Particularity Encouraged

Pentecost is sometimes spoken of as the ‘reversal’ of Babel, a return to one language.  In fact, the crowds heard the disciples in their own tongues (Acts 2:6).  There is no suppression of cultural diversity; quite the opposite.  The coming of the Spirit means particularity is preserved and indeed encouraged, as Paul’s vision of the Spirit-directed Church makes clear (1 Corinthians 12).  This is rooted in the person and work of Christ: in him, our humanity (and provisionally) the whole of creation, has been freed by the Spirit to be responsive to the Creator, but in such a way that humanity and the created order become more authentically themselves.  The Spirit’s work through us is to bring creation to praise its maker in such a way that both creation and our character as finite and contingent creatures are not disrupted but enabled to flourish.  Applied to the arts, this would mean that both an artist and the realities with which he or she engages become more fully themselves in their distinctive particularity.

—Jeremy Begbie, “Christ and the Cultures: Christianity and the Arts,” in The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine, 116

Creation’s Praise

The heavens are telling the glory of God.
The very shape of starry space makes news of God’s handiwork.
One day is brimming over with talk for the next day,
and each night passes on intimate knowledge to the next night.
There is no speaking, no words at all, you can’t hear their voice, but—
their glossolalia travels throughout the whole earth!
their uttered noises carry to the end of inhabited land!

—Psalm 19:1-4, translated by Calvin Seerveld, Voicing God’s Psalms, 8

Creation Joy

God ravishes us with His creation and so summons faithful praise from the human heart. Here we see how creation invites us to participate in its joy in God, and in giving ourselves willingly to this joy, we discover our true purpose as creatures made in the image of a joyful God: to faithfully reflect the divine image in all contexts of our created life as royal representatives of our Creator-King.

W. David O. Taylor, Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life

God’s Delight in Himself

God created the world to reveal Himself. There is, then, a property in God’s being that not only delights in Himself but longs to show Himself. We might say that there is a divine self-love in God. But unlike the display of narcissism in God’s creatures, this self-love is not sinful, for God’s delight in Himself is not a vain misconception. It is just and right.

—John Hannah, To God Be the Glory, 18

“Homo adorans”

The first, the basic definition of man is that he is the priest. He stands in the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God—and by filling the world with this eucharist, he transforms his life, the one that he receives from the world, into life in God, into communion with Him. The world was created as the “matter,” the material of one all-embracing eucharist, and man was created as the priest of this cosmic sacrament.

—Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, 15

Grace Enacted

The sacramental actions of the church—baptism and the Lord’s Supper—are concrete, tangible, and visible means by which the church takes the very stuff of creation, water, bread, and cup, and in response to the invitation and command of Christ reenacts the wonder of the gospel. In so doing, the material creation is a means by which God’s grace is known.

Gordon T. Smith, A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church, 28

Worship in Romans (16)

The world, be it in its totality as cosmos, or in its life and becoming as time and history, is an epiphany of God, a means of His revelation, presence, and power. In other words, it not only “posits” the idea as a rationally acceptable cause of its existence, but truly “speaks” of Him and is itself an essential means both of knowledge of God [Romans 1:19-20] and communion with Him [1:21a], and to be so is its true nature and its ultimate destiny. But then worship is truly an essential act, and man an essentially worshiping being, for it is only in worship that man has the source and the possibility of that knowledge which fulfills itself as true knowledge: knowledge of God and therefore knowledge of the world—communion with God and therefore communion with all that exists. Thus the very notion of worship is based on an intuition and experience of the world as an “epiphany” of God, thus the world—in worship—is revealed in its true nature and vocation as “sacrament.”

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 107-8

Worship in Romans (11)

The glory of creation and the glory of God are as different as the love poem and the love, the painting and the landscape, the ring and the marriage. It would be a great folly and a great tragedy if man loved his wedding band more than he loved his bride. But that is what Romans 1:19-23 says has happened. Human beings have fallen in love with the echo of God’s excellency in creation and lost the ability to hear the incomparable original shout of love.

—John Piper, The Pleasures of God, 85

Worship in Romans (6)

The sequence of events outlined in Romans 1 recalls the story of Adam in Gen­esis 1–3. God revealed to Adam what can be known of Him (Rom 1:19), and that from the creation onward, God’s attributes were clearly discernible to him in the things that had been made and that he was thus without excuse (v. 20). Though Adam knew God, he failed to honor Him as God, and grew vain in his thinking and allowed his heart to be darkened (v. 20). Adam’s fall was the result of his desire to be God, to attain the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:5), so that, claiming to be wise, he in fact became a fool (Rom 1:21).

—M. D. Hooker, “Adam in Romans I,” New Testament Studies 6 (1960), 300

Secularism and Worship

Secularism, I submit, is above all a negation of worship. I stress—not of God’s existence, not of some kind of transcendence and therefore of some kind of religion. If secularism in theological terms is a heresy, it is primarily a heresy about man. It is the negation of man as a worshiping being, as homo adorans: the one for whom worship is the essential act which both “posits” his humanity and fulfills it. It is the rejection as ontologically and epistemologically “decisive,” of the words which “always, everywhere, and for all” were the true “epiphany” of man’s relation to God, to the world, and to himself: “It is meet and right to sing of Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee, and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion. . . .”

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 106

Worship and the World (2)

As Church, as new creation, as people of God and temple of the Holy Spirit… we need water and oil, wine and bread in order to be in communion with God and to know Him. Yet conversely…it is this communion with God by means of “matter” that reveals the true meaning of “matter”, i.e., of the world itself.

For the world to be means of worship and means of grace is not accidental, but revelation of its meaning, the restoration of its essence, the fulfillment of its destiny. It is the “natural sacramentality” of the world that finds its expression in worship and makes the latter the essential ergon of man, the foundation and the spring of his life and activities as man. Being the epiphany of God, worship is thus the epiphany of the world; being communion with God, it is the only true communion with the world; being knowledge of God, it is the ultimate fulfillment of all human knowledge.

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 108

Worship and the World

The world, be it in its totality as cosmos, or in its life and becoming as time and history, is an epiphany of God, a means of His revelation, presence, and power. In other words, it not only “posits” the idea as a rationally acceptable cause of its existence, but truly “speaks” of Him and is itself an essential means both of knowledge of God [Romans 1:19-20] and communion with Him [1;21a], and to be so is its true nature and its ultimate destiny. But then worship is truly an essential act, and man an essentially worshiping being, for it is only in worship that man has the source and the possibility of that knowledge which fulfills itself as true knowledge: knowledge of God and therefore knowledge of the world—communion with God and therefore communion with all that exists. Thus the very notion of worship is based on an intuition and experience of the world as an “epiphany” of God, thus the world—in worship—is revealed in its true nature and vocation as “sacrament.”

—Alexander Schmemann, “Worship in a Secular Age,” in An Eerdmans Reader in Contemporary Political Theology, 107-8

 

 

 

 

God Our Creator

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” (from the Apostles’ Creed)

What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

Martin Luther, Smaller Catechism

Why We’re Here

God has not created the world out of a sense of his own interior need, or to bolster a failing ego. As Irenaeus said long ago, “in the beginning…God formed Adam, not as if He stood in need of any man, but that He might have [some one] upon whom to confer His benefit… For this is the glory of man, to continue and remain permanently in God’s service.”

—Noel Due, Created For Worship:  From Genesis to Revelation to You, 38