Session 3: Worship in Isolation

by Lynda Herbert

Aim

By the end of this session you should be able to: 

  • describe what it means to worship God

  • understand worship and the individual

  • understand how to maintain a sense of community during isolation

.

Prayer

Lord of life, 

we come to you with searching hearts,

So many questions.

Open our hearts to new ways of being

To see this time of isolation as being an opportunity 

To discover more about you.

And how even in changed circumstances 

your love is from everlasting.

Amen.

Introduction

In this session we will look at the heart of worship and consider the psalms or songs of the bible, and conclude this session by looking at new ways of being a worshipping community.  We will also consider the spirituality to be found in isolation, with examples from the Celtic Church to today.

Choice?

For many people isolation is not a choice but a way of life, which reflects their personal circumstances. 

Disabled people often face long periods of isolation, the video clip acknowledges this isolation and yet praises a God for his great love and mercy.

How do you respond to isolation?

Lament

When a new way if being (however temporary) is forced upon us, the most natural response is to lament, to mourn for lost possibilities, for distanced loved ones, and friendships not fulfilled.

Lament is a theme which pops up time and time again in the bible. 

N.T.Wright writing in Time Magazine MARCH 29, 2020 3:47 PM EDT

Speaks of the importance of Lament saying: 

 

‘It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new hope.’

 

How then can we find become small shrines? And get back to the heart of worship.

Exercise

Read Psalm 16.  

 

In this Psalm we see what it’s like to be God centred. 

 

At what moments in your life have you been dependent on God? How did that feel? In what ways did God respond to you?

Write your reflections in your spiritual learning journal.

A Pure Heart?

As a child my Welsh Grandmother used to sing Calon Lan to me, the words that struck me were ‘only a pure heart can sing’ and when I questioned my Grandmother about this she said:

 ‘Well you can’t sing through gritted teeth’.

Do you find their are times when Worship isn’t easy? How do you respond at these times?  Are these times when we have to offer 'a sacrifice of worship'? As you listen to the video think of ways we might do this.

The book of Psalms is perhaps one of the most one well known - and most used in worship - books of the Old Testament.  It is in fact a book of songs.

Even people with no church background will often know the 23rd Psalm from somewhere.  Perhaps one of the prime reasons the book of Psalms is so popular is because it is honest - there is something in there for everyone and for every part of life, success and failure, joys and sorrows, rejoicing and lamenting. Which are your favourite psalms and why?

Alone or Together?

Expressing your thoughts, your hopes, your fears in an act of worship is of course different in times of pandemic, the choices we face are different. But despite this, there are many opportunities to Worship either individually or communally on the internet. The key is not to be dazzled by the big productions, and to find what simply speaks to your heart.

Remembering always that Jesus said:

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)

And this is just as valid, in church, or at home, or even across the internet.

Worship through the Psalms

Spotlight on Doctrine

Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8 v28). It’s strange being separated from one another. The Greatest Commandment as stated in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 22 verses 36-40 is that we should ‘Love the Lord our God, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. And the second is to love our neighbour as ourselves.’ With social distancing and separation now enshrined in emergency legislation, the command to love has never been more poignant, more heart felt.  Love truly is a gift, a gift we share with those closest to us, and yet, just how close is God?  Psalm 118 states,‘His love is from everlasting’. Yet many people struggle to comprehend such love in a time of natural disaster or pandemic.  was sent this quote from a very wise friend, ‘I remember a story about a Rabbi during a natural disaster, he was asked how he could explain such a tragic act of God? The Rabbi answered that the disaster was an act of nature, the act of God occurred, when people stepped up to help each other.’ (Source unknown.) 

That miracle occurs each time we reach out to one another, and at present we’re being called upon to discover new ways of being community, and it’s a task that calls our hearts, souls, and minds into action in the name of Christ our Lord.

Spotlight on Spirituality

 The concept of isolation as a sacred space is ancient, Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai. Jesus likewise spent 40 days in the desert. In 685 AD St Cuthbert left the monks on Holy Island to seek solace on the nearby  Farne Isles, and in the most extreme example of isolation the monks of Skellig Michael found sanctuary 7 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Seeking time out with God is not a new concept, do you likewise seek this time? 

Reflect

Take a moment reflect on what we have discussed in this session. What has been new?  What did you already but has spoken to you afresh today? How are you finding worship in this time of isolation?

Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord our God, may I worship you with clean hands a pure heart.  And when it's difficult for me to worship, please forgive me and help me to find you in the midst of the difficulty, and to offer you a sacrifice of praise.

Amen

Something Practical to Do this Week

Take one of your favourite Psalms and use it in a time of worship. If you google it you may find there is a musical setting of it somewhere.  Have a look at the Resources section and in the pdf file see if there is some online worship that you might enjoy joining in with. The bible also tells us that all creation worships God.  Spend some time in the garden, or out on your daily walk, using creation to help you worship God.

Resources

NT Wright Coronavirus Article

Article on Lament

Derby Diocese Online Worship Resources

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