Worship & Culture 15: One Way

God does not accept us because we have offered worthy worship.  In His love, He accepts us freely in the Person of His beloved Son, who in our name and on our behalf, in our humanity, has made the One offering to the Father, which alone is acceptable to God for all humanity, for all nations, for all times, and who unites us with Himself in the One Body, in His communion with the Father….

There is only one way to come to the Father, namely, through Christ in the communion of the Spirit, in the communion of saints, whatever outward form our worship may take.

—James B. Torrance, “Christ in Our Place” in A Passion for Christ: The Vision that Ignites Ministry, 37

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Worship & Culture 14

However much, therefore, worship and prayer may vary in linguistic and behavioural forms, as they inevitably and rightly do when they are expressed in the habits of different societies, peoples, cultures and ages, they nevertheless have embedded in them an invariant element which derives from the normative pattern of the incarnate love of God in Jesus Christ. Insofar as worship and prayer are through, with and in Christ, they are not primarily forms of man’s self-expression or self-fulfilment or self-transcendence in this or that human situation or cultural context, but primarily forms of Christ’s vicarious worship and prayer offered on behalf of all mankind in all ages. However, precisely because our worship and prayer are finally shaped and structured by the invariant pattern of Christ’s mediatorial office, they are also open to change in variant human situations and societies, cultures, languages and ages, even with respect to differing aesthetic tastes and popular appeal, if only because these variant forms of worship and prayer are relativised by the invariant form of worship and prayer in Christ which they are intended to serve. Hence when worship and prayer are objectively grounded in Christ in this way, we are free to use and adapt transient forms of language and culture in our worship of God, without being imprisoned in time-conditioned patterns, or swept along by constantly changing fashions, and without letting worship and prayer dissolve away into merely cultural and secular forms of man’s self-expression and self-fulfilment.

—T. F. Torrance, “The Mind of Christ in Worship: The Problem of Apollinarianism in the Liturgy,” in Theology in Reconciliation, 213.

Worship & Culture 8

Lathrop suggests that Lutheran liturgical hermeneutics offers two guiding principles for decisions about the relationship between worship and culture. The first is that “in worship, the center must be clear: the assembly gathers around the gift of Christ in Word and sacrament.” The second guiding principle is that the gifts of diverse cultures are to be welcomed and honored, but “these cultural patterns must not become their own new law or usurp the place of the center…They must be broken to the purpose of Christ.”

—Margaret Mary Kelleher, “Vatican II and the LWF Project: Points of Convergence,” in Worship and Culture  Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 64

Worship & Culture 7

Churches in every generation and in every context must ask in what ways their worship practice can/should transcend their particular culture, placing them within the universal Christian tradition.

—Lutheran World Federation (1993), “The Cartigny Statement on Worship and Culture: Biblical and Historical Foundations,” in Worship and Culture Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 33

Worship & Culture 4

Worship needs not only to reflect the local, but also the wider Christian community. The God whom Christians worship is transcendent and transcultural, and there is no point in substituting one form of cultural captivity for another. No one cultural form can do justice to the God of the whole cosmos. One fruit of contextualization efforts is that worship resources from one cultural setting can be shared around the world.

—S Anita Stauffer, ” Christian Worship: Toward Localization and Globalization,” in
Worship and Culture  Foreign Country or Homeland?, ed. Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, 41

Freedom of Form 9: A Missionary Mandate

The frightening freedom of worship in the New Testament is a missionary mandate. We must not lock this gospel treasure in any cultural strait-jacket. Rather let us find the place, the time, the dress, the forms, the music that kindles and carries a passion for the supremacy of God in all things. And may our communion with the living God be so real and the Spirit of God so powerfully present that the heart of what we do becomes the joy of all the peoples we are called to reach.

—John Piper, sermon: “Our High Priest is The Son of God Perfect Forever”