What Is Worship?

3 11 2009

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Online Worship Theology Coursewith Dan Wilt

After watching the DVD “What Is Worship?” I am keen to reflect on the idea of the direction of our worship. Who or what do we as humans worship? In a society that increasingly claims to not believe in God, it is evident that other things are claiming people’s attention and in turn their worship, things other than the Triune God. Dan Wilt suggests that it is important to consider these big questions of worship as we “become like that which we worship.” 1 Louie Giglio makes a crucial statement about tracing our actions to the source, to discover some answers.

“So how do you know where and what you worship?  It’s easy: You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your allegiance.  At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne, and whatever, or whoever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you.  On that throne is what you worship.” 2

Often we do not stop to consider our priorities in life, even when we accept verbally and in our hearts that there is a saving God of grace who deserves our worship. We fail to actually consider what worship means in our life. In the Old Testament for the Israelites under God’s covenant, worship was a fundamental consideration to all aspects of their living. We need to revisit our understanding of worship regularly. Definitions of worship are numerous and often complex but Wilt gives this definition and in light of Giglio’s comment it is quite important.

“Worship is the ascription of ultimate value and worth to a person, place or thing by the focusing of all activities of the human spectrum on that object’s value and honour” 3

Now as a Christian it is easy to nod and agree but what would be the response of a person who is not a Christian to this definition? Often I think our society places worship only within the religious realm. It is an idea for the followers of a particular faith but not relevant to all other members of society. After all, some countries and societies adhere to the separation of church and state as an essential value. It is not difficult then to understand why so many would not equate how they live their life, with the term worship.

This is also a huge challenge for Christians. If we are considering that our lives reflect what we worship then how we live is a huge witness to society, but more importantly a huge statement to the God we worship. God is described as “enthroned as great sovereign King” 4 by Don Williams in the DVD. This God would obviously call us to evaluate our worship, calling us to direct more of our lives to Him through the Holy Spirit.

The idea of compartmentalizing our life of worship is also explored in this DVD. The Jewish culture saw worship as holistic. This nature was questioned through the idea of the sacred/secular dichotomy in philosophical thought. This has led to a huge divide between these two ideas, impacting not only our society’s view of worship but also the church’s view. Although a number of theologians and leaders (such as Dan Wilt and N.T Wright) are calling Christians to reconsider this view, the prevalence of this thought has influenced the global church dramatically.

“Acts of worship spring from the overflow of a life that is already given over to His worship” 5

A true worshipper should be on the trajectory of living life coram Deo – that is a life in the presence of God. This means that they are attempting to offer to God all their acts of life as an act of worship. There will be no consideration of certain acts being worship and other acts being non-worship. This dangerous mentality is what society’s view of worship is.

We also have to realise the draw of life’s things on the way we live. That is the things of this world that draw us away from worshipping God. Perhaps drawing us to worship created things and not the Creator, as Paul writes in Romans 1. If we are to really consider the influences of other ‘gods’ on our life, we need to consider seriously what our actions, time and thoughts reveal about who or what it is that receives our worship. If, as Dan Wilt reminds us at the conclusion of the DVD, worship is the all-of-life response suggested in Romans 12, we must consider how our life is played out. Dan Wilt concludes the DVD with this reflection:

“What then is worship? ‘Worship is a whole life response to the all surpassing love of God’” 6

 

 

(1) Dan Wilt, What Is Worship? (Vineyard Worship Resouces, 2006), DVD

(2) Louie Giglio, The Air I Breathe: Worship As A Way Of Life (Multnomah, 2003), p.11

(3) Dan Wilt, What Is Worship? (Vineyard Worship Resouces, 2006), DVD

(4) Don Williams, What Is Worship? (Vineyard Worship Resouces, 2006), DVD

(5) Dan Wilt, What Is Worship? (Vineyard Worship Resouces, 2006), DVD

(6) ibid





essentials RED FALL ’08 CREATIVE PROJECT

5 12 2008

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

Pastiche:

“a literary, artistic, musical, or architectural work that imitates the style of previous work” 1

 

In recent years, my experience has seen contemporary hymns as effective musical tools for communities to reflect on past practices in the worship language of music, this whilst they are set in a contemporary context. This style of song has bridged generational divides within the churches and groups I have led in worship, allowing all to utilise the music worship language. Hymns such as In Christ Alone, Behold The Throne Of God Above and Praise The Father, Praise The Son, have all had a reflective quality that has brought musical structures from the past into the present era. For my creative project I was keen to write a pastiche on this hymn style, developing the lyrics with ideas covered in the essentials Red Course and constructing a melody that reflected very similar qualities to the songs mentioned above. This includes such qualities as ease of singing, learning and remembering, along with a familiarity that will lead to comfortable introduction in a communal setting.

