What is worship

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Worship

1. reverent honour and homage paid to God, a god, or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred. ..

9. to attend services of divine worship.

                             Macquarie dictionary.

 

 

Christian worship is God's gift whereby we participate through the Spirit in the Son's communion with the Father. Thus we are called as the people of God with the gifts the Spirit has distributed among us, to take part in what Christ, our one Mediator and High Priest, has done and continues to do for us. So the bread which we break is a participation in the body of Christ and the cup we take is a participation in the blood of Christ.

Uniting in Worship Leaderís Book, p 76 note 1

                       

The primary worship in the New Testament is the worship of oneís life (not the acts of worship) - newness of life, newly created life; in fact it is part of the experience of salvation.

Christ is the first worshipper.  We worship through Christ, our Lord, who lifts us up...

We donít come into church on a Sunday morning wearily to sit and sing psalms, hymns, choruses to each other and then go out justified that we have [done it] but itís all been a completely human activity - weíve all come in - had a good time and gone home - sort of like adult playschool - a bit of show and tell, a bit of instruction, a bit of knocking people around the ears and then go home.

None of that at all, we are raised through Christ to the worship of God.  It is primarily Godís activity that has taken place - both our worship of God and our hearing the word - even through the preacher we hear the word of God.

                                    James Haire

                                                                           

We owe our very existence as a Community to the central Gospel conviction that worship is all that we are and all that we do. Either everything we do is an offering to God, or nothing. We may not pick and choose.

Our whole life, we believe, is a search for wholeness. We desire to be fully human, with no division into the 'sacred' and the 'secular'. We desire to be fully present to God, who is fully present to us, whether in our neighbour or in the political and social activity of the world around us, whether in the fields of culture or of economics, and whether in prayer and praise together or in the very centre and soul of our being.

Of ourselves we cannot make this happen. We cannot make ourselves whole any more than we can make ourselves happy or good. But we do believe that by grace we are to structure our lives, both individually and together, in obedience to the vision that God has given us of what wholeness is like, primarily through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

                The Iona Community Worship Book p 7

                                     

To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.

William Temple  (quoted in Celebration of discipline and also in "Rivers in the Desert: Meditations and Prayers for Refreshment" (ed. Roland Croucher, Albatross Books, Sydney, Australia, 1991).)

 

What is worship?    Worship is to feel in your heart and to express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause but which we call Our Father Which Art in Heaven.             

                            (A.W.Tozer:  Knowledge of the Holy)

 

 

"Christian worship is our participation through the spirit in the Son's communion with the father, in his vicarious life of worship and intercession. Our self offering in response to the one true offering made for us in Christ"

                            James Torrrance p3

 

 

Certainly everything we do should be understood as an offering to God. But confusing the general and particular ways of talking about worship means that we

*remain unclear about the distinction between the corporate act so essential to our growth in grace and individual devotion;

*slide out from under the question of what we need to do about what we are doing on Sunday morning.

Work may be "worship" offered by an individual. But worship (of the gathered Body) is work (leitourgia), the most noble endeavour of humanity, the work which sets all our other work within the framework of the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

                                                          Peter Banney

 

The church is the church in her worship.  Worship is not an optional extra, but is of the very life and essence of the church.  Nor is it a false grovelling in the dust of the religiously minded.  We are never more truly human than when we worship God.  We rise to all the heights of human dignity when we worship God, and all God's purposes in creation and redemption are fulfilled in us as together in worship we are renewed in and through Christ, and in the name of Christ we glorify God.  So by the grace of God we seek to voice for all creatures the praises of God and realise our God-given destiny to be the priests of creation under Christ our great High Priest.

 (James B. Torrence)



To worship is to experience reality, to touch Life. It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community. It is a breaking into the Shekinah * of God, or better yet, being invaded by the Shekinah of God.

(*. The glory or the radiance of God dwelling in the midst of His people. It denotes the immediate Presence of God as opposed to a God who is abstract or aloof.)

God is actively seeking worshipers. Jesus declared, "The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him" (In. 4:23). It is God who seeks, draws, persuades. Worship is human response to divine initiative. In Genesis God walked in the garden seeking out Adam and Eve. In the crucifixion Jesus drew men and women to himself (In. 12:32). Scripture is replete with examples of God's efforts to initiate, restore, and maintain fellowship with His children. God is like the father of the prodigal who, seeing his son a long way off, rushed to welcome him home.

Worship is our responding to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father. Its central reality is found "in spirit and truth." It is kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our human spirit. Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the formal disuse of forms and rituals. We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshiped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit. The words of the chorus, "Set my spirit free that I may worship Thee," reveal the basis of worship. Until God touches and frees our spirit we cannot enter this realm. Singing, praying, praising all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them. Our spirit must be ignited by divine fire.

As a result we can be indifferent to the question of a correct form for worship. The issue of high liturgy or low liturgy, this form or that form, is peripheral rather than central. We are encouraged in our indifference when we realize that nowhere does the New Testament prescribe a particular form for worship. In fact, what we find is a freedom that is incredible for people with such deep roots in the synagogue liturgical system. They had the reality. When Spirit touched spirit, forms became irrelevant.

                                            Celebration of discipline p 138-9

 

                             

The Consequences of Worship

If worship does not change us, it has not been worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change. Resentments cannot be held with the same tenacity when we enter His gracious light. As Jesus said, we will need to leave our gift at the altar and go set the matter straight (Mt. 5:23, 24). In worship an increased power steals its way into the heart sanctuary, an increased compassion grows in the soul.

