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Monday, May 05, 2008
Worship Quote of the Week
Another winner from the late Bob Weber

"Biblical worship tells and enacts [God’s] story. Narcissistic worship,
instead, names God as an object to whom we offer honor, praise, and
homage. Narcissistic worship is situated in the worshiper, not in the
action of God that the worshiper remembers through Word and table."

So what is Bob trying to say here? Think about the worship service you attended this past weekend. Think through the songs you sang. Was God the subject in the songs or the object. Who got the verbs. . . . . . people or God?
posted by John David Walt | at 5/05/2008 09:53:00 AM



Anonymous Scott Fillmer said...

excellent point, nice post... I think a lot can be known by the feelings these songs achieve in worship. Do you feel closer to God (who is right next to you) or are you looking at your watch?

4:18 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... this past Sunday?

Us: 6
God: 0

5:44 PM EDT  
Anonymous John D. Palmer said...

Did You Hear the Mountains Tremble
Marvelous Light
Scripture Lesson Acts 2:1-21
I love your Grace

All I can know for sure is the intent of the preparation. The intent was to tell God's Story.

We cried out to open the doors in recognition of God's action in the world.

We recognized our own place in that story and sang of seeking that Marvelous Light of our creator leaving behind the darkness of our own stories.

We realized even with what seems to be such distance God is right here next to us and considers us to be his beloved children

We continued to tell the story of his Body and Blood and how it was broken and poured out for us. God's story of redemption, inviting us to partake in the Table that God has prepared for us.

We heard the story of how God sent his Holy Spirit and opened the ears of those who had not heard and learned how this was a fullfilment of his promise.

We acknowledged our perpetual need and God's infinite presence in our lives from breath to breath.

We exclaimed the joy of God's story of Grace and Mercy even when we fail as we closed our service.

I'm not sure what Bob Weber might say about our worship. I am sure that God is with us in our worship even if we somehow failed Bob Weber's litmus test for biblical worship.

7:56 PM EDT  
Anonymous b/ said...

Isn't telling how we worship and what we want to do (making God the object of our worship) telling the story of God? He has always worked through people. At least that's what I've read.

"He's most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."

Psalm 146. "I" will praise the Lord.
"I" will sing praise.

Psalm 57. "I" will praise You, O Lord, among the nations; "I" will sing of You among the peoples.

That sounds like worship where the subject is man and the object is God. Maybe I misunderstood the point and am not thinking hard enough about the original post. These are just first reactions

4:56 PM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

thanks for the comments-- i think the thing webber continually drives home is this question: What are we remembering in our worship gatherings? Are we remembering the story in its particularity and movement in a given service and over time or are we projecting our praise onto an abstraction of collected attributes we call God?? Who is the primary mover and actor in worship-- us or God. The songs will usually tell the story. Note how often the people are the subject and get all the verbs. Also note how often God, when he gets verbs, gets the passive or "to be" verbs. Now certainly, people must get some verbs and God is the great I AM, but the way worship is being commonly lived out seems quite incomplete and lacking.

You make a good point with the Psalms-- however; the Psalter is filled with the activity of God and the praise of people comes on the heels and as response to the remembrance of that activity.

this really drives us deeper into the question of how we define worship. the big question is whether we are defining worship in Trinitarian terms or in Unitarian terms. more to come on that one.

is this making sense? i will get more at this in the next post or so. i appreciate the interaction.

5:56 PM EDT  
Anonymous John D. Palmer said...

JD said:

"You make a good point with the Psalms-- however; the Psalter is filled with the activity of God and the praise of people comes on the heels and as response to the remembrance of that activity."

Are you suggesting that our present worship is NOT "filled with the activity of God"

Are you suggesting that the temporal proximity of the composition of the "Book of Psalms" is closer (i.e. God delivered the people of Israel from their enemies on Wednesday May 7, 787bc in the morning, and in the afternoon the song writers guild gathered together to write a song about this deliverence and gathered the people for a inpromptu worship of God in mass to sing newly written song of deliverence?) so that makes it a more authentic song of worship?

For that later post, will you suggest that the songs written prior to the Advent of Christ "Trinitarian in nature"? And if so please do the due resourcing that will help the common reader understand how that can be.

I do think we need to flesh out what Weber would define as authentic true worship in order that we understand how our worship is measuring up.

All that being said I think I'm tracking what Weber suggests and have even felt the same anguish about worship.

11:22 AM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

thanks for the opportunity to clarify--- i am suggesting that our worship is often largely devoid of the remembrance of the activity of God. we spend most of our time talking about our own activity of worshipping God at the expense of actually remembering. with respect to the Psalms-- I do not mean to at all suggest what you are alluding to--- however, there is an explicit example of the kind of song writing you reference in Exodus 15.

What I mean to say with respect to the Psalms is that the exhortations to "praise the Lord" and to "sing praise to God" come in close proximity to the actual rehearsal or remembrance of the great deeds of Yahweh. It's not that they just happened the day before. That raises another good point concerning Hebrew worship. As you are aware, the Hebrew people captured a dynamic sense of anamnesis in their worship. They remembered the deeds of God in a way that actually ushered them into a contemporaneous experience of those deeds. It was as if they were happening again. This is what enables later generations to claim, "It was not with our Fathers that you made this covenant, but with us." This is, in fact, the essence of the Lord's Supper. I hope I am not obscuring the issue.

The bottom line. Much of our worship is not anchored in the actual remembrance of God's Story. It is primarily an existential encounter with our own experience of emotion. Am I saying the "presence of God" is not in that experience? No. I would, however, make the contention that a steady diet of this kind of worship will neither form the kind of Christian nor the distinctive community the New Testament envisions and imagines. Weber's concern, I think, is that this way of worshipping God ultimately drifts toward narcissism.

2:47 PM EDT  
Blogger Rob Mehner said...

"Who is the primary mover and actor in worship-- us or God?"

"You make a good point with the Psalms-- however; the Psalter is filled with the activity of God and the praise of people comes on the heels and as response to the remembrance of that activity."

So aren't we then the primary RE-actors in worship. And isn't the issue less about who gets the verbs and more about ensuring we remember the impetus of our reaction (God's story) in a way that is less conceptual and more interpersonal?

Shouldn't some songs be focused on God's mighty acts and some on our heartfelt RE-action?

7:32 AM EDT  
Anonymous john page said...

Can worship (that is the small part of worship that occurs in a church at a certain time with others around us as we sing songs, etc) be For us and To God at the same time?
How would Webber's comment fit with the rest of what worship is (that which occurs the rest of the week as we live our faith)?
challenging post!

8:48 PM EDT  

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