Friday, April 22, 2022

Thoughts about Christian worship

Sometime in early adulthood I was introduced to Campus Crusade's "Four Spritual Laws" and remember being impressed with its conclusion, from which: 
".... The Christian lives by faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God Himself and His Word. This train diagram illustrates the relationship among fact (God and His Word), faith (our trust in God and His Word), and feeling (the result of our faith and obedience). (Read John 14:21.)
"The train will run with or without the caboose. However, it would be useless to attempt to pull the train by the caboose. In the same way, as Christians we do not depend on feelings or emotions, but we place our faith (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the promises of His Word."
That view affected my convictions about Christian worship and that was reinforced by Paul Manuel's teaching to our church. Worship, he taught, is distinct from teaching, i.e. the sermon, and is at least as important. Paul: "The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) states, 'Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.' Indeed, worship is the most important thing we do, individually and collectively. ...." and ".... Worship is not about you; it is about Him. Therefore, you should not limit it to when you are emotionally disposed. Worship is mainly a matter of will; it is what you decide to do even when it is not what you desire to do. ...."

C.S. Lewis:
EVERY SERVICE IS a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like it, it "works" best—when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be the one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. (emphasis added)
Yesterday, from Ponder Anew:
I get comments like this all the time.
The article misses the main point. In the big picture, the question is where is our heart at when worshiping and much less about form.
Talking about the “heart” this way is a common trope in discussions about worship, particularly when questions of form and style arise. Usually, it’s intended to give carte blanche for anything anyone ever wants to do in corporate worship. After all, if someone is worshiping from the heart, with earnestness, pure motives, and full attention, that must be all that matters. ....

.... None of us have hearts that are right with God, save the intermediation of Jesus Christ. We cannot worship, on our own, at our own initiative, with thoroughly pure motives and hearts that are in the right position. That’s why liturgy is a big deal in the first place. By praying right and true things steeped in Holy Scripture, by receiving the Word rightly preached, and by consuming the gifts of bread and wine, we are formed more into Christ’s likeness.

What is required seems to be approaching worship as we do the gospel. We must be ready to admit that we are helpless, and that our hearts are in desperate need of redemption and renewal. We bring nothing to Christ. We have nothing of value to offer. Our works are utterly useless. This little bit of Romans 4 should both haunt us and overwhelm us with joy:
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Until [we] recognize this, there is not much hope for us. Approaching worship with the idea that our hearts are in good enough shape to do so worthily would seem more than a bit audacious....

When we tailor our forms in accordance with what we think will resonate with people instead of what frames the liturgy with beauty and dignity, we are crowning the people lords of their own hearts. That’s why the rule of prayer, not the rule of pop culture, should govern our worship.

This all turns the “It’s about the heart!” argument completely upside down. In reality, it IS about the heart, and ours is not able to love God as we ought.

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