What the Father Wants

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.” (John 4:23)

This [italicized] clause has perhaps as much claim as 20:30f. to be regarded as expressing the purpose of the gospel [of John].

—C. K. Barrett, The Gospel according to St. John, 235

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The Unique Center

I have long thought and taught that the right road into Christian theology is taken by reflecting on Christian worship in the light of the Bible. The Bible is supremely a manual of worship, but too often it has been treated, particularly in Protestantism, as a manual of ethics, of moral values, of religious ideas, or even of sound doctrine. When we see that the worship and mission of the church are the gift of participating through the Holy Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and the Son’s mission from the Father to the world, that the unique center of the Bible is Jesus Christ, “the apostle and high priest whom we confess” (Heb. 3:1), the doctrines all unfold from that center.

—James B. Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, 9

Worship at the Center

The cult [worship gathering] is in some sense the criterion of parochial [congregational] life: whatever is entitled to its place in worship, whatever stands the test of being orientated by worship, whatever provides conditions for the ready fruition of worship, is healthy; whatever does not stand up to these tests in unhealthy. A catechesis which had not the intention of supporting “worshippers whom the Father seeks” (John 4:23) would be faulty. A parochial organization which was indifferent to rooting itself first of all in the cult would be parasitic. A diaconate which did not clearly emerge as an answer to the Church’s intercession would be profane. When we see the agitation which overtakes some parishes and which causes them to confuse insomnia with vigilance, we sometimes feel that we would like to impose on them a sabbatical year during which they would abstain from all activity except that of the Church’s worship, in order that they should learn once again to measure by that standard what they must do and what they can leave aside. And probably they could leave undone many more things than they in their feverish activity imagine.

—Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Worship: Its Theology and Practice, 55

Worship at the Center

The true nature of the Church does not come from its structure or its catechesis, but from its worship. The Church is not an institution or an organism, it is a liturgical assembly.  The Church is most clearly self-identified as the Church when it is gathered for worship.

—Ron Rienstra, Calvin Symposium on Worship 2018 (drawing on the writings of Jean-Jacques von Allmen)

Defining Worship 9

Worship in the Bible is the due response of rational creatures to the self-revelation of their Creator. It is an honoring and glorifying of God by gratefully offering back to Him all the good gifts, and all the knowledge of his greatness and gracious-ness, that He has given. It involves praising Him for what He is, thanking Him for what He has done, desiring Him to get Himself more glory by further acts of mercy, judgment, and power, and trusting Him with our concern for our own and others’ well-being. . . . As worship will be central in heaven (Rev 4:8-11, 5:9-14), so it must be central in the life of the church on earth, and it should already be the main activity, both private and corporate, in each believer’s life (Col 3:17).

—J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, 98-99