The First Word and the Last

As one body, in union with Christ and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, we come before God in expectation of dialogue, an actual give-and-take exchange between God and God’s people. Biblical worship flows like a purposeful conversation, during which we speak, but only because we have been spoken to.

In a classic form of the dialogue, God issues an invitation, a call to worship:  “Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing”; and we respond, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever…”

God longs for reconciliation with and among his children, and so we confess our sins and lament their effects. God assures us we have been forgiven in Christ, and we renew our commitment to live faithfully. Before Scripture is read, we call upon the Spirit to illumine our minds and soften our hearts. God speaks, through the ancient text that is opened and the message that is preached. Thanks be to God, we may hear in the message the Word of the Lord. God seals His promises in the cup of salvation and the waters of baptism, tangible gifts by which we taste and see that the Lord is good. We pray—for ourselves, the church, and the world—and we offer our gifts.

Having had the first word, God also has the last: a blessing of grace and peace. 

—Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. and Sue A. Rozeboom, Discerning the Spirits: A Guide to Thinking about Christian Worship Today, 136-8

Revelation and Response (17)

Worship as response to revelation in the canticles of the Christmas story in Luke 1–2:

REVELATION: Annunciation to Mary & visit to Elizabeth (1:26-45)

RESPONSE: Mary’s Magnificat (1:46-55)

REVELATION: Annunciation to Zacharias & birth of John the Baptist (1:5-25,57-66)

RESPONSE: Zacharias’ Benedictus (1:67-79)

REVELATION: Angel’s announcement of Christ’s birth (2:8-13)

RESPONSE: The Angels’ Gloria (2:14)

REVELATION: Promise and fulfillment to Simeon (2:35-37)

RESPONSE: Simeon’s Nunc dimittis (2:29-32)  (“my eyes have seen”) RESP.

—Walt Barrett

Revelation and Response (16)

Worship in the Bible is the due response of rational creatures to the self-revelation of their Creator. It is an honoring and glorifying of God by gratefully offering back to Him all the good gifts, and all the knowledge of His greatness and graciousness, that He has given. It involves praising Him for what He is, thanking Him for what He has done, desiring Him to get Himself more glory by further acts of mercy, judgment, and power, and trusting Him with our concern for our own and others’ well-being.

—J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, 98-99

Revelation and Response (15)

Knowledge of God is the result of the divine initiative, to which man responds by self-committal to God, entering through Christ into a holy fellowship. “We love, because He first loved us.” That is the sequence of this worship: the revelation of God in holy Scripture, and the response of His children in the fellowship of the great prayer.

—William D. Maxwell, Concerning Worship, 38

Revelation and Response (14)

As one body, in union with Christ and in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, we come before God in expectation of dialogue, an actual give-and-take exchange between God and God’s people. Biblical worship flows like a purposeful conversation, during which we speak, but only because we have been spoken to. In a classic form of the dialogue, God issues an invitation, a call to worship: “Worship the Lord with gladness; come into His presence with singing”; and we respond, “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever.…”

—Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Sue A. Rozeboom, Discerning the Spirits: A guide to Thinking about Christian Worship Today, 136-37

Revelation and Response (13)

If your idea of God, if your idea of the salvation offered in Christ, is vague or remote, your idea of worship will be fuzzy and ill-formed. The closer you get to the truth, the clearer becomes the beauty, and the more you will find worship welling up within you. That’s why theology and worship belong together. The one isn’t just a head-trip; the other isn’t just emotion.

—N. T. Wright, For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church, 9-10