 

The idea of story was strong in this course. Using various worship languages to remember God’s salvific story was a feature. Robert Webber writes, “Through worship the world learns its own story. And how will others hear unless we do God’s story in worship, calling people to remember God’s story.” 2 The lyrical theme of the song focuses on God’s overarching meta-narrative of history within which the song seeks to call people to worship and reflect on God’s character, with Christ as the centrepiece and to bring language of the now but not yet, (the eschaton) to the table.

 

“Sunday worship that is true to what the Christian faith is points to the hope of the world – the expectancy that Christ will come to deliver the ultimate blow to all the powers of evil, destroying them forever. He will establish the new heavens and the new earth. He will reign forever over his redeemed creation. His shalom will rest over all he has made. So Sunday after Sunday the happy ending to the great drama of the world is proclaimed and enacted. It is in our hymns, our Scripture readings, our preaching and our eucharistic celebration when we do this in remembrance of him until he comes again (1 Cor. 11:26).” 3

 

I love this quote from Robert Webber in our course text: Ancient Future Time. It possesses such depth in terms of hope, God’s promises and the importance of remembering.

 

I’m not too sure where the term Ancient One came to me from, possibly from the title of this course text by Webber “Ancient-Future Time.” Ancient One as a “name” for God reminds me of the God of eternal past historical existence but also suggests the One who was and is and is to come. The idea that God pre-exists our understanding of history, is present in our history: past, present and future, and is eternal caught my interest and so I set out to capture this in song.

 

Maybe the term pastiche can ring true for a generation of worship artisans who wish to reflect on past practices and worship languages that will lead to ‘riches drawn from the past energising us in our present worship experience and then propelling us forward into our emergent future together, leaving a legacy in worship history for future generations to come.” 4 We may not directly imitate as suggested in the above definition of pastiche but surely reflecting and remembering practices from the past will richly influence our present and future uses of the languages of worship. This should be the role of an artist or artisan in any generation.

 

(1) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pastiche

(2) Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), p. 43

(3) Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Time – Forming Spirituality Through The Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), p. 174

(4) Dan Wilt, essentials*red : A Worship Historical Synthesis (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), Video

 

ANCIENT ONE

 

O Ancient One, our God and King

We gather now to honour Him

Here in this place we lift our voice

And join the song, let all rejoice

 

Creator’s call brought all to life                   

Spoke words of Light throughout all time          

Sustaining all, this mystery                                

Through countless signs in history

 

The crowning act for all to see

Was Christ’s salvation victory

Our lives surrendered at Your throne

We worship You, O Ancient One

 

New life is here, we stand renewed             

Now one with Christ we rise anew

His Kingdom’s reign has now begun

We live in hope of more to come

 

Phil Dokmanovic

Copyright © 2008

Ancient One Chord Sheet

Ancient One mp3





Let’s Be Creative

29 11 2008

I’ve Been Thinking About Art & Music

(Essentials Red Fall 08)

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

 

We are created in God’s image and one of the joys of this is our innate creative nature. It is evident then that this will result in us using our creative desires and inspiration to worship God. Art and music can enable us to, “express the hidden springs of our heart.” (1)

The use of music and art as worship languages should lead us to rediscover and remember so many rich ideas about God and His Story, in a way that other languages may not.

I have not had much experience with the visual arts in church, although a close friend has been involved in regularly presenting art installations at church and these have been valued by the church community, bringing depth and insight to biblical themes. Dan Wilt emphasises this in his comment on the “capacity of art to sensitise and open us up.” (2) It is vital for the church to realise this and explore this worship language in fresh ways. The Reformation led to art being repressed as a worship language but contemporary society and post-modern thought are open to exploring this anew. Churches need to be open to the varied creative artists within their communities and encourage their God-given gifts of creativity. The benefits for our spiritual growth and missional focus are many and yet to fully be discovered (or should I say rediscovered).