To worship is to change.

If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship. Just as worship begins in holy expectancy it ends in holy obedience. Holy obedience saves worship from becoming an opiate, an escape from the pressing needs of modem life. Worship enables us to hear the call to service clearly so that we respond, "Here I am! Send me" (Is. 6:8).

                            Celebration of discipline p 148

 

                            

Willard Sperry declared, "Worship is a deliberate and disciplined adventure in reality. It is not for the timid or comfortable. It involves an opening of ourselves to the dangerous life of the Spirit. It makes all the religious paraphenalia of temples and priests and rites and ceremonies irrelevant. It involves a willingness to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Col. 3:16).

                                Celebration of discipline p 149

 

                            

 

Good worship is primarily a focus on the Holy God but it is also a gathering up of all that we are and bringing that into authentic relationship with our God.

Although there is a place for individual devotional life, Christian worship is essentially corporate. It is the Body of Christ, with all its diversity and different gifts, coming before God. It is clear that we have different ways of worshipping God, some of which are experienced in the several denominations of the church. Some people find it most meaningful to participate in very formal styles of worship, others in less formal. Some  people are helped by worship which is full of rhythm and sound, others by spaciousness and silences. Some people follow more ancient traditions and some very contemporary forms.

While acknowledging all this as a true response to our various styles of spirituality, many congregations find it good to explore different options, even if one style is predominant. We also discover that if we look below the outward expressions of our worship, there can usually be seen a common pattern or theology. This pattern reflects the way we relate to God in everyday life. It is a ritual echo of our journey and that is why it has been generally sustained through the centuries.

In looking at this traditional order for worship, imagine that you are seeing it as a repeated pattern for the encounter with God - the growing and changing in response to the awareness of who you are before God, the receiving of a new Word and the living out of the changes with the help of God.

Echoes of our journey, p12.

         

"the core of worship is God acting to give life to man and to bring man to partake of that life. . .the Christian life is a liturgical life"

Paul Hoon, quoted in White p 17

 

 

"Worship sums up and confirms ever afresh the process of salvation history which has reached its culminating point in the intervention of Christ in human history, and through this summing up and ever Ėrepeated confirmation Christ pursues his saving work by the operation of the Holy Spirit."

            Jean-Jacques Allmen quoted in White p 21

 

 

It is scarce wonder, no wonder at all, that in a society dedicated to comsumerism, people ask, "What can I get out of worship?"  As if getting something out of everything expresses an appropriate response to life!  The question of worship, when so stated, does not take God seriously.  It does not ponder the true worth of God, for to treat God as if God were a means to our ends is to imagine that we ourselves are gods.  God is not humanity's servant.

(John E. Burkhart:  Worship)

 

There are not three stages in the spiritual life - worship, waiting and work.  Some of us go in jumps like spiritual frogs - we jump from worship to waiting, and from waiting to work.  God's idea is that the three should go together.  They were always together in the life of our Lord.  He was unhasting and unresting.  It is a discipline; we cannot get into it all at once.

            (Oswald Chambers:  My Utmost for His Highest)

 

 

 

Living means breathing. Without breathing we cannot live. Try holding your breath. We can do it only so long. Then we are drawn to take a breath-rich, full gulps of air.

Worshiping is as natural to us as breathing. We are drawn to worship as naturally as we are drawn to our next breath. Just as breathing is central to living, worshiping is central to living. Without worshiping we do not fully live. Just as we perish without breathing, without worshiping our lives shrivel and decay; our true selves perish.

People want to worship. When we worship, our lives are enriched. We are better able to deal with the twists and turns and the tragedies and difficulties of life. We are healthier, more confident, more assured. When we neglect worship, our lives are diminished, weakened, impoverished.

Indeed, worship is the breath of God.  It is where we discover the grace of that breath and draw it in for a full life and for growth.

                        Kennon Callahan, Dynamic Worship pp3-4.

 

Worship that is life-giving, worship that is a real response to God's grace, tells the good news in the present tense. God not only entered history two thousand years ago, God enters now. Jesus invades our everyday world. He marches into our life-styles, our jobs, our homes, our politics, our relationships, our suffering and our joy. The amazing fact of the cross is that God entered into our godforsakenness and is with us . . . here. . . now. And when he speaks to us, it's not about stained-glass windows or one-hundred-voice choirs, as lovely as they are. When he speaks to us, it's about hunger and thirst, about light and darkness, about freedom and yearning and broken relationships, about hurting and tears wiped away. No matter how otherworldly we try to become in our worship we are brought back to the realities of this world by the sacraments. Jesus asks us to remember him, not in any ethereal way, but by the universal act of sitting down to supper, a simple meal of bread and wine. He baptizes not with costly oil but with ordinary water. He calls not just kings and clergy but people with no credentials. Jesus sits down to life with us and makes his way behind our masks and down into our being, where we are stripped of all pretence. Worship that mirrors God in our humanness is worship that is alive.

I can't separate worship from our daily living. In our worship the human and the holy must meet in relevancy, confession, festivity, and hope. Otherwise our words do not translate into loving justice, doing mercy, and walking humbly with God.

                                                Ann Weems,  Reaching for rainbows, p 12.