Since September I have been leading a Life Group made up of people from our music teams and some of their spouses. It’s been a great time getting to know one another outside of our regular ministry setting by studying, sharing, and praying together. For our Bible study, we’ve been working through the book of Hebrews and this past week we read through chapter 11 where we see a series of examples of people who have exemplified faith in God. Then, right in the middle of the chapter, there are several verses which explain what all of these faithful people had in common. Verse 13 summarises this well:
13 These [people] all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth.
So I asked our group: “How does the fact that we, as people of faith, are ‘foreigners and temporary residents’ affect our worship?”
How should we be worshipping as citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20)?
Or, to use a scripture that we read last Sunday (Eph. 1:20-21):
20 [God exercised his power] in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens — 21 far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
If Jesus is our Ruler above all other rulers, if he is our Authority above all other authorities, how is that expressed in corporate worship?
Well, I don’t think there’s only one answer to that question, but probably the key answer is in the “Response.” As I’ve mentioned many times, our ‘liturgy’, our Order of Service, moves through four basic stages: Gathering – Word – Response – Sending. It should be during the Response where our identity as pilgrims in this world whose allegiance is to Christ alone becomes abundantly clear. The basic idea here is that, after God has revealed himself to us through the proclamation and preaching of the Word, our Response ought to be one of submission, commitment, obedience, and allegiance.
We should walk away from our corporate worship with a renewed sense that we are pilgrims in this fallen world and whose citizenship is in the Kingdom of God where Christ alone is King.
So, for example, this past Sunday our song of response was one where we sang lines like “we’re giving it all to you” and “I surrender, I surrender all.”
And, this upcoming Sunday, as part of the response we’ll be singing Our Messiah Reigns.
Another song that we frequently use as part of our response is This I Believe (The Creed) where we collectively (re)affirm our faith and commitment to Christian Faith. [Incidentally, our General Baptist forbears explicitly endorsed the use of the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed as part of personal and corporate devotional life – but that’s a topic for another day.]
Of course, the ultimate form of response is in Communion where, by actively choosing to participate in this symbol, we are proclaiming that we are a people who live in obedience to Jesus and the New Covenant established in his blood.
So, all of this is to encourage you to pay close attention as we gather for worship. Each week as we come out of the sermon, take note of how we respond to the message. Remember that our world is not as God intended it to be and that, for the time being, we are foreigners, pilgrims who belong to a different Kingdom and who follow a different King. Every Sunday we celebrate and declare that alternate Kingdom reality in anticipation of the renewal of all things, where God’s Kingdom will be ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’
Sunday, January 22, 2017:
Call to Worship:
“Made to Worship” (Chris Tomlin)
“Oh For a Thousand Tongues” (Charles Wesley, David Crowder)
Psalm 24 (sung as arranged by Charmaine Macooh)
Service of the Word:
“A Mighty Fortress” (Christy Nockels)
Sermon: Ephesians 1
“Giving it all to you” (Michael Gungor)
“Christ be All Around Me” (All Sons & Daughters)