The Neglected Trinity (17)

By rehearsing God’s actions in history, the church ensures that its worship is not directed to a hazy or vaguely defined god derived from philosophical or cultural ideals, but to the God who is active in specific ways in history, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and the creating and sustaining work of the Holy Spirit.

——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), 296

The Neglected Trinity (10)

Trinitarian worship is worship that fits with a God whose own being is faithfully and aptly described in trinitarian terms. Worshiping this kind of God should not be done with just any readily available worship technique. It should rather look for approaches that are fitting to address this kind of God, including (a) celebrating and resting in the mediation offered by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, (b) savoring the kind of intimate and healthy relationality in divine life that is depicted in the Scriptures and offered to humanity through Jesus, (c) rehearsing the astonishing litany of divine actions in history, and (d) perceiving the unity of purpose of divine actions attributed to each divine person. Each of these is a part of a distinctly Christian approach to worship.

—John D. Witvliet, “What to Do with Our Renewed Trinitarian Enthusiasm: Forming Trinitarian Piety and Imagination through Worship and Catechesis,” in Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship, 244-5

The Neglected Trinity (9)

Any Unitarian or deistic worshiper can praise God by using timeless divine attributes, speaking of God as beautiful, just or holy. But it takes a trinitarian Christian to praise God not only with attributes, but also in reference to the way those attributes are on full display in the actions of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in history. . . . In worship, trinitarian Christians constantly return to the record of God’s actions in history as the basis for praise, thanksgiving, lament and intercession.

—John D. Witvliet, “What to Do with Our Renewed Trinitarian Enthusiasm: Forming Trinitarian Piety and Imagination through Worship and Catechesis,” in Trinitarian Theology for the Church: Scripture, Community, Worship, 243

The Big Picture

One criterion to apply to worship in any congregation, regardless of the liturgical style it embraces, is that of historical remembrance and proclamation: Does worship proclaim the whole sweep of divine activity past, present, and future? Does worship induct participants into a cosmology in which God is at work faithfully in continuity with past divine action? Does worship convey a sense of hope for the future grounded in God’s faithful action in the past? For comfortable North American worshipers and worship leaders today, the great temptation is to slip into expressions of petition, thanksgiving, and proclamation that are nearly exclusively focused on the present moment. Perhaps this is an inevitable result of lives and churches that are content with the status quo. Our songs, prayers, and sermons emphasize God’s immediate goodness and even the vitality of our intimate experience of God. For us to experience the riches of fully biblical worship, our prayer, praise, and proclamation should be carried out as if we stand before a cosmic time line of God’s actions, fully aware of divine faithfulness from the creation of the world to its full re-creation in Christ. It is this vast and specific awareness that grounds our hope when days are difficult and that leads us beyond the immediate concerns of our little egocentric worlds.

—John D. Witvliet, “The Former Prophets and the Practice of Christian Worship” in Worship Seeking Understanding, 36

A Kingdom of Priests

It is widely recognized that Revelation provides the church with a theology of history, however what is of great importance for our study is that this theology of history is built around the theme of worship. The action of the Son in shedding his blood to free us from our sins (1:5b) was so that we, the redeemed, would be made “a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (1:6) The goal of redemption is worshipful service.

—Noel Due, Created For Worship: From Genesis to Revelation to You, 221

Worship Is the Goal

Redemption is the means; worship is the goal.  In one sense, worship is the whole point of everything.  It is the purpose of history, the goal of the whole Christian story.  Worship is not one segment of the Christian life among others.  Worship is the entire Christian life, seen as a priestly offering to God.  And when we meet together as a church, our time of worship is not a merely a preliminary to something else; rather, it is the whole point of our existence as the body of Christ.

—John Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth, 11