There are so many ways to describe a person - for example, I’m a daddy, a husband, a musician, a fashion icon, a bad artist, a below average footballer, and an above average toast-butterer. But one thing that connects me to every other person on this planet is that I am human.
From the rich, powerful and famous to the unwanted, forgotten and disadvantaged, all of us are equally human.
When it comes to worship, the word can mean many different things to many different people. To me, to worship is simply to be fully human, to take our place in God’s creation being made new.
In a world where the camera is often “selfie” focussed, I can find it really difficult to lift my eyes from what is going on in my own personal world. But when we worship, we are no longer the star of the show but part of a greater narrative. Eugene Peterson says,
“Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God.”
So how do we worship? How do we become more preoccupied with Jesus than ourselves? How do we follow God's example in Jesus? How do we become fully human?
To be fully human is to take our place between the dust and the divine.
Like Jesus, to accept that on the one hand, we are in the likeness of God, that we have a divine spark, that we are not just the stuff of matter but there is a part of us that is more than what we see, and it is just as much ‘us’ as what we can see and touch and feel. On the other, it is also to acknowledge that we are ‘in’ time, finite; that we are dust, brought to life by the breath of God. And this has great impact on how we interact with the world: we have both great power and agency to change our destiny and the world around us, and at the very same time, we are powerless to change so much.
It’s a tension, like the string of a violin. And it is not always a place of comfort. But it is where the music is made.
Jesus embodied this tension: being in nature God and yet completely human, subject to death. Fully man, fully God. A divine melody that Philippians renders thus:
"[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
To deny either part of us is to deny our place in creation: to follow Jesus in being fully human. And to deny full humanness is to disrupt the flow of love: the flow of love from God to us and from us back to God, which we call worship. Worship is to acknowledge who I am, who God is and then to live, sing, create, do business, make love, enjoy, walk, rest and speak in the light of this.
When we are kind, when we join the poor, when we give beyond what is comfortable, when we choose sabbath, and when we pray poetry and song, we express this worship to God.
And we shuffle closer to God's great idea… You and me.
image credit: southviewchurch
It was 4:30 in the morning and the fire was down to small embers, crackling in the night. I was surrounded by the bizarre mix of beautiful birds singing and sheep baah-ing, mixed in with the repetition of snoring. The strangest part was the beauty that came from this sound. A sound that reflected the beautiful picture of community that was being built in that camp.
“Neh, neh, neh, neh, neh!
Neh, neh, neh, neh, neh!
Neh, neh, neh, neh, neh!
I would like to start with an apology to all of the Parents whose children have been singing this on repeat since Friday. I know I have, much to the annoyance of my housemates and friends!
In the Easter holidays we transformed the Family Centre into a TV Broadcasting set, as part of our playscheme for 5-11 year olds from the 3rd-6th April. The children were able to be part of the live studio of the Heatwave channel, broadcasting many news worthy items from current affairs as well as hearing live testimonies of men and women who encountered Jesus many centuries back, people like Martha (Mary’s sister), Zacchaeus, the Paralysed man (whose friends made a hole through the roof) etc… meeting the people whose lives were transformed by Jesus and asking them pertinent questions about their encounter with Jesus. We also had crazy weather reports (where the presenter of choice might get a little teeny bit wet) and Dan even showed us in a cooking segment the best way to crack an egg...on your forehead!
Heatwave is a week of fun and games, but is also a really good time to connect with the kids and teach them more about Jesus and his heart for them. Most of the 40 kids that came aren’t from Revs, and are just from the local community - quite a few of them have been coming for years, and have older brothers or sisters who came before them. Even for our kids who already know God, it’s been great to spend our holidays singing, dancing and worshipping Him with friends. One of the best things about doing church with all of you is worshipping God and learning more about who he is alongside friends, and kids need that too. This means that something like Heatwave is a chance for them to explore faith with others, and not just family.
It has also been really cool to be part of something that has been built over time and has links to kids that aren’t involved in our other programmes and events. Dan and I would love to make Heatwave even bigger and better next year. We can't wait to invite you onto team next Easter to be part of it!
