Friday, June 01, 2012

Defining Worship, part 1

In May I was asked to speak to a group of pastors on worship and worship planning. Articulating my thoughts and presenting them to others was a great exercise, and something I should do more often. So over the summer, I’m going to revisit the definition of Christian worship we covered in the fall message series at New Cov. Having a working definition of worship can remind us why it’s important and help us discern what aspects of worship are non-negotiable – and what aspects are negotiable, too. The definition we unpacked during that series is: “Christian worship is our response to the Father, made perfect through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, resulting in God recreating our lives and our world.”

Christian Worship is Our Response to the Father
Let us never presume that we worship God out of our own volition. No one decides, on their own, that they will worship God. We are always responding. We are always called to worship. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19) Before everything that we know, before time itself, God was there.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Take any example of an encounter with God, and you’ll see a response to God leading the encounter. Moses saw the burning bush and walked over to take a look. God spoke first to Noah about the corruption of the people. The word of the Lord came to Jonah.

It’s also important to recognize that we worship a triune God. The doctrine of the Trinity says that God is Three in One: Three Persons, of one essence. The first part of the our definition of worship focuses on the Father, but God also exists as Jesus Christ (the Son) and the Holy Spirit. There are verses in the Bible that point to the three Persons (Mt 28:19, Rm 8, Rv 1:4-5), and also verses that say that God is One (Dt 6:4, Ex 20, Eph 4:6). Is this the Bible contradicting itself? No! We can’t put God into a mathematical equation, or define Him with our mortal minds. The doctrine of the Trinity is and always will be a mystery. But it’s so important to keep it in mind when it comes to our worship! The Trinity models for us communion and self-sacrificing worship, and as we’ll talk about in the next part of the definition, it is the reason that we can worship God at all.

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