Worship is the human response to the divine initiative.
Celebration of Discipline p.158
What do you think about that?
I love how concise and precise Foster defines worship.
On Sunday mornings, I say to the kids, "We are going to worship!" Okay, okay, so sometimes it's said more like this, "Hurry up and get in the car! We are late for worship!!" In those cases, I'm stopped in my tracks by the word worship. 'Church' can become too associated with the building, similar to saying, we're going to the grocery store. A building is lifeless. Worship is alive! We're not going there to check a chore off of the to-do list; we're going to participate in something living and active with the people of God. Our people, because of what God has done for us in Christ. Wow!
"Put on your seat belts, kids. We're going to worship!"
Thinking of our regular Sunday morning activity in this way has changed my attitude toward church attendance. So, buckle your seat belts, 'cause that's what we're gonna talk about today!
Of course, we go to church to receive: there is teaching; sacraments are performed; absolution is spoken. But we also go ready to give and participate: songs are sung to God; money clinks into the plate; sins are confessed; requests are spoken. Worship should be serious business for the Christian, serious meaning something not taken lightly, but rather approached intentionally and purposefully.
Worship is the human response to the divine initiative!
What is Worship
It helps to know what we're talking about. So pulling from Scripture and Foster's (most excellent) chapter on the subject, let's clarify some things.
- Who do we worship? We worship God, who has revealed Himself in Scripture. He is the only one worthy of our worship. Matthew 4:10
- What do we do in worship? We worship God. Whatever we do in worship must center on Him and be done in response to Him. Foster emphasizes that forms are secondary, though not irrelevant. The forms are not the worship; they only lead us into the worship. p 159
- When do we worship? Anywhere and everywhere all the time, worship is appropriate, good, and right! We should be listening for God all throughout our days. Then, we specially gather with 'holy expectancy' with other believers for corporate worship (traditionally this is done on Sundays) every week.
- Why do we worship? Well, in once sense, we worship because we're told to. Remember the 10 Commandments? But do you also remember the words God spoke before delivering them? And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. God rescued them from slavery, just as He has done us from sin, at His initiative. In worship we respond to God, who is worthy in His being and for what He has done for us.
- How do we learn to worship? As with all of the disciplines, Foster says, We learn to worship by worshiping. And I love what he draws out in this chapter about how we learn, individually and corporately: Christ is our leader and teacher. Foster calls Christ our Present Teacher. It reminds me of the prayer of St. Patrick, about Christ being with us, before us, behind us, etc. What a great comfort, having our Present Teacher there with us as we learn to worship through our days and learn to worship together on Sunday mornings or in smaller groups during the week! Also, postures and behaviors that are appropriate for worship are found throughout Scripture. These are good to have in our heads, so when the Spirit prompts we know that it is from Him and not our imagination.
One of Jesus's accusations of the Pharisees in Matthew 15 (quoted from from Isaiah 29:13) was that they worshiped with their lips, but their hearts were far from God. So tragic; they were so close, yet so far. Let this not be true of the Church of Christ! Worship that is not directed toward God is idolatry. But praise be to God, we are all professional idolaters who can be transformed in to worshipers of God! Get your heart, mind, body, and spirit into worship!*
Foster also reminds us that the "divine priority" is worship first, service second. Putting the second first is idolatry. Let us serve out of our worship, keeping the "divine priority" as our priority!
Finally, be cautious as you begin to intentionally practice the discipline of worship. You'll probably get carried away sometimes by the Spirit of the Lord! <wink>
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
*You can learn more about some details of those things in this chapter in Celebration of Discipline. Oh, I really think you should read this book, because I can't summarize it all here! I'm still planning to give one away in a few weeks. :)