An Introduction to WORSHIP
This is the first major post in this Blog. It is addressed to Christians. Soon I'll post some articles on Jesus: Did he exist? Was he divine? And many others. Our aim today is to open a window on to the big subject of worship. Our starting-point is chapter one of Richard Foster’s brilliant book Streams of Living Water. These notes formed the outline of a lecture offered to Urban Neighbours of Hope…
A good prayer to begin with: ‘Lord, please speak to me: your servant is listening…’
What is worship?
WORSHIP IS… ‘BLESSING THE LORD WITH ALL THAT IS WITHIN US – BLESSING HIS HOLY NAME!’ (Psalm 103: 1)
‘BLESSING’: WHAT’S THAT?
‘ALL THAT IS WITHIN ME’ - INCLUDES…
WORSHIP IS… ‘THE PRESENTING OF OUR WHOLE SELVES AS A LIVING SACRIFICE… HOLY AND ACCEPTABLE TO GOD… WHICH YOUR SPIRITUAL WORSHIP’ (Romans 12:1,2)
* Temple (God as ‘wholly other’)
* Synagogue (God as the source of truth)
* Home Group (meeting God in each other)
* Festival (God as father/parent)
* Desert (God within us)
* Work (God in daily life)
* All of Life (God as Lord/King)
• SOCIAL JUSTICE
• contemplative (prayer-filled life)
• holiness (virtuous life)
• charismatic (Spirit-empowered life)
• social justice (the compassionate life)
• evangelical (Word-centered life), and
• incarnational (sacramental life)
Jesus is the source of each tradition… his prayer and intimacy, purity of heart, life in the Spirit, advocacy of justice and shalom, proclamation of the evangel, and sacrament of the present moment.
"God is bringing together streams of life that have been isolated from one another for a very long time."
1. The Contemplative tradition
• Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God…
• Psalm 62:5, For God alone my soul waits in silence…
Foster's chapter on the Contemplative tradition or the prayer-filled life is organized around Anthony of the Desert as the historical example, John the Beloved as the biblical expression of the movement, and Frank C. Laubach as the contemporary figure.
CONTEMPLATIVE WORSHIP INCLUDES…
Silence... 'the royal road to spiritual formation' (Nouwen) - not just the absence of noise, but an opportunity to listen to the still small voice of the Spirit.
Meditation... is a way for scripture to be internalized not merely (as in TM etc.) a technique to 'calm down'.
* Prayer divorced from noise and activity; from ‘head and mouth’
* ‘Practising the presence of God’ (Brother Lawrence)
* ‘Thirsting for God’ (Psalm 42:1,2)
* All our faculties – seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, feeling, perceiving: ‘Teach me, my God and King, in all things thee to see (George Herbert)
* Seeing God in all things (‘nothing is profane for those who know how to see’ – Teilhard de Chardin)
* ‘Feeling’ God’s presence (‘I felt my heart strangely warmed’ – Wesley)
(‘Jesus the very thought of thee with sweetness fills my breast’ – Bernard of Clairvaux)
* ‘Reverent fear… sweetness and delight in Him… so that we cannot pray at all except that He moves us’ (Julian of Norwich)
* Total self-detachment (Meister Eckhart)
* Surrendering all: ‘all to him I freely give’ (evangelical hymn)
* ‘The heart… stretched through suffering and enlarged’ (Thomas Kelly)
* A love affair with ‘Lady Poverty’ (Francis of Assisi)
* ‘Dark night of the senses/Spirit/ soul (John of the Cross)
* Movement from love of self for self’s sake, through love of God for self’s sake and love of God for God’s sake to love of self for God’s sake (Bernard of Clairvaux)
* Longing and desire: ‘Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly’ (Wesley)
* Stages: from disciplined mental exercises (reason) to the heart’s ‘prayer of quiet’ (Teresa of Avila)
2. The Holiness tradition
Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax-collector (Luke 18:9-14)
The Holiness tradition (eg the Wesleyan-Holiness movement) “holds before us the ultimate goal of the Christian life: an even deeper formation of the inner personality so as to reflect the glory and goodness of God; and ever more radiant conformity to the life and faith and desires and habits of Jesus . . .” (p. 85).
