Thursday, February 12, 2009

Worship - e*b week 5

For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

wor•ship [\ˈwər-shəp also ˈwȯr-\ ]
noun 1: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power ; also : an act of expressing such reverence 2: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual 3: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
verb 1: verb to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion [1]

Webster points in the right direction, but the meaning of worship can hardly be contained in the few words of a definition. Like N.T. Wright says, “The best way to discover [what worship is] is to join in and find out.”[2] It must be lived out, day after day, as we tell the Kingdom Story in compelling ways through worship - exploring justice, creativity, relationship, and spirituality. It is declaring the worth of the One and responding with a flow-of-the-heart to the love the Father has lavished upon us.[3] Worship is what I was created for. It transforms me and makes me more fully human, more like the One whose Image I bear.[4] Worship is a celebration of the One who is Creator, King, Trinity and Savior.[5]

There is something about the creative arts that helps our spirits, souls and minds to connect in worship. When I see a piece of art or hear music or participate in an event where my senses are enticed to engage on many levels, that moment becomes much more a part of who I am than if it were solely an intellectual or physical exercise. When music and art are used in worship, the heart, soul and mind are invited to engage and experience the character of God, to become more fully human, more fully alive. The truths of Who God is and Who I am in relation become more firmly embedded within me when I sing about them, dance them, paint them…express them with whatever creative expression God has called out in me. Scripture is full of examples of creative forms of expression. One of my favorites comes from Psalm 95 (The Message):

“ 1-2 Come, let's shout praises to GOD, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let's march into his presence singing praises,
lifting the rafters with our hymns!
6-7 So come, let us worship: bow before him,
on your knees before God, who made us!”

As I respond to God’s love in worship, others are also drawn to Him. Directly or indirectly, whether from the pew or the stage, at home or at work, I influence those around me through worship. When I choose to offer a sacrifice of praise, lifting my hands and my voice, choosing to proclaim the goodness of the Most High whether inside my heart is doubting and hurting or dancing and rejoicing, I pave the way for someone around me to experience greater freedom in worship. When I celebrate Who God is with all that is in me, I am partnering with God to create a space for my own encounter with God as well as an encounter for others.[6]

We as humans have the role of “lead worshippers of the created order.”[7] As a worship leader, I have the awesome responsibility of participating with God to open doorways for people so that they can step through and be who they are made to be: a new creation.[8] First and foremost, though, I must live a life of devotion. “The quality of the water in the basin will have something to do with the quality of the leader’s secret inner life with God.”[9] The more I cultivate my relationship with God and discover Him in the secret place, the more authentically I am able to lead others into worship, the greater the space I am able to help create for others to experience God.

As we become more aware of what it is we are called to, who we are truly meant to be, we reflect God’s glory with ever increasing brightness. People are changed simply because we choose to worship. When we all join together in worship, when we purpose no matter where we are to worship God with wholehearted devotion, the space for encounter with God is greatly enlarged and the not-yet-believing stumble into it and find themselves in the Presence of Truth, Beauty, Royalty, and the ultimate Relationship.

And they begin to worship, become more fully human…and the Kingdom Story continues.

2. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 143
3. 1 John 4:9
4. N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 148
5. ibid, 149
6. Dan Wilt, e*b wrap-up call
7. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship Theology, 64
8. Dan Wilt, e*b wrap-up call
9. Dr. Peter Fitch, “Inner Living, Outer Giving” (Inside Worship Magazine, Master All), 141.

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