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Session 2: Worship


Worship 'As in heaven'

As I have asked people what glimpses of heaven they have seen here on earth, a regular response is they have seen heaven in worship.  As God’s people gather in his name and honour and glorify him through words of prayer, bringing gifts of money, songs and music, then often there is a sense of heaven and an encounter with God.  Also in individual or small group worship, in sharing together, being vulnerable and honest, seeing creation – all these can be channels of worship and also of seeing heaven on earth.
1  What is worship?  Reflect for a moment on your answer to this question.

Worship is to honour God with extravagant love and extreme submission… and to reverence with supreme respect and veneration. Webster’s Dictionary 1828.

True worship is the priority we give to God in our lives.  It is the recognition that God created us, loves us, has forgiven and renewed us; and worship is living holy lives in the light of this truth.

Acts of worship include singing a worship song or hymn; giving in the offering, serving at the homeless shelter, sharing in bread and wine - but they do not define worship.  Worship is a life offered to God; making him a non-negotiable priority in our lives.
Reflect on the difference between acts of worship and worship – is it a little like acts of love and love?
What difficulties do we face in making God a non-negotiable priority in our lives?  How do we encourage each other to make our lives a response of worship rather than just a Sunday or occasional activity?

2  How do we worship so that God’s Kingdom comes As in Heaven?
Think about this and come up with as many points as you can.

Getting heaven into us!

Steve Hollinghurst was quoted as saying ‘making disciples is not first about getting people into heaven but getting heaven into people'.

What Steve is rightly saying is that the Kingdom of God for which we pray 'as in heaven' is the reign of Christ and the presence of the living God active amongst us.  So this means when we are praying for God’s reign, heaven, to fill us and absorb us now and not waiting to go somewhere in the future.

Colossians 1:27 reminds us 'Christ in you, bringing the hope of all the glorious things to come'.  That is the truth of the Gospel; that the Kingdom of God, the rule of Christ has already come into our lives as a sign of all that is to come.  When we worship and honour God; and when we pray and seek God through his written word then we receive more of God’s reign within us and we can be more effective as channels of heaven for others.
How do we seek heaven on earth within ourselves, now?  Should we give up on the notion of 'going to heaven' and be more concerned about seeing heaven today?

3  Honouring God 'As in heaven' – seeking to worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24)
Isaiah 6 – The prophet was in the Temple, worshipping and seeking God and he encountered God profoundly and overwhelmingly.  In the presence of Almighty God Isaiah was conscious of the holiness and glory of God and his own flaws and impurity.  It was as he drew closer to God that God could transform Isaiah; his guilt and failure were taken away and he was forgiven.  The reign of God came into his life more fully; God’s Kingdom came to Isaiah 'as in heaven'.
  • When we truly worship, we encounter God who will wish to transform our flawed lives to be more heavenly.
  • As one writer described it, worship is about living your life in 'extreme or excessive submission to God'.  Perhaps this indicates why we see less of heaven than we would like.
Read Isaiah 6:1-7 reflect for a few moments on what the passage is saying.  What does this passage tell us about worship – include reflections on encountering, confessing, receiving and going.

Is worship too much about us?

Our reflections above have indicated that worship is about honouring and submitting to God and yet so much of what is called worship seems to be centred on those gathering rather than God himself.  On holiday I came across an open air worship service; all I could see was a large cross in the centre and a screen to the side.  The musicians and the worship leader were somewhere at the front but could not be seen.  The central focus was on Jesus and encountering him through the Holy Spirit. 
  • Does our worship focus on God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit or on those leading?
  • Is there a danger that our worship and seeking heaven on earth is about making us feel ‘good’ rather than honouring and glorifying the living God? 
  • What are the key elements of worship that is an expression of extravagant love and commitment to God?

The Dead Sea has water flowing in from the Jordan but it has no outlet.  The water arrives and evaporates in the heat of the desert.  Nothing can grow in the Dead Sea, it is a toxic mix of chemicals and minerals.  Worship, so called, can be like the Dead Sea.  Lots of things flow into it, music, words, praise and visuals but unless there is a flow out to others with God’s presence and reign then the result is deadly.
Discuss the comment 'worship that does not impact the community or result in action is not worship'.
Bringing glory to God and being transformed so that God’s Kingdom comes As in Heaven:
  • Read Philippians 2:5-11 or Colossians 1:15-23 or Isaiah 40:9-26 in two or three different translations. 
  • Take time between each reading to think about the meaning and seek God as you read and think; use your imagination to grasp the immensity of what is written.
  • Use the words to worship God and to respond to God.
  • Note any further response God is calling you to fulfil.  If you wish to see more of heaven on earth then we will need to respond to God.

A prayer 

We thank you Lord for the many ways in which we can encounter you.  We honour you for your holy love to all humankind.  We give thanks for your compassion, justice and patience with us all.  We worship you as the God who is always faithful and true to his promises.  May we increasingly be filled with your presence so that we might live for you with extravagant love and submission.  Fill us with your Spirit so that your will might be ours and so we might take your Kingdom to others.  And in so doing may we bring glory to your name.  Amen.

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God's Kingdom is always about transforming death to life, darkness to light, ashes to beauty
Insights into discipleship and community 'As in heaven'
The Kingdom of God is 'the reign and rule of God in the lives of God’s people'.
Seeing God in the ordinary things of life
Worship is about honouring and submitting to God
Righteousness and peace kiss each other