 

Music has been an essential part of my life and worship for many years and it is a worship language with which my heart resonates. I love worshiping God through music and song. I find great depth in singing out a lyric, as my heart and soul connect with that lyric and offer it as a prayer to God. The communal singing of songs as an act of worship brings me great joy and worshiping God in community – together, is what we are called to do. One of my favourite Christian songwriters, Brian Doerksen, puts it this way:

 

“…Why do we sing songs in the first place? We do it because it is something that we can do together. There are probably other things that we could do to express our love and our worship to God that would be, in one sense, just as valid, but they’re not easy for us to do together. Yet we can get ten people, or a hundred people, or a thousand, or a hundred thousand – whatever number we choose – and we can all get together and sing a song. That song reflects what is going on in our hearts and our minds, together. There is truth that we’re affirming, but there’s also affection that we’re expressing. That’s why I think that singing as an expression of worship has stood the test of time.” (3)

 

In recent years I have been really challenged by the lyrical and theological content of the songs I choose and sing. This has led to some disillusionment in the whole area of music and singing in a community worship context, especially considering our various backgrounds and emphases on this language. It is important for the contemporary church to realise the importance of lyrics in congregational songs and the theology that they present. Gordon Fee suggests that, “current theology is shaped more by the songs that we sing than the sermons that we hear.” The responsibility for us all is self-evident. It seems that to a small extent Christian musicians are re-exploring and keen to deepen their theological understanding, seeing the importance of this practice to their role within the music life of the church (the Essentials Course is an example of this, as is this post on Bob Kauflin’s blog: http://www.worshipmatters.com/2008/11/why-theology-matters-to-christian-musicians/). Hence I see the value of applying theological and biblical learning to the use of music in worship practice.

 

“The early church was characterized by its singing; so also in every generation where there is renewal by the Spirit a new hymnody breaks forth.”  (4)

 

To apply the language of music to a contemporary setting we must realise, as Fee suggests, that Christian history is full of God’s gathered people using music to worship him through Jesus Christ The Saviour and by the Holy Spirit. It also results in the desire to find new expressions in song. We must embrace fresh songs and styles and be open to using these in our communal gatherings. After all, history is full of new songs and styles not being initially appreciated.

 

“St. Francis, Martin Luther, the Wesley brothers, Isaac Watts and many others have ruffled the feathers of Church traditionalists in their quest to invoke the common voice of the culture in their crafting of fresh, new worship music.” (5)

 

How do we lead our church into a deeper level of involvement with the music that we choose? Our culture is so familiar with the idea of entertainment and being entertained (the consumer mentality), that there is a huge danger of this occurring in our church context. It is important that we address this issue with our congregations to ensure that they aren’t just turning up to be entertained and hence judging their experience of God, or a particular service, by how good the “worship” was.

 

“The chief function of church music is to add a deeper dimension of involvement to worship.” (6)

 

As a result we must continue to utilise this worship language, carefully considering its application to a complete understanding of the meta-narrative of God’s salvation story, whilst being keenly aware of its value in expressing our intimate responses to our Awesome God. We have to remember that these valid worship languages are fantastic when used in a church gathering, but they are also amazing missional languages that can be used anywhere in our communities to glorify God, pointing all to his grace, mercy and love.

 

(1) Dan Wilt, essentials*red : The Languages of Art & Music (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), Video

(2) ibid

(3) Brian Doerksen, Personal Interview, Winter 2000. Cited by Dan Wilt, essentials*red: Online Studies in Worship History and Creative Vocation – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies)

(4) Gordon D. Fee, Paul, the Spirit and the People of God (Massachusetts: Hendricksen Publishers), p. 159   

                                                                                                                                                                   

(5) Dan Wilt, essentials*red: Online Studies in Worship History and Creative Vocation – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies)

(6) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.98





It’s Not Just A Sign

22 11 2008

I’ve Been Thinking About Baptism & The Eucharist

(Essentials Red Fall 08)

