Ascended! (3)

Q.  If you could name one theological theme that worship committees could well spend time reflecting on, what would it be?

A.  Christ’s ascension.

As our ascended Lord, Jesus not only receives our worship but also perfects our prayers. In fact, Jesus “always lives to intercede for us” (Heb. 7:25). Jesus (and not any other human worship leader) is the true lead worshiper. As we worship it is fitting to think of Jesus as active: praying for us, perfecting our prayers, giving us full access to God. This is pastorally significant because it welcomes us to offer worship even in weakness (Heb. 4:14-16).

Importantly, when we imagine what our ascended Lord is like, we need a balanced view, remembering the one who appears like both a Lion and Lamb (cf. Rev. 5), the one who is both cosmic Lord (Col. 1) but also “who has been tempted in every way, just like us” (Heb. 4:15).

As you study this theme, ask yourselves how well your congregation’s musical diet conveys these themes. Ask worshipers how they imagine what Jesus is doing today (we often fail to realize how active in prayer Jesus is today). Finally, ask whether and how your congregation celebrates Ascension Day. Most of us can do better at giving attention to this remarkable event.

And when we do celebrate Ascension, we need to do a better job of keeping in mind not only Christ’s ongoing role as King, but also his role as Priest (and Prophet). For more insights and practical suggestions on this theme, see Gerrit Scott Dawson’s Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation (Presbyterian and Reformed), and the fine article by Laura Smit in Reformed Worship 79.

—John D. Witvliet, Reformed Worship Issue #80 (June 2006)

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The Perfect Worshiper (2)

In union with its heavenly Lord the Church on earth worships, looking back to what He did once on Calvary and looking up to what He now is with the Father. It is a worship in Christ and through Christ. If it be called a worship of sacrificial offering, it is so because it is through Christ who is high-priest: ‘through Him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name’ (Heb. 13:15). If it be called a worship of glorifying, it is so because it is through Christ who glorifies the Father: ‘wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us’ (2 Cor. 1:20).

—Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, 94-95

The Perfect Worshiper

The perfect act of worship is seen only in the Son of Man. By Him alone there is made the perfect acknowledgment upon earth of the glory of God and the perfect response to it. On the one hand the prophetic revelation of the glory of God is summed up in Him as He is Himself the glory of which the prophets, all unknowing, spake (cf. John xii, 41). On the other hand the ancient sacrifices are fulfilled in Him as He, priest and victim, makes the rational offering of His will in Gethsemane and on the Cross. In Christ the praise of God, the wonder before God, the thirst for God, the zeal for God’s righteousness, which fill the pages of the Psalter, find pure and flawless utterance. And in Him too man’s contrition for his own sin and the sin of the race finds its perfect expression; for the sinless Christ made before God that perfect acknowledgment of man’s sin which man cannot make for himself.

—Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, 93

Only Christ

Biblically speaking, no worship leader, pastor, band, or song will ever bring us close to God. We can’t shout, dance, or prophesy our way into God’s presence. Worship itself cannot lead us into God’s presence. Only Jesus Christ Himself can bring us into God’s presence, and He has done it through a single sacrifice that will never be repeated—only joyfully recounted and trusted in.

—Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, 74

The Eternal Song

God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the “morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the creation of the world. (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3) It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

Let me suggest that every group brings its own voice, but no group brings the official voice. One Voice sings above them all, and this Voice sings in all their voices, excluding none. His singular voice is distributed among a plurality of people. Just because there are so many dimensions to His own being, the multiplicity of their voices amplifies His song.

—Reggie Kidd, With One Voice: Discovering Christ’s Song in Our Worship, 145