Category Archives: Worship: Loving What Matters Most

Leaning Into God’s Future

Worship Series - Wk 1 - Surrender - Micah 6.6-8 - 062616 - SoHills.001

In times like these, when we are all too aware of all that is wrong in and with the world, it is easy to despair, to lose hope, or to stick our heads in the sand just waiting to be snatched away from it all. But there is another option, a more difficult and yet more faithful posture we can assume in this world. You see, we know how the story ends, we know who wins in the end. We are the people who insist, against much evidence that suggests otherwise, that humanity, creation, indeed all of history, will one day be rescued, redeemed, and restored by a God who wants to take up residence with us, who wants to dwell forever by our side. But our faith that this is how the story ends is only as real as our willingness to live as if new creation is really the end to which all creation is headed. In other words, if we’re abandoned to despair or we’ve got our heads stuck in the sand, our faith just isn’t worth much. We are called to be people who lean into God’s future, who live as though God is already in the process of unleashing the new creation. So what would it mean to lean into God’s future? It’ll mean something different for each and every one of us. But my hope is the following videos and reflection questions will help us get started discerning what it means for you and for me to lean into God’s future.

God Interruptions

Questions for Reflection

1. Reflect on your typical rhythms in your life. How available are you to be able to notice the “God interruptions” as they happen?

2. How might you create margin in your life to be interruptable?

3. When has God interrupted you and helped you to see that the way things are isn’t the way they have to be or will always be? How did that interruption impact you from that point on?

Small Big Things

Questions for Reflection

1. In what ways are we taught and enculturated to focus on big things? In what ways do you model for others that bigger is better or more important?

2. How might you resist the temptation to focus on big things as the primary way to be faithful to God’s calling?

3. What is one small thing you can do with great love this week to lean into God’s future?

Worship: Loving What Matters Most Playlist

Music can be a powerful tool of formation, often more powerful than we even realize. Take some time to listen to this playlist, with carefully chosen songs added each week of this message series to help you dwell on its themes.

Love That Endures

Worship Series - Wk 1 - Surrender - Micah 6.6-8 - 062616 - SoHills.001

At the center of our faith is our God who is love, the one who has created us to reflect that love into the world, and yet we struggle so much to embody that love. The core of this struggle seems to be right at the intersection of the selflessness of God’s love and the selfishness that appears to be inherent in human beings. Unfortunately the urge toward selfishness often wins out over selfless love. This is true as much within the church as it is within individuals; the pettiness of so many church conflicts and the degree to which consumerism has infected the church make this all too clear. And if we can’t figure out how to love our brothers and sisters within the church, how in the world do we expect to be able to love those outside it? Because of that we need constant reminders that cultivating this love is in fact our highest calling. Jarrod’s sermon did just that, and my hope is these videos and reflection questions will continue the conversation he started.


Questions for Reflection

1. When you hear the description of “schmaltz” what comes to your mind that you’ve applied that label to?

2. Reflect self-critically for a moment: what habits, traditions, preferences of your own might well be viewed as “schmaltz” by someone else? Would you be willing to let go of the “schmaltz” as an act of love?

3. Think about how you analyze and evaluate worship. How might your analysis and evaluation be different if love were your primary lens?

Close But Different

Questions for Reflection

1. What benefits of diversity have you witnessed in your church experiences?

2. What challenges stemming from diversity have you witnessed in your church experiences?

3. What is one step you can take right now to help the church avoid blowing the precious gift that is the chance to be an alternative community in the world?

Worship: Loving What Matters Most Playlist

If music speaks your language, take some time to listen to this playlist, with carefully chosen songs added each week of this message series to help you dwell on its themes.

Healing Grace

Worship Series - Wk 1 - Surrender - Micah 6.6-8 - 062616 - SoHills.001

From the very beginning of Scripture, we discover a human propensity for hiding, a tendency that continued throughout the pages of the Bible and beyond, and carries on in many of our lives even today. But as Jarrod reminded us, God’s healing grace is strong enough that we can come to God just as we are: no need to hide, no need to pretend. As you watch and read the following, I invite you to reflect on what it might mean for the church to be shaped deeply by this healing grace.

Confession and Shared Brokenness

Questions for Reflection

1. In what ways have you witnessed others “editing their brand” in church?

2. In what ways have you attempted to “edit your brand” in church?

3. What is one example of a time in which you witnessed someone refuse to “edit their brand” and instead choose to tell the truth? How was their truth-telling received? What were the effects of this decision?

4. For many of us such “editing” is almost instinctive, we are so deeply formed by our culture. What is one specific step you can take to begin to de-program the instinct to edit and instead tell the truth?

Living Transparently

Questions for Reflection

1. In your experience in church, what have you seen prioritized most often: efficiency and productivity or honesty and openness? What are some examples of times you’ve seen either of these priorities enacted?

2. What would it cost you for the church to become the kind of place where truth is told and image-management has no place? In other words, how would it affect you for the church to make this kind of transformation? How willing are you to pay that price, to endure those affects?

3. What is one way you can begin to help cultivate a culture of truth-telling and honesty, of safety and hospitality that can be confidently shared because of God’s healing grace?

