Monday, March 31, 2008

Some More Assorted Ideas on Liturgy

--adapted from Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, Kemper Crabb

At the center of every culture is a "cultus," a form of worship. Culture is always driven by cultus -- how worship is conducted. Thus, liturgical order leads to cultural order and likewise, liturgical chaos leads to cultural chaos.

Apparently our current culture of death must have a cultus that worships dead idols instead of the living God. Wisdom says in Proverbs that "all who hate her love death" (Prov. 8:36). And too many Christians do not worship the living and triune God in a manner that is capable of giving incarnational shape to a life-affirming culture. And that is why the desperate need of the hour is a liturgical and doctrinal reformation.

In worship, we ascend into the heavenly places (Heb. 12:22-29). We gather there to glorify and worship the Lamb that was slain. Then we may ask (with boldness) for the name of Jesus to be glorified on earth in just the way that it was in heaven (Matt. 6:10). We pray "thy kingdom come," not "thy kingdom go." Throughout the book of Revelation, we see the same thing. The worship service conducted in heaven drives all the events on earth.

Abraham's response to God's promises to him (besides faith) was to build an altar (Gen. 12:7). In other words, he showed his faith that God would give him the land by establishing a place in that land for worship.

Before going any further, it must be noted that worship is not praise and it does not consist of "feeling worshipful." In both Hebrew and Greek, worship means service. When Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, he said that he was going to worship. He did not mean that they were going to go to Moriah, break out the guitars and overhead projector for a little P & W. He meant that he was going to serve God, by doing what was commanded. When Isaiah said, "Here am I, Lord, send me," that was worship. And this helps make sense of Romans 12:1-2 -- the presentation of our bodies to God is our spiritual worship.

We also must beware of reading individualism into the text. "The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob (Ps. 87:2). God values the worship of the great congregation over private devotions.

As we worship, we become more and more like the God we worship. "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:17-18). (Notice the "we all.")

And here is why 'seeker sensitive worship' will never change our culture...because it aims to imitate the culture to make "church" more palatable. Christians cannot ape and mime the "worship" of the world, and then expect the polytheistic culture around us to pay any attention to what we say. A recovery of true Christian worship (and wonder) of the Triune God will bring us into a profitable conflict with the current principalities and powers. But right now, they don't need to listen. Salt that has lost its savor is not fit for anything but to be thrown out and trampled upon by men.

'Seeker sensitive worship' leads to two possible conclusions...
1.) ineffective Christians or
2.) very bored Christians.
And many times, both results show up in the same person. In the end, why bother to go to church at all when I can get the same thing all week in the world? Liturgical life leads to cultural life. Liturgical boredom leads to cultural boredom. Liturgical chaos leads to cultural chaos.

The liturgy of the worship service is the most fundamental catechism we have. And this demands repetition. But it must be repetition of the "right" things. Repetition of scriptural things. Repetition is inescapable, and many who object to weekly commemoration of the Creed or the Lord’s Supper have no problem whatsoever with comparable repetitions in other settings.

For some Christians, repetition means that we will necessarily drift into religious complacency, sloth or deadness. This does happen, and so the Word and Faith must always drive and accompany our liturgy.
(see this too: http://desiderantangeli.blogspot.com/2008/03/consider-routine.html )

Repetition of the "right" things also means that we re-evaluate, and perhaps even abandon, the repetition of much of modern and post-modern practices. Much of it is marked by mindlessness and self-centeredness...in our preaching, prayers and praises. Therapeutic and self-esteem-building, you-can-do-it-cheerleading sermons and "Jesus is my girlfriend" or "Jesus is my buddy" praise choruses are destroying the church. So are ineffective songs that contain little actual praise of God, but instead simply talk about praise, the intention to do so or our enjoyment of it...which is worshiping worship and praising praise.

An over-emphasis on the Immanence (the nearness) of God has caused an over-familiarity with Him and His Presence. This in turn has bred contempt, contempt for the Fear of God, the Judgment of God, the "God-ness" of God and the seriousness of sin. Restoring MYSTERY and the TRANSCENDENCE of God into our corporate gatherings, and then as a result, into our private devotions, will send us equipped and ready into the rest of our week.

The right worship of God informs, drives, and inspires all our efforts. What we experience in the Presence of God together is the template for, and defines what will we do, Monday through Saturday. Here's the math: No Wonder on Sunday Morning = No wonderful works on Monday morning.

1 comment:

Ken e said...

Yup the mystery of God has been lost and expecially in worship (probably from the result of not teaching sound doctrine). Bring back christian doctrine to the pulpit and music. Bring back justification by faith alone, The unique person of Christ(the God-Man), the Virgin Birth, The bloody Cross, The Resurrection, and the Trinity(three-in-one,the one&many). Bring back all those things in the sermons and music and transcendence will be there. But sadly, evangelicals have lost that and sadly presbyterians have also in some places that are no longer reformed.