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

 

This week I have been contemplating, reading and discussing the sacraments. There is so much to digest and consider concerning these worship languages that it is difficult to find a starting point. Here are some suggested definitions I have encountered this week:

 

“Sacraments are signs that involve actions, words and (usually) objects” 1

 

“An outward sign that conveys an inward grace” 2

 

“The sign of a sacred thing.” 3

 

The indication in these words is that sacraments involve important symbolism and sign-acts that remind Christians of God’s great salvific story. “They remind the worshipper inwardly that God has acted to save and restore them, and is at work to reveal His new creation in their very lives.” 4

 

Sacraments tend to have a physical and matter-using basis. As humans we experience life through our senses (current research indicates we have more than the traditional five senses). Many of us actually learn or have experience reinforced by different senses to each other (maybe reflect on your preferred learning style). “The same God who gave us ears to hear also gave us eyes to see and hands to touch.” 5 Sacraments allow us to worship and experience God in a manner that incorporates a range of senses. We must be aware that as a result, the value of sacramental acts is important to Christian growth, as we learn more about God’s saving love through Jesus Christ and as we remember particular events and themes in God’s story. Our common saying that “actions speak louder than words” is perhaps an important one to ponder when thinking about sacraments. Sign-acts are an important media for us to express our worship in ways that words, songs and other worship languages cannot. “In other words, symbolic actions are present in worship history to remind us that sometimes words can cheapen an act.” 6

 

Maybe the German word for worship used by White in his book (Gottesdienst) is a great one to consider as we wrestle with the idea of our role and God’s role when it comes to sacramental acts. White indicated that this term means both ‘God’s service and our service to God.’ 7 I think this can be related to sacramental language. Take a sunset for example – an amazing physical representation of God as not just Creator, but Sustainer of all things (especially light!!). As I experience a sunset, I guess I am involved in a sacramental act as I praise and worship God maybe through prayer, a song, or just a simple “WOW!” and hence we are both involved. God in His self-giving and me in my response and remembrance of who He is. Thus I would definitely agree with the importance of considering the orthodox holistic nature of life as a series of sacramental experiences. We engage in the rich physicality of God’s creation, seeing God and His overarching Salvation story in all aspects of our experiential life and hence reflecting and responding on His encounter and acts in each moment of our lives. White states that, “at an even deeper level, Jesus himself, as the visible manifestation of God, is the primordial sacrament itself.” 8 This statement may help us to consider the importance of sacramental living as we seek to follow Christ. We must allow our lives to become a sign-act as we choose to accept the call to be like Jesus.

 

We need to view the sacraments as transforming, missional and applicable to our contemporary settings if we are to breath new life into our practices of these worship languages, so that they are life changing for our congregations. “Recent studies of life-changing rites show that they are made up of three elements: (1) a renunciation of a former way of life, (2) a transition, (3) a transformation of life.” 9 We must also remember and remind each other that “God acts in the sacraments” 10 and hence see the value of careful thinking in this area.

 

Let’s take Baptism for example. The early church tradition of being baptised on Easter morning is a practice that has been lost in contemporary settings, but one that could bring a fresh perspective not only for the one being baptised, but also for the whole community of believers. When considering baptism Robert Webber writes,“in today’s world where the longing for rites and symbols as markers of life transitions are sought out, I can think of no sign of the new birth that compares with the biblical sign of baptism. Baptism is the image of the transition to a full, conscious, and active life in the community of Christ’s body on earth.” 11

 

We need to be challenged by the missional impact of the sacraments, seeing these experiences as life changing and worldview shaping moments. Sacraments, “can envision, engage and energise the church to complete its mission in the world.” 12 By focusing on the deep meaning and symbolism that these worship languages convey, we will challenge our present and future communities to hunger and long for New Creation life and surely this will lead to a fuller experience of God’s Kingdom in the here and now. We need to invite our communities into the sacraments and sacramental living so that they can remember, experience and live in the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ. A fresh approach and specific teaching about the traditional sacraments of eucharist and baptism will encourage our communities to revisit the significance of these worship languages and with the Spirit’s leading encourage a missional response.

