Thou God of all grace,
Thou hast given me a Saviour,
produce in me a faith to live by him,
to make him all my desire,
all my hope,
all my glory.
May I enter him as my refuge,
build on him as my foundation,
walk in him as my way,
follow him as my guide,
conform to him as my example,
receive his instructions as my prophet,
rely on his intercession as my high priest,
obey him as my king.
May thy dear Son preserve me from this present evil world,
so that its smiles never allure,
nor its frowns terrify,
nor its vices defile,
nor its errors delude me.
May I feel that I am a stranger and a pilgrim on earth,
declaring plainly that I seek a country,
my title to it becoming daily more clear,
my meetness for it more perfect,
my foretastes of it more abundant;
and whatsoever I do may it be done
in the Saviour’s name.
—The Valley of Vision
Every now and then I dream about a hypothetical theological curriculum in which students would come on the first day of seminary not to the classroom but to the chapel. There they would participate in a rich, full, and well-planned service of worship. The rest of the three-year curriculum would be an exegesis of that act of worship. Who is the God who was both cause and object of that worship? Why were ancient Scriptures read and how did they function? Why these Scriptures and not others? What kind of ethical life is implied in this act of worship and why? What kind of community is required to engage in this act of worship, and what resources of care and education do they need to sustain their life together? A thousand questions could be asked; and to answer them the full array of disciplines and courses present in the theological school would required.
But of course my dream curriculum is not hypothetical at all. The act of worship which serves as its unity and focus occurs in congregations every week. It is in the church that everything comes together.
–Thomas G. Long, “The Essential Untidiness of Ministry,” in From Midterms to Ministry: Practical Theologians on Pastoral Beginnings, ed. Allan Hugh Cole, Jr., [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008], 7
If we really believe, as we profess, that scripture is central to the Christian life, then it ought also to be central in our worship life. That Sunday bulletin is an important statement of faith. If the bulletin makes it clear that scripture is an important part of Christian worship, then we can be sure people will get the message that the Bible is crucial in shaping their lives as Christians. But, when the role of scripture in worship is negligible, when scripture is used only to launch a sermon, what is communicated is that the Bible is marginal in Christian life, too.
–James F. White, “Making Our Worship More Biblical,” Perkins Journal 34 (Fall 1980): 38
The Bible reads me.
–Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 130.
We do exhort men to worship God neither in a frigid nor a careless manner; and while we point out the mode, we neither lose sight of the end, nor omit any thing which bears upon the point. We proclaim the glory of God in terms far loftier than it was wont to be proclaimed before, and we earnestly labor to make the perfections in which His glory shines better and better known. His benefits towards ourselves we extol as eloquently as we can, while we call upon others to reverence His Majesty, render due homage to His greatness, feel due gratitude for His mercies, and unite in showing forth His praise. In this way there is infused into their hearts that solid confidence which afterwards gives birth to prayer.
–John Calvin, “On the Necessity of Reforming the Church” (http://www.lgmarshall.org/Calvin/calvin_necessityreform.html)
When I use the term ‘liturgy,’ I mean ‘whatever happens at church when everyone shows up’!
–John Witvliet, “Grounding Corporate Worship in Scriptural Wisdom: Prospects of Recent Evangelical Scholarship” (paper presented to Biblical Worship Consultation at ETS Annual Meeting, November 2008), 1