SEVEN DEADLY SINS: SLOTH LUST ANGER PRIDE ENVY GLUTTONY GREED
AVOIDANCE OF CONTEXTS WHERE YOU’RE LIKELY TO SIN/FAIL…
eg. Lust? Don’t watch certain TV/movies; be accountable to a community / confessor
Pride? Repeat the Jesus Prayer often (‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner’)
POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT eg. John Stott – to build discipline and Christian character, repeats the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ slowly in his devotions each morning:
LOVE JOY PEACE PATIENCE KINDNESS GOODNESS FAITHFULNESS
3. The Charismatic stream
If Contemplative worship includes a lot of silence…
Charismatic worship includes a lot of noise…!!!
Where is it in the Bible?
4. The Social Justice stream
MAJORS ON ‘BLESSING THE LORD’ WHO IS POOR…
ALL OF JESUS’ MINISTRY
• Matthew 23:23, cf. Micah 6:8, Luke 11:42
THE WORLD WE LIVE IN:
• 1.1 billion out of 6 billion (including 50% of all Africans) live in extreme poverty ie. less than $1 a day – World Bank
• Every three seconds a child under 5 dies of preventable disease/hunger
• 8 million human beings loved by God die each year because they’re too poor to survive - Time Magazine 4/3/2005
• The U.S. spends $500 billion a year on the military, but only 1/30th of this amount - $16 billion, on alleviating poverty – 0.15% of U.S. income
The three dimensions of Jesus' ministry (and ours):
 JUSTICE/LOVE – addresses our ‘Deeper’ Needs
• Power/ ‘the powers’
• Fairness: strong helping the weak
• Why? Image of God / worth and dignity of every human being
 MERCY – ‘Immediate/presenting’ needs
• Survival / food, clothing, shelter / well-being
• Why? Where Jesus started his ministry
 FAITH – ‘Ultimate/salvation’ needs
• Relationship with God
• Ultimate Meaning – Love, guilt, death
5. The Evangelical stream
ASKS: ‘WHAT IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR US / FOR OUR WORLD?’
THE PHARISEES major on the Word of God as found in the Bible… They
• KNEW THEIR BIBLES OFF BY HEART
• WERE DISCIPLINED IN THEIR PRAYING
• ATTENDED ‘CHURCH’ REGULARLY
• FASTED TWICE A WEEK
• TITHED A THIRD OF THEIR INCOME
• WERE ‘GOOD’ PEOPLE
• WERE MARTYRS
• BELIEVED THE ‘RIGHT’ DOCTRINES
• WERE EVANGELISTIC
Note… It is still possible to know the Bible off by heart and miss the point!
6. The Incarnational stream
An old Christian cliché – ‘We come together to worship, and go out to serve…’
But ‘Worship’ is ‘service’…
Eg. Titus 2:1: ‘You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine…’
(What do you expect Paul to say next, as he explains ‘sound doctrine’?)
Titus 2:2ff.: ‘Teach the older men to be … self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance…
‘Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live… to be self-controlled and pure…
‘Teach the young men to be self-controlled…
‘In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, soundness of speech…’
In other words:
‘ORTHOPRAXY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ORTHODOXY’
Worship should be linked with daily living. Baron Friedrich von Hugel's first suggestion to Evelyn Underhill when he was invited to be her spiritual director: visit the poor in inner-city London two days a week. God, says an ancient Latin hymn, is pater pauperum, 'father of the poor'.
The Incarnational tradition “focuses upon making present and visible the realm of the invisible spirit. This sacramental way of living addresses the crying need to experience God as manifest and active in daily life” (p. 237).
SO WHAT’S THE BEST FORM OF WORSHIP FOR ME?
Martha, preparing an elaborate meal, was irritated by the behavior of Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened…
Jesus commends Mary for listening, but his rebuke to Martha is not a disparagement of service – it follows the story of the Good Samaritan…
Some of us are naturally contemplative… Others, no less devoted to the Lord, prefer to be up and doing… Most Western Christians have a sneaking sympathy for Martha! But the best comment on this story has been made by St. Teresa. ‘To render our Lord a perfect hospitality, Martha and Mary must combine’… Mary and Martha must be combined in each of us. ‘Worship’ must find expression in service, contemplation in action, worship in work.
1. The Upper Room DICTIONARY OF CHRISTIAN SPIRITUAL FORMATION
2. The SPIRITUAL FORMATION BIBLE
3. RENOVARE SPIRITUAL FORMATION
4. CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE, STREAMS OF LIVING WATER, PRAYER, DEVOTIONAL CLASSICS (Richard Foster)
5. Conservative/Calvinist: Andrew Murray, Dallas Willard, John Piper
6. Evangelical: A W Tozer, W E Sangster
7. Mainline: Eugene Peterson
More articles like this here.