Heart Worship in the Body

Though I trust it’s been unintentional, the contemporary worship movement has conveyed that a certain level of production quality is necessary to achieve faithful modern worship.

In this sense, contemporary worship has come quite a long way from the folk guitars and simple choruses of the 1970s, which were designed to democratize congregational singing so that more people could engage with it meaningfully. In the 2000s, contemporary worship media have embraced the values of polished production and mass-market appeal. But as modern praise has become more professionalized, it’s led at least some church leaders to conclude that they’d be better off foregoing human musicians altogether and leaving accompaniment to the (virtual) experts.

The good news is that God gives each congregation all they need to serve Him. First Corinthians 12:18 reminds us that “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” If that means a church is unable to produce the same quality of music they see at worship concerts and on YouTube, then we can trust God’s good purposes. He cares far more about the state of our hearts than the ability of our band to recreate the sound of an online video.

—Matt Merker, “How Contemporary Worship Music Is Shaping Us—for Better or Worse” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/singing-congregation-contemporary-worship/

Depart to Serve

And now the time has come for us to return into the world. “Let us depart in peace,” says the celebrant as he leaves the altar, and this is the last commandment of the liturgy. We must not stay on Mount Tabor, although we know that it is good for us to be there. We are sent back. But now “we have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit.” And it is as witnesses of this Light, as witnesses of the Spirit, that we must “go forth” and begin the never-ending mission of the church. Eucharist was the end of the journey, the end of time. And now it is again the beginning, and things that were impossible are again revealed to us as possible. The time of the world has become the time of the Church, the time of salvation and redemption. And God has made us competent, as Paul Claudel has said, competent to be His witnesses, to fulfill what He has done and is ever doing. This is the meaning of the Eucharist; this is why the mission of the Church begins in the liturgy of ascension, for it alone makes possible the liturgy of mission.

—Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, 45-46

The Leveling Table

The Lord’s Table is a leveling reality in a world of increasing inequalities, an enacted vision of “a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine” (Isa. 25:6). This strange feast is the civic rite of another city—the Heavenly City—which is why it includes our pledge of allegiance, the Creed.

—James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love:  The Spiritual Power of Habit, 98

Worship as Story

Christian worship rehabituates our loves because it embeds us in—and embeds in us—a different orienting Story, the story of God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. But Christian worship doesn’t just rehearse the outlines of this story in a kind of CliffsNotes, bullet-pointed distillation of some “facts.” It does so in a way that is storied, imaginative, and works on us more like a novel than a newspaper article. Story isn’t just the what of Christian worship; it is also the how.

—James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love:  The Spiritual Power of Habit, 106