From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

The following prayer from Prayers for a Privileged People by Walter Brueggemann captures so well the transformation that can occur when God’s healing grace sets us free to stop managing our image and step into the light.

The priest says, “Almighty God…from whom no secrets are hid.”
We rush to the next phase but now linger there.
We are rich conundrums of secrets,
we weave a pattern of lies in order to be
well thought of,
we engage in subterfuge about our truth.
We carry old secrets too painful to utter,
too shameful to acknowledge,
too burdensome to bear,
of failures we cannot undo,
of alienations we regret but cannot fix,
of grandiose exhibits we cannot curb.
And you know them.
You know them all.
And so we take a deep sigh in your presence,
no longer needing to pretend and
cover up and

We mostly do not have big sins to confess,
only modest shames that do not
fit our hoped-for selves.

And then we find that your knowing is more
powerful than our secrets.
You know and do not turn away,
and our secrets that seemed too powerful
are emptied of strength,
secrets that seemed too burdensome
are now less severe.

We marvel that when you find us out
you stay with us,
taking us seriously,
taking our secrets soberly,
but not ultimately,
overpowering our little failure
with your massive love
and abiding patience.

We long to be fully, honestly
exposed to your gaze of gentleness.
In the moment of your knowing
we are eased and lightened,
and we feel the surge of joy move in our bodies,
because we are not ours in cringing
but yours in communion.

We are yours and find the truth before you
makes us free for
wonder, love, and praise–and new life.

Worship: Loving What Matters Most Playlist

For many of us music speaks to our souls and shapes who we are. If you’re one of those people, take some time to listen to this playlist, with carefully chosen songs added each week of this message series to help you dwell on its themes.

What Worship Really Is

Worship Series - Wk 1 - Surrender - Micah 6.6-8 - 062616 - SoHills.001

Growing up, my mother frequently reminded me about how easily our greatest strengths can become our greatest weaknesses. When it comes to worship, one of the incredible blessings of times of corporate worship is that they can be both meaningful and transformational. The downside, however, is that such experiences can become addictive to the degree that worship is no longer able to transform us into the selfless image of Christ. Instead, worship transforms us into selfish people whose relationship to worship is like that of a junkie with a drug.

A few years back, Skye Jethani described this process in more detail, highlighting a haunting explanation for how and why this happens. Here’s a brief excerpt from Jethani’s article.

A University of Washington study has found that megachurch worship experiences actually trigger an “oxytocin cocktail” in the brain that can become chemically addictive. The same has been found at large sporting events and concerts, but attenders to these gatherings don’t usually attribute the “high” to God.

“The upbeat modern music, cameras that scan the audience and project smiling, dancing, singing, or crying worshipers on large screens, and an extremely charismatic leader whose sermons touch individuals on an emotional level … serve to create these strong positive emotional experiences,” said Katie Corcoran, a Ph.D. candidate who co-authored the study.

The problem with these mountaintop experiences, whether legitimate … or fabricated, is that the transformation does not last. In a few days time, or maybe as early as lunchtime, the glory begins to fade. The mountaintop experience with God, the event we were certain would change our lives forever, turns out to be another fleeting spiritual high. And to hide the lack of genuine transformation, we mask the inglorious truth of our lives behind a veil, a façade of Christian merchandise or busyness, until we can ascend the mountain again and be recharged.

This pursuit of transformation by consuming external experiences creates worship junkies who leap from one mountaintop to another, one spiritual high to another, in search of a glory that will not fade. As one church member interviewed for the University of Washington study said, “God’s love becomes … such a drug that you can’t wait to come get your next hit. … You can’t wait to get involved to get the high from God.” In response, churches are driven to create ever-grander experiences and more elaborate productions to satisfy expectations. But if lasting transformation is our goal, mountaintops–even God-ordained ones–will never suffice.

Question for Reflection

How does this description of worship becoming addictive resonate with your own experiences of worship? Have you found yourself chasing the next worship high? What has come of that chase?

Instead of drawing us further into ourselves and transforming us into more selfish people, true worship draws us out of ourselves and transforms us into selfless servants of God and others. In that sense, worship can be quite dangerous, as Mark Labberton describes in the following video.

Dangerous Worship

Questions for Reflection

1. Labberton asserts that “worship that takes God seriously puts me and my world in some other location than in the center of the stage.” As you think back over your experiences in worship and in church, where have those experiences tended to place you on the stage: in the center or to the side? What practices tend to put you and your world in the center? What practices place you and your world to the side?

2. If “faithful worship is dangerous to selfishness, it’s dangerous to self-interest, it’s dangerous to the idolatries of self, it’s dangerous to the small-worldness of my own interests,” then in what ways does such worship challenge you?

3. If a genuine encounter with God “is going to be disruptive, it’s going to mean having to live in a new way, with a new agenda, and with a different vision,” in what specific ways might God be disrupting your life, inviting you to take up a new agenda with a different vision?

Instead of a Show

Take a few moments to listen to this convicting and challenging song by Jon Foreman and reflect on what it would mean to fully commit yourself to surrendering to God by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.

Worship: Loving What Matters Most Playlist

If you find that music speaks to your soul and shapes who you are, take some time to listen to this playlist, with carefully chosen songs added each week of the sermon series to help you dwell on its themes.