 

(1) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.145

(2) Dan Wilt, essentials*red: Online Studies in Worship History and Creative Vocation – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies)

(3) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.145

(4) Dan Wilt, essentials*red: Online Studies in Worship History and Creative Vocation – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies)

(5) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.155

(6) Dan Wilt, essentials*red: Online Studies in Worship History and Creative Vocation – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies)

(7) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.153

(8) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.138

(9) Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Time – Forming Spirituality Through The Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), p. 138

(10) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.166

(11) Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Time – Forming Spirituality Through The Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), p. 138

(12) Dan Wilt, essentials*red : The Languages of Baptism & Eucharist (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), Video





Let’s Communicate

15 11 2008

I’ve Been Thinking About Prayer & Scripture

(Essentials Red Fall 08)

 

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

 

“Saying and doing are as vital in our relating to God through worship as they are basic for communicating with other humans.” (1)

 

White sums up the importance of communication in the above statement and the worship languages of prayer and scripture in essence, relate to this idea of ‘saying and doing’. Here are two languages that have become an integral part of our church and our personal historical song. Two languages that stand alone, but that have often been weaved together to create unique encounters with our God through worship. They are essential practices in historical worship settings and hence it is vital that we explore these entrenched languages, breathing new life into their use in our contemporary setting.

 

 “First of all, we must realize the centrality of scripture -all of scripture- in these types of worship. Every major church in Christendom is rediscovering the importance of a richer diet of God’s Word in worship.” (2)

 

In a communal gathering and as Christians we must come back to the importance of the entire scriptures in our worship. A term that I have come to appreciate in regards to scriptural use is a ‘succulent chunk of canonical text.’(3) All too often we can be trapped into using scripture in trite and almost unbiblical ways for proof-texting (Well, I know I can and have been guilty of this). The term ‘succulent chunk’ brings a real depth and richness to the idea of choosing a larger passage of scripture to use in a communal setting. Some examples of extended passages like this that I have found useful are Isaiah 53 (a great ‘chunk’ in relation to a focus on Jesus and also when considering the time of Advent) or Revelation Chapters 4 & 5 (I heard David Ruis use these effectively in a communal gathering just last week), another amazing passage concerning the worship currently occurring in the throne room of heaven. I feel strongly about using scripture heavily in services and think that even whilst trying to communicate with contemporary services, this must be a priority throughout our service/event. The question that needs to be considered in relation to the scriptures is: Which parts of scripture should we use and how should we use them?

 

Many contemporary worship leaders are commenting on song choice and suggesting that if a person visited a church for a period of 4 weeks (for example) what picture would they get about the God worshipped there from the songs sung. This would also adequately apply to the scripture passages being used and hence it is vital that we pay attention to this. I am not necessarily advocating a return to the lectionary (a programmed method of covering the entire Bible in a certain time frame) but I can see the benefits of incorporating the entire canonical text across a certain time period, so that we don’t create ‘a private canon of favourite passages.’(4) This will also equip our congregation members to feel more confident with the scriptures, applying the corporate learning to their own personal devotional times. White suggests that ‘in the events narrated in scriptures the Christian community discerns meaning that illumines all history.’ (5) So it seems that fresh and creative uses of scripture will help us remember God’s salvation story.

 

“Through the reading and exposition of scripture, the Christian recovers and appropriates for his or her life the experiences of Israel and the early church: escape from slavery, conquest, captivity, hope for a Messiah, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and mission.” (6)

 

White strongly urges us to realize that a thorough approach to scripture allows us to remember and more importantly synthesize for our own lives the grand narrative of scripture. It is thus vital for our church leaders to consider this when choosing a pattern for scripture reading in communal gatherings.

