Worship as Response

[Sorry for the gap in posting. Have been overseas.]

All Christian worship is basically our offering of obedience and gratitude to God’s giving in Christ our Lord, foretold in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New Testament, remembered and received anew in Divine Worship, in sermon and sacraments. That response to the Gospel of God is given by the Body of Christ in prayer and praise and dedication. In stately cathedral or in hillside chapel, in parish church or in meeting-house, in whatever tongue, whether with ceremonial or with only the barest minimum, in set liturgy or in freer forms of worship (or in silence, occasionally broken by the devout meditations of the obedient servants of Christ, as in the case of the Society of Friends), it is the mighty acts of God in the redemption of the world through our Lord Jesus Christ that are represented, and the benefits which are appropriated.

Horton Davies, Christian Worship, Its Making and Meaning, 101

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Tell of the Great Things He Has Done

Just as the Christian doctrine of God should be rooted in the divine economy, so too Christian worship should rehearse the divine economy. God’s actions in history are the basis for both the knowledge and worship of the triune God. Liturgy, like theology, must not “float off into abstractions” about God. In other words, Christian liturgy is fundamentally an act of anamnesis, an act of rehearsing God’s actions in history:  past and future, realized and promised. Christians identify the God they worship by naming God as the agent of particular actions in history. Worship proceeds better by rehearsing eventful narratives of divine action—viewed iconically as reliable windows into divine life—than by re-stating rational deductions or abstract ideas. 

–John D. Witvliet, “The Trinitarian DNA of Christian Worship: Perennial Themes in Recent Theological Literature,” Colloquium Journal (Yale Institute of Sacred Music), 7-8

Another Comforter 3

Although worship is our response to love, it is actually better thought of as the Spirit’s gift to us of a response to God or, in Matt Redman’s words, ‘a gifted response’.  We can only respond to God in praise because the Holy Spirit causes love for God to arise in our hearts (Rom. 5:5), enabling us to cry ‘Abba, Father!’ (Gal. 4:6).  Without the Spirit we could not even sincerely say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (I Cor. 12:3).  And, as we have seen, even that is not the full story, because the response the Spirit enables us to make to the Father is actually simply a sharing in Christ’s own response to the Father.  The Spirit, in other words, is the one who baptizes us into Christ (I Cor. 12:13) and enables us to share with Christ in His worship of the Father.

—Robin Parry, Worshiping Trinity, 97

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

Because…

We don’t worship to make God love us, but because God loves us. Nothing in worship should imply otherwise.

We don’t sing in order for God to be present, but because God already is present. Nothing in worship should imply otherwise.

—John Witvliet, “Teaching Worship as a Christian Practice,” in For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry, 139

Defining Worship 41

Worship is an active response to God whereby we declare His worth. Worship is not passive, but is participative. Worship is not simply a mood; it is a response. Worship is not just a feeling; it is a declaration. . . . It is the celebration of God!

—Ronald Allen & Gordon Borror, Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel, 16,18