Our community has been “leaning in” over these last few weeks through a series of meetings entitled “Living the Woven Cord”. It has been leaning in to understand more about the presence of the Trinity in our lives, leaning in to hear stories about how people have found God in the midst of great suffering, leaning in to creative expressions of worship that uplift and inspire our hearts, and leaning in to the legacy we walk in as God’s children, who weave Kingdom threads across our community and world, leading others into meeting with our risen King.
On our first morning, Roger Ellis helped us explore the wonder of the three-in-one:-
“God is Trinity and the beautiful, relational unity and love expressed within the divine three in oneness show us the way in life”.
We heard how God in Christ has gone before us into the darkness and suffering, defeating death and paving a way for us all into eternity. This set the scene for the moving stories we would hear in the second week, and Emma Derbyshire’s inspiring look at the Easter journey on the third meeting. If you haven’t heard Roger’s or Emma’s talks yet, we would really encourage you to do so. Here’s Roger’s and here’s Emma’s.
Our times together were also marked by inspiring art works, a beautiful original song by Emily Cook, and creative expressions of worship. Here are some of the works we saw: -
Created by Tom and Kat Fisher (with flower decorations by Karen Baldry) this work is based on the ancient Celtic symbol of faith. The triangular shape is symbolic of the three-in-one nature of the Trinity, the circle that of God’s eternal and all-encompassing character.
Created by Pete Hamilton and Julie Haydock, this symbolises the work of the Kingdom of God, like golden threads that interconnect our homes, neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, and the links of our church across the UK and wider world. In the middle of the work is the centre of Chichester. The surrounding villages and towns are superimposed behind the UK and world.
Here are three works created live on Easter Sunday morning. The first is by Sam Harding, which explores the journey to the cross. The second is by Jo Burton, on the theme of the resurrection of Christ. The third one was created by Julie Haydock and children during the meeting: -
(Painting by Sam Harding)
(Painting by Jo Burton)
(Painting by Julie Haydock & children in the meeting)
For the third week, we created a new film about how the Kingdom of God is like golden threads that criss-cross lands and hearts, bringing the presence of Heaven to Earth. Here it is:-
(click on image above to go to video on YouTube)
We’ve written some more about what inspired Julie to write this prayer poem here at our blog on Prayerscapes.
On behalf of the church we would like to thank all those who have contributed to “Living the Woven Cord” series. Many people have been impacted and deeply touched by the testimonies and beauty they have heard and seen.
Neil & Julie Haydock
Since January Soulfire (our 11-18s Youth Group) has embarked on a journey of "NT60" - reading the New Testament in 60 days. For the youth, the aim has been to touch base with every book of the New Testament at least once, with four readings a week. To help them on their journey, we've been reading the New Testament together on Sunday, providing videos in the week and reading together on some of our Friday sessions.
This Autumn, our church is looking at what we believe, and using the Nicene Creed as a basis for exploring this (this creed is an ancient declaration of the Christian faith dating back to AD325 and the early church communities). Last month, Dan Slatter asked us if we might create a short film recording of the creed. You may have already seen this film at church and recognise some of the voices on it!
We decided to record many different voices because we wanted to build a diverse picture of what it means to be part of church family – the young and old together, from many backgrounds and upbringings, all united in their love and adoration of Christ. So, on this recording you will hear Scottish, Irish, English and even Afro-French accents! In the western world we value highly our individualism with “I” and “my” being some of our most frequently used words. Christ knew that it was “we” - the church - that would become a beautiful family of relationships - his bride and treasure on earth. He knew that if we continued to view the world and understand ourselves with an “I” outlook, that we would fall to confusion or comparison. “We believe” is then a transforming creed, “we” are whole within the body, we are valued within the body and “we” are sheltered within the body.
We hope that the imagery we have woven into this film will help others who are on a journey of faith to distil, contemplate and rest in these ancient statements. We are “one” in belief, connected to our brothers and sisters of faith through many generations in Christ. “We” can play our part – not with fear, comparison or insecurity, but with confidence. “We” belong – accepted, loved, forgiven and free. “We” can rest when we are tired, question when we doubt, and be carried when we can no longer stand because we share in the love and the legacy of others who have gone before us.