 

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (7)

 

The Bible makes numerous references to the worship language of prayer and even highlights set times of day when people would pray either individually or as a community. The Book of Daniel indicates that Daniel prays three times daily and Psalm 55 indicates seven daily times of prayer and praise that the Israelites practiced. The Jewish people were a people of prayer and it was a huge part of their spiritual life. When referring to the Jewish practice of prayer, Dan Wilt suggested that their approach was to ‘live a conversation’ (8) with God, we can see this as a direct challenge to our prayer lives today. Robert Webber encourages us further in this pursuit by claiming that, “our whole life is to be a life of prayer, a life of continual turning to God, and a life of reliance, faith, and trust in the living God.” (9)

 

One prayer method that I rediscovered this week was the use of written prayers in a communal context. This idea draws on the rich tradition in Christianity of writing down personal prayers to God. My experience has not seen this happen too often in a Church service, with predominantly spontaneous prayers being spoken. However, the depth of these prayers means that they would enable people to focus on particular thematic aspects of God’s salvation story. After reading one such prayer this week, I feel encouraged to include it here:

 

“Christ beside me, Christ before me:

Christ behind me, Christ within me;

Christ beneath me, Christ above me:

Christ to right of me, Christ to left of me:

Christ in my lying, my sitting, my rising,

Christ in heart of all who know me,

Christ on tongue of all who meet me,

Christ in eye of all who see me,

Christ in ear of all who hear me.

 

For to the Lord belongs salvation,

And to the Lord belongs salvation

And to Christ belongs salvation.

 

May your salvation, Lord, be with us always

 

Amen” (10)

 

Prayers like this can be wonderful stand-alone sections of a service related to an overall theme. As Dan Wilt writes, written prayers are “a massive storehouse of beautifully crafted words and metaphors that can bear our hearts before God as well as any contemporary song.” (11) Written prayers can also be used to transition between other sections in a service, possibly even linking songs together. For example the above prayer would work nicely as an introduction to the Tim Hughes song “Everything”.

 

Some recent experiences I have had with larger worship events have seen both Mark Driscoll and Louie Giglio (two quite popular and dynamic Christian speakers) use and encourage communal prayer in a really interesting manner. During an open time of prayer, both speakers encouraged small group praying aloud. Giglio suggested prayer triangles where each participant prayed for a short time and the other members of the triangle would confirm their prayers with “Yes and Amen!” (this made for a lot of noise). Driscoll seems to use the approach in his church setting as well, where if you need prayer you put your hand up and people around you gather to pray for your needs. We may suggest that this doesn’t work too well in our churches because of size, but these examples were in gatherings of 12000 people. If we can’t be comfortable praying for and with our fellow church members, then our leaders may need to teach on this!

 

“It is vital to see the progression in worship toward the Reformation, which sought to diminish the medieval wall built between the clergy and the laity, and between people lifting their voices to God themselves rather than having someone else ‘more professional or articulate’ do it for them.” (12)

 

We are privileged to live, learn and lead in a post-Reformation time period. The access for a wider array of church participation then just the ministers or clergy, has resulted in the need to revitalize the languages of prayer and scripture in our communal services. We need to remember the amazing nature of God’s grace and that through Christ we all have access to God the Father, now being recognized as His sons and daughters. As stated in scripture, “because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ (13) and we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence.” (14) Wow…this is so vital for us to communicate to all in our congregations. The realization of this fact will surely lead to more members desiring, participating in, enjoying and longing for more public reading of scripture and communal prayer as a natural outworking of standing on this scriptural promise!

 

 

 

 (1) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.110

(2) ibid, p. 141

(3) Dr Rod Thompson, Compass Worldview Studies: A Biblical Introduction To Worldview (Auckland: Masters Publishing), p. 9

(4) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.138

(5) ibid, p. 141

(6) ibid, p. 137

(7) Bible, New International Version (International Bible Society, 1973, 1978, 1984), 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

(8) Dan Wilt, essentials*red : The Languages of Prayer & Scripture (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), Video

(9) Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Time – Forming Spirituality Through The Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), p. 66

(10) Esther DeWaal, The Celtic Way of Prayer: Recovering The Religious Imagination (New York: Doubleday, 1997), p. 21 cited in, Dan Wilt, essentials*red: Online Studies in Worship History and Creative Vocation – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies)

(11) Dan Wilt, essentials*red: Online Studies in Worship History and Creative Vocation – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies)

(12) ibid

(13) Bible, New International Version (International Bible Society, 1973, 1978, 1984), Galatians 4:6

(14) Bible, New International Version (International Bible Society, 1973, 1978, 1984), Hebrews 4:16





It’s About Time

8 11 2008

I’ve Been Thinking About Time

(Essentials Red Fall 08)

