“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
In my lifetime, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the beauty of nature in its many forms. I have been brought to tears through song. I’ve been stirred to response through speech. And in moments too holy to describe with words, I have touched beauty when I’ve held my new born children. Each of these moments was a moment of worship, with its own unique form of liturgy, and in my better moments, I looked beyond the direct object of my gaze, to worship the Creator. These moments challenge me, and I hope you, to think through the question: Just what is it, or who is it, that we are we worshipping?
Five years in to the life of Christ Church, I continue to be asked about our worship style. So, I’d like to at least take a stab at answering. Though as I do, I must (if even for my own sake) offer a qualifying statement. While I/we spend much time planning for worship, I don’t in any way think we are the ones who have finally gotten it right. In fact, I pray for more creativity, more beauty, and more soul in our worship. I also pray for less of me. And maybe that is the point. We gather each week to worship our great and awesome God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So with the object of our worship in view, let’s talk about how our view of God shapes our worship.
A DIVINE DANCE
We believe that God, for His own glory, and for our good, has chosen to reveal Himself to us in His Word. So, we worship Him according to His Word. While there is much that could be said about how the Scriptures inform our worship, my focus for the moment is on how the Scriptures shape the flow of our worship.
Given the truth of God’s self revelation in His Word, combined with our call to worship Him according to His Word, the best way to describe our worship would be to see it as a DIVINE DANCE, consisting of God’s revelation to us and our response to Him. This means there is a natural back and forth to our worship. It is participatory. He calls us together to worship through His Word. We respond by singing songs of adoration and praise. We respond with prayer. He continues to reveal Himself to us through the reading of His Word, inviting responses of confession and repentance. God continues to reveal His love for us as we are reminded of the pardon we have in Christ, which further draws out our response of praise and prayer. The preached Word and the visible Word (Sacraments) urge us to respond by coming forward for the Lord’s Supper, where we see and respond to Christ’s death on the cross…a death He died for us.
This flow is a back and forth dance which is meant to engage us, to nurture us, and to show us the God whom we have gathered to worship, all the while telling His story.
A STORY TOLD
One of the most shocking things about God’s self revelation in the Scriptures is that He reveals Himself to us in the context of the redemption story. It is a story which occupies the whole of Scripture, and is told in four parts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. This is the gospel story of our Savior, who in the fullness of time, was born of a woman, who was born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law…so that we might receive adoption as sons of God. (from Galatians 4:4-6)
This gospel story of redemption is not one which can merely be added on to the end of a sermon. It must inform the whole of our worship. The story unifies all that we do in the context of worship, which means worship is so much more than the songs we sing. Our desire is to speak the story of the gospel, to hear it, to see it, to pray it, and to sing it.
A SONG SUNG
Often, when I get the question about our worship, I understand the question is really code for “What is your music like?” It’s a great question, but honestly, it’s not a question that I have a great answer for. The truth is, we just don’t aim for a particular genre or style of music.
When our leadership plans for worship, we pray a specific prayer. We pray, asking the Lord to direct our hearts, so that our worship would be a transformational celebration of the gospel. It is our desire to plan worship that is God honoring, Christ centered, and Spirit led, and we pray it will be transformational in the lives of God’s children. We pray it will be an appropriate celebration of our Savior and His gospel. And, we pray that the gospel will be clearly proclaimed throughout our service, both in the parts, and through the whole.
So, we don’t start with a particular style of music. We start with the text of Scripture, and through it, seek to tell the story God is telling, through Word, prayer, confession, song, and sacrament. But we do sing. We love to sing. Some of the songs you know. Some you may not. But our desire is to sing songs which are rich in meaning, which celebrate the gospel. There is often a blend of styles, though we don’t intentionally aim for a “blended” worship service. There will be praise songs. There will be hymns, new and old, some of which have been re-tuned…all of which, we pray, will point you to Christ.
In the beginning, I mentioned several moments of worship. I will close by adding another moment…one which is repeated weekly. Each week, we get the blessing of witnessing beauty. It is the beauty of God’s people, coming together from all types of backgrounds, for one purpose…worship. In that beautiful moment of worship, our focus is directed toward our great and awesome God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the One who shapes our worship, because He is the object of our worship. And the wonder of it all is this: as we focus on Him, He is glorified and we are blessed. Praise the Lord!