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Worship Thoughts

Worship Thoughts

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Published by Dan Boyce
Here are a few thoughts about Christian worship. What is here is not systematic as much as some "streaming" thoughts.
Here are a few thoughts about Christian worship. What is here is not systematic as much as some "streaming" thoughts.

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Published by: Dan Boyce on Jul 15, 2010
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10/25/2012

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Worship Thoughts
Worship is the offering up of ourselves in totality to the Lord - sacrifice. It has little, if anything, to do withparticular rituals, traditions or preferences. It has everything to do with love - that is, it has something to do withethics. Worship will only occur as I give my heart to the Lord, however imperfectly or incompletely I may be able todo that at any given time - which is indeed all I have to offer and even that is beyond me accept as I liveeschatologically. This, then, is the bottom-line of worship. The Lord will accept nothing less than all of me: And hewill demand nothing more then what I am able to give in that direction at a given point in time.Jesus, when asked by a Samaritan woman about worship (a woman dying of thirst so much so that the questionthat popped out of her mouth when she realized she was talking to a prophet, was something like, Our fathers tellus to worship at this mountain (Samaria) and you Jews say to worship at Jerusalem! Where am I to go to worship?(Where do I find God?!)) Jesus told her, 
Believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father inspirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Himmust worship in spirit and truth.
 (John 4:21-24 (NASB95))What did Jesus mean be this? That is the question. It is a question that we must answer when we find ourselves atodds over forms, traditions, purposes and opinions (Samaria, Jerusalem (for the woman at the well); seeker,believer, traditional; blended, contemporary, convergent, emergent, worldterms used by those who are writingand reflecting on the current state of the art). My desire here is to express, if incompletely, some thoughts onworship in spirit and truth as I have come to experience it.Above I mentioned what must be the rock bottom foundation of any philosophy or practice of worship: Love! Youshall
LOVE
the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength (Mark and Luke add mind). Love, biblicallyspeaking, includes all that we are, emotionally, materially, and mentally. Love is for sure a big word and we use itin many ways to describe many relationships with both animate and inanimate objects. We use this word for boththe most narcissistic and altruistic of people. We use love for the most trivial and banal things in our lives as wellas the most profound and sublime. Nevertheless, it is the word used to express the very nature and essence of thebeing of God- God is Love declares the Beloved Apostle, and thus my usage of love as the only possibleirreducible essence of true and spiritual worship (For a stimulating and thought provoking discussion on love Irecommend Robert W. Jenson, On Thinking the Human: Resolutions of Difficult Notions, chapter 6, ThinkingLove).Love, at one level, is obedience to the revelation of God in how we think and how we conduct ourselves in theworld. We understand this to be so because of the recognition that the greatest commandments are what we have just mentioned above along with, Love your neighbor as yourself. In these two commandments, all the law andthe prophets are summed up and fulfilled, that is love, and that is worship. Thus, we find another dimension of worship in that if we do not address love for our neighbor we have yet to attain to a full expression of worship thatwould qualify as being in spirit and truth. Though we can say and must say that to love the Lord means at the veryleast, that we will keep his commandants, nevertheless, to equate love simply as obedience to a code, even theBiblical code, is often misleading, and, I think, is some of what causes confusion in our attempts to define andpractice piety and worship. For in reality, love far exceeds the law and asks things of us the law is never able to.How, then, are we to understand the in spirit and truth part? The truth is that we cannot worship at this level if left to our own! This is the whole testimony of Scripture and it is the reason for the coming of Jesus into the world.He came to set us free and to provide for the possibility of new birth. That is, the fulfillment of the promise thatGod would remove our hearts of stone (an image that conveys our utter inability to love and thus to worship!) withhearts of flesh (an image that conveys a new capacity to actually be
able
to love and thus to worship). These arewords of life in the sense of empowerment. Freedom language is power language as is heart-of-flesh language.
 
As we come through faith to understand our position, our identity, as Klyne Snodgrass would have it, in JesusChrist we come to understand the true nature of our being and the true nature of God. If we are able to embracethat truth, we experience new creation (born form above) and, filled with the Spirit of God who gives us our truehumanity, we find ourselves to have hearts of flesh. We are alive and able to love, thus obey, and thus worship inSpirit and in truth. (I am uncomfortable with the use of obey here, though it is certainly appropriate to use theword. My discomfort is with our very real tendency to lapse into pragmatism in the sense that love is often not atall pragmatic. Love, as the defining essence of the being of the Lord God Almighty, cannot be circumscribed by anycodification of conduct that is comprehensible to our human minds. Jesus stretches our understanding of love bothin his teaching (try again to read attentively the Sermon on the Mount) and in his actions. Paul gives us a summaryof love in 1 Corinthians 13 that certainly outstrips our attempts to codify our relationships to one another. Lovecertainly encompasses the law, but it just a certainly transcends the law and any attempt on our part to codifyrighteousness, ethics, morality, etc.)Worship, then, is a way of life and includes times for gathering as the community for the purpose of mutualedification and praise to God. However, when we say that these gatherings are worship and then debate over theform of these gatherings we move away from worship not towards it. Where does that leave us? It leaves us at aplace where we need to humble ourselves before the Lord and seek his grace and wisdom.It may be that in order to honor all the various ways of expressing worship in our corporate meetings is to simplyallow for and schedule several times of gathering, each marked by different formats (there are churches that dothis with great impact on their communities). However, in the less than rather large congregation this is highlyimpractical, not to mention somewhat undesirable. A better solution is to spend the necessary time and energybefore the Lord discovering how we can order our gatherings in a way that honors the God and Father of our JesusChrist in spirit and truth.All this is not to say that any given format is better at creating an atmosphere of worship than another. In fact,if the format or order becomes the focus, well, my beloved brothers and sisters, we have lost the battle alreadysince we have come to put the form, or format, or order in the place of priority instead of the Lord our God. That isnot by any definition of the word, worship and in fact is idolatry (though when we do this we are usually not awareof it - thus making my comment here incomprehensible to those who are in reality doing this).Let me back up a little and give you what I would emphasize in our corporate gathering. For me, the primarypurpose of our gathering on Sunday morning is for proclamation of the Word. Now, this could indeed includesinging of songs and praying of prayers and more, Im thinking, for those in the habit of practicing non-Eucharisticservices, coming to the table. However, if these things become points of division, dissension and frustration, thenwe are missing something and I do not know how to resolve this other than through seeking Jesus and his heart forus in our gatherings. The problem here arises with our tendency to approach such seeking with our own ideasintact and we tend to pray for the other persons mind to be changed. Though we say that Scripture is our solesource of faith, conduct and doctrine, we seldom take the time or effort to discover just what Scripture has to sayon most subjects. That is not to say that we do not have texts that support our opinions on such topics as worship,nevertheless, to what extent are we willing to do the hard work of placing our understanding before the Word tobe examined by that Word?Some issues at the core of this problem have to do with various ideas of why we gather and whom we are trying toserve through our gatherings. Is this a time to include the un-churched in a desire to reach them with the messageof Jesus? Is it a time for believers to do the things believers do to show God our devotion? In other words, is ourgathering on Sunday morning for the initiated or the uninitiated? Or is it somehow to be for both? Indeed, if thebody is engaged in worship that is indeed in spirit and truth, will our worship exclude anyone?If it is for the uninitiated, what then is the best way to communicate the gospel to them? If it is for the initiated,which initiates is it for in this time of heterogeneous congregations (multi-generation, multi-ethnic (at least in afew congregations), multi-tradition)? We can always use such terms as emergent, blended, traditional,

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