Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"The Lord is at the center"

The theme running through just about everything I've ever posted here about worship is "It's not about you" [or me, for that matter], it's about Almighty God. Two things happen [or ought to] in a typical Christian "worship service": worship and teaching. Teaching is what the pastor does in the sermon. Worship is at least as important and shouldn't be treated as the preliminary to the sermon. Worship is what believers do when we recognize that we are in the presence of God.

The Gospel Coalition gives us a review by Chris Castaldo of God's Lyrics: Rediscovering Worship Through Old Testament Songs, by Douglas Sean O'Donnell. O'Donnell's attention to what the Scriptures teach us about worship in song also guides us toward principles relevant to every part of worship:
.... With attention consistently focused upon the splendor of God, O’Donnell sets the stage in his introduction, explaining that “many contemporary and some classic lyrics have blurred our perception of God and his work. By showing characteristics of these ‘sacred songs’ (1 Chron. 16:42) within the sacred writings—such as their God-centered yet personal nature, their emphasis on the works of God in salvation history, and especially their joy in judgment—we will offer both a corrective and a call: a corrective to sing lyrics that will not only make us ‘wise for salvation,’ but will also be profitable for ‘training in righteousness’ (2 Tim. 3:14-16), as well as a call to return to the Word of God (the very words of God!) in our worship of him.” ....

From his investigation, O’Donnell elucidates four characteristics that recur in biblical song. In the book’s foreword, T. David Gordon summarizes these points (ix):
  • The Lord is at the center; that is, our God is addressed, adored, and “enlarged.”
  • His mighty acts in salvation history (not merely or primarily our personal experience of redemption) are recounted.
  • His acts of judgments are rejoiced in.
  • His ways of living (practical wisdom) are encouraged.
...O’Donnell uses the four above-mentioned characteristics of biblical song to evaluate classical hymns and contemporary worship music. As O’Donnell waxes eloquent about the kingdom directed nature of praise, one quickly recognizes a disconnection between a biblically principled approach and the self-centered emphasis of many churches today. This may be the most provocative part of the book. Thankfully however, where many such critiques tend to sound crotchety and irritable, O’Donnell is refreshingly constructive. ....

An incisive quote from New Testament scholar Gordon Fee at the start of part three drives home O’Donnell’s point, “Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.”  .... [more]
God’s Lyrics - TGC Reviews

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