Jon for President!!

Right Worship

“If there is one than one way to say ‘I Love You’, then there is more than one way to worship God.”

A nice moralism but while there might be many ways to offer praise and worship to the Eternal, there ARE right and wrong ways to do it.

• If Christ is not in it, God won’t accept it.

• If our hearts are not __________________  (thankful, engaged, humble, submitted)(you pick the modifier), God is not impressed. Just like hollow ‘I love you’s’ are wasted words.

• If our lives don’t match our confession, why bother? When did Jesus ever approve of hypocrites?

Some things are the believer’s individual responsibility, some belong to the pastor, some to the church as a whole. To be sure, those who believe that the Bible is God’s Word, will preeminently want to include whatever it recommends, but alas, there are few specifics mentioned.

Leviticus has lots of specifics, but we don’t do animal sacrifices anymore. And while a spiritualization of OT forms is very tempting, this essay has less ambitious goals. Simply put, we want to honor God in Christ. And, Good News, when we are in Christ, God accepts our worship.

 
But what does that look like?

It doesn’t look only like one thing. Different hearts and personalities express reverence, awe and joy differently. No one liturgy can include the whole of what humans think and feel about God. And make no mistake about it. Liturgy reflects what we think and feel about God. Indeed, liturgy shapes what we think and feel about God.  Lex orandi, lex credendi.

Below is an experimental boilerplate for allowing fluidity of expression without compromising necessary things. It is an attempt engage those ‘different hearts’, while holding faithful to those things that we all agree honor God. But then again, it’s just one more way to say I Love You.

Note: This is a ‘formal’ Sunday liturgy in 2 parts, ‘ordinary’ [meaning, things that stay the same], and ‘proper’ [meaning, things that change from week to week]. The ‘ordinary’ part is first.  Of course this begs the question “What constitutes an ‘informal’ worship?” A perfect example would be our Sunday evening meeting. Wednesday night meetings are not so much “worship” events as they are NT ‘love feasts’. Our church is cool.

                                           Concise Version
• Music
• Call to Worship
• Scripture
    • Hymn of Adoration – “Let us worship the Lord in song”
• Scripture
    • Call to Confession – “Before we would praise Thy Name, we would confess our sins.”
• Scripture
    • Assurance of Pardon
• Scripture
    • Hymn
    • Offering – “Let us show God what we think of Him by the way we give.”
    • Offertory
• Doxology
••• (‘Proper’ Worship Insertions)
• A Word from the Pastor
• Benediction
• Music
• Announcements?

                                            Expanded version

• Music
- Music ever sets the tone and prepares the heart and mind. It is analogous to emotion. The thoughts we think when we are in love flow from a different spring than do the thoughts we think when we are disgusted or indifferent. Music does that. Ask any movie director.
  When Homer Rodeheaver would start a Billy Sunday crusade, he would choose melodic, majestic songs; poignant, personal songs were saved for the solo; “decision” songs for the end. Camp meetings, worship services, weddings, and funerals, all choose different pieces to set the tone for what is and what is to come.
  Having said this, it seems to me that ‘contemporary’ worship music is not well mixed with hymn or gospel music. Each has its own genius AND worship and sermon style (at this point I am making this up as I go). Evangelism and gospel music go hand in hand. Meditations on the attributes of God, and the like, pair up well with hymn music. Christian living sermons are complimented by contemporary worship music. I don’t really know this for a fact, but I do sense I am barking up the right tree.
  Christian rock… youth groups. Melodic, fun tunes… VBS. Classical compositions… special events or august occasions. Pick a genre and you will find a state of mind (and emotion) it evokes. Soooo… I guess music is a pretty important choice when composing a worship service. And, yes, one may “mix it up” to arouse surprise and delight. Counterpoint has its place. But the overall composition needs to be kept in mind.

• Call to Worship
 - This is NOT where the ‘announcements’ go. Announcements should be put before the beginning or after the end. Why? Consider: Do they have ‘announcements’ in the middle of a presidential inauguration or ‘directions to the reception’ in the middle of a wedding ceremony? No? Then ‘announcements’ belong to a different place.
  The tone of words to the Call to Worship might be well keyed to the tone, or better, ‘theme’ of the worship service. For brevity I will use 3 themes when I call forth examples: evangelization, apologetics, and personal sanctity (abbreviated E, A, PS).  PS: “It’s good to be here. Let’s get ready to praise the Lord.” A: “Let us now prepare to approach the Throne of Grace where is found mercy and blessing.” E: “The Bible says that where two or more are gathered in His Name, there is He in the midst of them. Let’s empty a chair in our hearts so our Savior can have seat.”

