Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Statement on Worship History - e*r week 5 discussion question

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

Studying historic worship practices enriches our present worship experience, helping us to be more intentional in our worship and to receive greater revelation of who God is. It is easy to fall into the trap that the present revelation is the only right one. But since Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever [1], it behooves us to glean from the past, to see and understand past revelations and their responses (worship practices) to those revelations because we gain insight into our present and future [2].

Historically, the church has approached time with great intentionality. The Christian year provides an amazing framework which allows freedom and flexibility while providing a common rhythm bringing unity to the body of Christ. It is a means by which we can be constantly mindful of what God has done for us, drawing us into deeper intimacy as we remember Him. [3]

Appreciating the value of crafted prayers allows us to draw from the theological riches, “perspectives, personalities, times and places” [4] of those who have gone before. We also become aware of our responsibility to craft prayers as a legacy for those who follow us.

The public reading of Scriptures also serves to help us remember Him. My father memorizes large portions of Scripture and often presents a long passage in dramatic monologue. These long recitations of Scripture at first glance to a modern-day Christian may seem boring and tedious, but the power of the spoken Word quickly draws in the listener as the Word comes alive and transforms the hearer.

Remembering Him through the sacraments prophetically speaks of the God who transcends time and space yet willingly confined Himself to it so that we might be restored to relationship and abundant life. “They remind the worshipper inwardly that God has acted to save and restore them, and is at work to reveal His new creation in their very lives.” [5]

Art and music, particularly of the liturgical or communal kind, make “visible that which cannot be seen with ordinary eyes.” [6] They are effective instruments that the church can use to freshly apply historic worship practices to today. Music can turn an ancient prayer into a song that lingers on in the memory of the singer/hearer long after it has been sung. Art can turn the perspective on an ancient sacrament and make it new again to the participant. Art and music serve to help us remember Him through multi-faceted worship practices, drawing riches from the past into the present which are then built upon and invested into our future.

1. Hebrews 13:8
2. Dan Wilt, Essentials in Worship History, 3
3. ibid, 5
4. ibid, 17
5. ibid, 24
6. James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press), 116

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