tried to fast I've gone into it thinking that my great act of sacrifice would get me in good with God, or that I was proving something to him by my discipline. Let me encourage you, fourteen days into this Lenten Season (twelve if you don't count Sundays), to think differently about fasting.

We all know that we're supposed to give something up during Lent, but what and why? Well, the "what" that we should give up is something pleasurable to us, something good that God has blessed us with and intends for us to otherwise enjoy. For example, I greatly enjoy watching God-given creativity put to film. During Lent, however, I have decided to watch less TV than I otherwise would. Others give up dessert foods, or coffee, or red meat. But there's a difference between pure pleasure and sinful pleasure. Don't give something up for Lent that you should not be participating in or consuming in the first place. For example, someone I know said they're going to give up getting drunk. That doesn't count.

Now, the "why" is harder for us to identify. We already know that our reason for giving something up has nothing to do with proving something to God or to others. The reason we do it is to by grace increase our desire for God, to know Him and to better seek Him. We fast to re-focus our delight in the Creator, because we so often lose sight of Him, getting side-tracked by the things of this world, even His blessings. We find ourselves desiring so many other things and spending all of our time indulging in those things. When we fast rightly our priorities are realigned.

Our pastor put it this way: When the desire for that certain pleasure arises (that extra hour of TV or that Chai Latte), let that be a trigger for you to ask God to help you desire Him more than that thing. Maybe even spend some time in the Word and prayer instead of partaking in that other delight. So, when you're craving that thing you gave up, pray this prayer:

Lord, help me to want You more than I want
anyone or anything else in this world.
Lord, help me to love You more than I love
anyone or anything else in this world.
Lord, help me to trust You more than I trust
anyone or anything else in this world.
Lord, help me to serve You more than I serve
anyone or anything else in this world.

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