• Scripture
- I should perhaps have put “Adorational Scripture” since what is next is a Hymn of Adoration. Use a passage that exalts the Lord. This should not be hard to find.
  You will begin here to notice a pattern: Scripture preambles every sequence. If we are indeed “people of the Book”, then the Book is going to be found all over our worship services. But more than this, by inserting appropriate scripture before each section, we hallow and justify that section. It is not hard to choose a passage that ‘fits’ practice, be it confession, praise, giving, or devotions or sermons. But prayer and reflection will make it a good choice.

• Hymn of Adoration – “Let us worship the Lord in song”
- Again, the music should fit the theme. Obviously there is a lot of room for interpretation as to what music fits what theme, but that’s half the fun. Too bad we don’t have guest liturgists or allow church members to be Liturgist-of-the-Day. Too bad there’s not a website one can go to to read and hear all the gospel, hymn, spiritual, and all other kinds of Christian music there is out there. Too bad there aren’t more Sunday school classes on Hymnology. Too bad, too bad, too bad.

• Scripture
- This would be more aptly named “Confessional Scripture” for what will follow is the Call to Confession. Here our creatureliness, our sinfulness, and our disobedience should be underscored. Plenty of these passages can be found in the Psalms, or Job, or Paul, or Deuteronomy.       

• Call to Confession – “Before we would praise Thy Name, we would confess our sins.”
- This is a missing element in our (WPBC) worship. As I reflect on what constitutes “worship”, I am reminded that Jesus said that if you are bringing a gift to the altar, and you remember that you brother has something against you, that you should go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then go and offer your gift to God.
  If we are intending to “offer” gifts of praise and worship, then how can we not first confess our sins and be reconciled to One Who is far more greater and intimate than our earthly brother? Presumably we have reconciled with our earthly siblings (both the natural and the spiritual ones) before we have darkened the doors of His sanctuary.
  The form of confession? Let the Pastor pick. It can be responsive. It can be collective. It can be exhorted from the pulpit. It can be prayed in silence. It can be all of the above.

• Scripture
- A “forgiveness” passage

• Assurance of Pardon
- Truly, this is the Good News.

• Scripture
- We are preceding the offering. Let the scripture passage be about God’s rich abundance towards us or our obligation of gratitude.

• Hymn
- Any good discipleship hymn. I put a hymn here because it gives the ushers a convenient opportunity to approach the altar that is both reverent and inconspicuous.

• Offering – “Let us show God what we think of Him by the way we give.”
- I am wondering if the offering should not be put at the beginning of the service instead of at the end. Being at the end makes it feel like we are ‘paying’ for a nice worship service. At the beginning makes it more seem like worship, which is exactly what it is.

• Offertory
- There’s music again.

• Doxology
- This concludes the ‘ordinary’ part of the worship. Let the games begin! [“How irreverent you are, Jon! Worship is not about fun and games.” True, but joy feels like fun, and unexpected variety feels like play… to me.]

••• What to do? Well, pick a few. Below are listed some of the possibilities for honoring God, edifying believers, and generally have a worshiping good time. Mix them up. Change the order. Never do the same thing twice… unless it felt wonderful. Love is like that.

 
Drama                 Prayer            More hymns        Responsive Psalms
Dance?                 - Pastoral            Anthems                 Baptism
Instrumental     - Congregational      Solos                Communion
Lay preaching    - Bidding         Gregorian chants    Sermon
Historic creeds  - Silent     Testimony     Lesson      Prophecy
Antiphonal Psalms             Tongues?          Scripture and comment
Children’s sermon          Healing      Current events and comment

• A Word from the Pastor
- It seems right and good that the Pastor should have the parting word, both as for the honoring of his or her office, and as a proper way to conclude worship. 2 Minutes!

• Benediction
- Translated: A blessing from God on His people said by one of His servants.

• Music
- Huh, there’s music again. You know, in Lithuania, they remain seated until after the music has concluded. I’ll bet it’s not only just in Lithuania either. But as entrenched as Woodruff Place is in uber fellowship after the service, it might not be well to insist on this point.

• Announcements?

       

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