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

The Supreme Activity

Worship is the supreme and only indispensable activity of the Christian Church. It alone will endure, like the love for God which it expresses, into heaven, when all other activities of the Church will have passed away. It must therefore, even more strictly than any of the less essential doings of the Church, come under the criticism and control of the revelation on which the Church is founded.

—William Nicholls, Jacob’s Ladder: The Meaning of Worship, 9

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

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