Leaving Worship

It is so easy to walk out of church (or a worship conference) thinking about mostly how interesting the sermon was, how engaging the music and art were, how good or not-so-good the hospitality and fellowship might have been. How many of us leave worship genuinely pondering the sheer beauty and glory of God?

—John Witvliet, “On Divine Glory: An Expanded Conversation on the Conference Theme” (Calvin Symposium on Worship Jan. 2007), 2


I believe that we can move beyond these sterile disputes by putting our discussion of worship within our larger picture of heaven and earth, of God’s future and our present, and of the way in which those two pairs come together in Jesus and the Spirit. . . . This, I believe, sets the right framework for all our thinking about worship, and all discussion of the church’s sacramental life. The rest is footnotes, temperament, tradition, and—let’s face it—individual likes and dislikes (which is what I call them when they’re mine) and irrational prejudices (which is what I call them when they’re yours).

—N. T. Wright, Simply Christian, 157

God Serves Us

We can serve God because He first serves us. Understood first as God’s service to us, the liturgy becomes a locus in which God’s gracious self-giving promotes the interiorization of our faith, the articulation of our devotion, and the strengthening of our will for action.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship, Doctrine, and Life, 217

Only God

Worship is a transitive verb. This isn’t a lesson in English grammar, it is a vital issue in biblical theology and in Christian living. Worship is a transitive verb! That is, it demands an object. And the only the object it will tolerate in biblical religion is the object God. So, when someone says, “O, I just come to worship God,” I wonder whether they really have got clarity about the object of our worship. It is God and no other. That’s what worship is really all about; it can never be divorced from the God who is its only object.

—Eric Alexander, “Worship God! (Rev. 19:10)” (sermon)

The Neglected Trinity (16)

Through the liturgy of the church, God comes to, speaks to, and joins with the worshiping community in Jesus Christ through the power the Spirit, and worshipers offer a response which is inspired by the Spirit and is united to the prayers and worship of Jesus Christ. In this way, a trinitarian theology of worship calls worshipers not to generate their own proclamation about God nor to muster up their own acclamation to God, but rather to receive the gift of the Word of God and to participate in the worship offered by Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit. This understanding of liturgy commends liturgical actions which acknowledge the mediation of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and reflect the joy, confidence, and gratitude that is a fitting response to gifts of divine grace.

—John D. Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1997), 297

All to Him

We do exhort men to worship God neither in a frigid nor a careless manner. . . . His benefits towards ourselves we extol as eloquently as we can, while we call upon others to reverence His Majesty, render due homage to His greatness, feel due gratitude for His mercies, and unite in showing forth His praise.

—John Calvin, On the Necessity of Reforming the Church http://www.lgmarshall.org/Calvin/calvin_necessityreform.html