 

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Red Online Worship History Course with Dan Wilt

 

It’s interesting to note my choice of title for my blog, a title chosen before starting the course. As a lead worshiper one of my favourite passages in scripture is found in John 4. The scene involves Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. In verse 23 Jesus states this powerful idea:

 

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (1)

 

Jesus is choosing a particular time and place to announce (in the real world that we live in today) His coming as Messiah, to announce God’s Kingdom, to offer salvation, to instigate the New Creation and to comment on worship. Time is such an important part of the biblical narrative and in this passage Jesus reinforces this by stating quite clearly that a time IS coming and HAS now come, in reference to God’s followers and their worship. Sounds very much like the language of eschatology, the already but not yet. The ideas of time and place are so essential to the biblical story. In this passage alone we see references to both time and place. Often the story is recalled as The Woman at the Well. Highlighting the situational context of the event.

 

“the location is indifferent: the event is crucial…after the event, the place becomes significant as a bearer of meaning: the place where something happened” (2)

 

The Christian journey is full of such encounters with time and space. Moments where God’s salvation story becomes clearer, spaces where heaven opens to reveal a glimpse of the Eternal, or where the realisation of God as Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer all makes sense. Encounters which bring meaning to particular times and places. After all God chose to create time and space and more importantly to communicate with people through them.

 

“Christianity talks not of salvation in general but salvation accomplished by specific actions of God at definite times and places.” (3)

 

The reminder for all of us that God chose to act in history through time and place reminds us that it was God who instigated time and place through the very act of creation. This should emphasise the importance of Christians remembering to consider time and space in their worship lifestyle.

 

“Biblical remembering makes the power and the saving effect of the event present to the worshipping community.” (4)

 

One of the biggest challenges for Christians today is to REMEMBER. Through my recent readings and thinking I have been challenged by two methods that Christians have used in the past to do this. Firstly, the Christian Year. This is the idea of remembering the Year as a series of events that occurred in the biblical story. Starting with Advent, through Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost (plus more).

“Allow seasons of anticipation to lead you to seasons of great celebration as the ancients did, and re-enact these core biblical themes through music, messages and festivity according to each time of the year they present themselves.” (5)

 

In today’s society our lives are so focused around the Monthly calendar, holidays and other events that we often forget the importance of these events for our faith. Using this form of remembering can bring so much depth to weekly gatherings on a Sunday. They can also be essential tools to inspire the worship leader with fresh creativity as they reflect on God’s rich salvation story.

 

The other method that hit me like a fresh wave is the ancient practice of the Prayer hours. Times of the day when Christians would stop and pray in three-hourly intervals. A prayer time to thank God for the preceding time period in the day and a time to commit, in anticipation, the next time period in the day to the Lord. Why don’t I do this? I can see the dangers of only remembering and praying at these intervals and potentially ignoring God during the in-between times. But…the enormity of how this could radically change my day (and possibly those reading this) commands attention and would ultimately lead to a constant rememberance of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit in my every moment. How often to do we travel through a day and as a result of life’s busyness forget to pray continually?

 

“Forgetting brings death, but remembering brings life.” (6)

 

It goes without saying then, that one of the major roles of the modern lead worshiper (or anyone involved in worship ministry) is to encourage and exhort the Church to remember God’s saving acts. This can occur through a wide range of activities in a Church service, Study Group, Youth event or just as we walk alongside fellow travellers on life’s journey. It is encouraging to be inspired to reflect on the riches of past Christian traditions and to explore how these can inspire the present and point towards the future. This reflects God’s story from our vantage point in the 21st century. We stand here with the opportunity to reflect on God’s saving acts through Christ’s life, death and resurrection, working out how to apply these to our daily life at the present, in the anticipation of Christ’s return and the fulfilment of New creation and God’s Kingdom – sounds very eschatalogical to me!

So…It’s About Time!!

 

(1) Bible, New International Version (International Bible Society, 1973, 1978, 1984), John 4: 23-24

(2) James F. White, Introduction To Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press), p.76

(3) ibid, p. 44

(4) Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), p. 43

(5) Dan Wilt, essentials*red: Online Studies in Worship History and Creative Vocation – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), p. 8

(6) Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), p. 44