Neil & Julie Haydock
Here are the words to this glorious declaration of Christian faith:
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Robert Armstrong has started up a blog called “Easy Money” to help and encourage people to manage their money better, and he already has quite a few followers in Revs. Here’s a link to it:
He says his blog is about “making it easier to manage money on a day-to-day basis by organising our finances so that we only have to think really hard about money (which we don’t like doing) very occasionally.”
Robert is also the point of contact for Christians Against Poverty (CAP) within Revelation Family Church and recently trained as a CAP Money Coach. CAP helped more than 8,000 families in the UK with financial problems last year.
Robert believes that how we manage our money is central to our walk with God, and when Jesus said “I have come to set the captives free”, this includes being free from debt and financial worries.
NT60 - RICH LUSH
As we head towards the final couple of weeks in the New Testament, it felt like the perfect time to reflect on this season. I don’t know about you, but for me there has been some real challenge in what I’ve read. Not only in terms of the scriptures, but practically fitting it in as well. Life is busy, as I’m sure we’re all aware and reading four chapters some days feels like more effort then perhaps we’re willing to put in.
Still, it has been a great joy to engage with the scriptures. For me it has felt like someone has put me on a physical workout plan or set diet for a season - and I feel the benefits of that in my daily walk. I’ve found that parts of scriptures have come alive in a way that I’d never really felt before. The book of Acts no longer felt like a record of events, but a story where I felt Paul’s pain as he said goodbye to the leaders of the Ephesian church for the last time, knowing that prison awaited him next. Where I could read about the churches he visited and read the letters he wrote to those same churches, whether he wrote in excitement to them or in desperation.
Reading through the letters, it was good to be reminded that the culture Paul was speaking to was not completely removed from our own as so often is claimed. Instead these were churches, much like our own, were working through day to day life, with ordinary people wanting to live a Godly extraordinary life, whilst dealing with fear and worry, questions around death and life, issues of how to connect with the culture and how to be a light to it. The world they lived in was filled with sexual promiscuity, drunkenness, con-men, judgment and a government that petrified many of them by the actions they took. This could easily be any English city.
For me all of this reminds me again and again that this book that we hold is still as relevant today as it has ever been - it still carries a great weight and is still a model of God’s authority in our life. When I don’t know the answer to an issue, the answer is probably in the Bible. And if it isn’t, then the way to work it out has probably already been modelled in the Bible!
Too often our culture wants to claim that this book is worthless, but it should be precious to us - as it holds truth in a world that wants to claim there is no truth.
In closing, I don’t know whether we’ve realised how revolutionary this time has been, to be a modern church intentionally reading their Bible heavily over a set season - there are plenty of churches out there whose congregations don’t read the word - whose pastors, as I read today, have said we need to stop “valuing” it in the same way; but I would argue that the Bible is no less relevant today then it was 2,000 years ago, and when we feast on His word through the eyes of the Holy Spirit and put it into action, both practically, thoughtfully and prayerfully, we will see His Glory.
Linda Roberts shares some of her thoughts on NT60 readings from Matthew...
"In Matthew chapters 1 and 2 I noticed that God spoke to Joseph three times in his dreams, giving him vital information, instructions or warnings. I don’t think God’s ever spoken to me in a dream (if he has I’ve missed it) but dreams are still such a common way for Jesus to make Himself known to Muslims.
I’ve read recently of Muslim refugees in England becoming Christians after Jesus appeared to them in a dream, and even of former members of ISIS seeing Jesus in dreams and visions. One former ISIS fighter who had killed many Christians said that he had begun having dreams of a man in white who came to him and said, 'You are killing my people.' The ISIS fighter said that just before he killed one Christian, the man said, 'I know you will kill me, but I give to you my Bible.' The Christian was killed and this ISIS fighter actually took the Bible and began to read it. In another dream, Jesus asked him to follow him and he is now asking to become a follower of Christ and be discipled! (source: YWAM)
Reading through the New Testament with Revs I’ve been reminded that however God choses to speak to us, through dreams or reading the Bible or an infinite number of other ways, He’s always communicating."
How does God communicate with you and what has he been saying recently?
In what ways might you be able to nurture a deepening of relationship with him?