Worship Is Central

Worship is central to all that we do. And for that reason, our whole life is both a procession toward worship and a procession out of worship. Life is a cycle of constant return to the source of our new life and to the empowerment for life that we receive from the Christ we meet and celebrate in worship.

—Robert E. Webber,Worship is a Verb: Eight Principles for Transforming Worship, 2nd edition, 213

Towards and Out of Worship

Worship is central to all that we do. And for that reason, our whole life is both a procession toward worship and a procession out of worship. Life is a cycle of constant return to the source of our new life and to the empowerment for life that we receive from the Christ we meet and celebrate in worship.

—Robert E. Webber, Robert, Worship is a Verb: Eight Principles for Transforming Worship, 213

Emmanuel! (11)

Traditional worship, with its emphasis on hymns, creeds, and stained-glass windows, makes God remote. Contemporary worship, with its casual “bring your coffee to worship and slap your neighbor on the back as you sing, shout and sway with your hands in the air,” makes God too common.

Remote does not make God transcendent. Familiarity does not make God present. Have we demystified both transcendence and immanence? . . .

Consider this theological thought: Christianity is a faith of paradox.

The key paradox to all paradoxes is the Incarnation. We confess Jesus to be the God-Man. Both. Not one or the other, but both. We can stress his deity to the point of forgetting his humanity. We can focus on His humanity to the point of denying His divinity.

The truth of the Incarnation is not an either/or but a both/and. The same is true for transcendence and immanence. When transcendence and immanence are brought together, God is present; it’s a true divine-human encounter.

—Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship (email, 10/29/03)

Jesus My Worship

Who can do it?
Who can love God with all his heart, mind, and soul?
Who can achieve perfect union with God?
Who can worship God with a pure and unstained heart?
Not me!
Not you. Not Billy Graham. Not Bill Hybels. Not Matt Redman.
Not anybody I know or you know.
Only Jesus can. And He does for me and for you what neither of us can do for ourselves.

This is the message that is missing in the literature of contemporary worship [AND traditional worship!]. It is too much about what I ought to do and too little about what God has done for me. God has done for me what I cannot do for myself. He did it in Jesus Christ. Therefore my worship is offered in a broken vessel that is in the process of being healed, but is not yet capable of fullness of joy, endless intense passion, absolute exaltation, and celebration. But Jesus, who shares in my humanity yet without sin, is not only my Savior—He is also my complete and eternal worship, doing for me, in my place, what I cannot do. . . .

Thanks for Jesus Christ, who is my worship. We are free! And in gratitude, we offer our stumbling worship in the name of Jesus with thanksgiving.

—Robert E. Webber, “Contemporary Music-Driven Worship: A Blended Worship Response,” Exploring the Worship Spectrum, 130

Narcissistic Worship

Worship has become narcissistic, focusing on me and my praise of God; and spirituality has turned toward a preoccupation with my journey of faith and my spiritual condition and experience. . . . When we become narcissistic, the place of worship and spirituality in God’s narrative is lost and worship and spirituality become subject to the whims of culture.

—Robert E. Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals, 131

Far and Near

The key paradox to all paradoxes is the Incarnation. We confess Jesus to be the God-Man. Both. Not one or the other, but both. We can stress His deity to the point of forgetting His humanity. We can focus on His humanity to the point of denying His divinity.

The truth of the Incarnation is not an either/or but a both/and. The same is true for transcendence and immanence. When transcendence and immanence are brought together, God is present; it’s a true divine-human encounter.

Throughout biblical history, God’s immanence is always known together with God’s transcendence. Consider Moses and the burning bush, the Exodus, the Annunciation, the Incarnation, the Transfiguration, and Pentecost.

The experience of God’s transcendent immanence never provokes a “Golly, gee-wiz! Hi there, God” response. Rather it incites awe, wonder, and an overwhelming sense of the mysterium tremendum. The believer, engulfed by the numinous and moved by the reality of an encounter with the divine, experiences speechlessness.

—Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship (email) 10/29/03