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Friday, January 02, 2009
Worship Quote of the Week: Jesus is our worship.

The biblical teaching that Jesus is our worship dispels all notions of self-generated worship. . . . Worship discloses the work of Jesus Christ. He himself is the eternal leiturgia (liturgy) of God. . . . Jesus Christ does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. As God incarnate, he is our obedience, he is our faith, he is our new life, and he is our eternal intercession before the Father. . . . So what then is the worship that the people of God do? We remember God’s saving deeds and anticipate his vision, his final rule over all creation.

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 108-109.

That's a good word for January 2-- "Jesus is our worship." Note the way this sentence makes Jesus the subject rather than a mere object. If Jesus is the object-- "we" the people tend to get the verbs. Think about the last worship service you attended or designed or led. Who got the action words in the songs, prayers, sermons and so forth? It may sound like a subtle distinction I am making. It is, in fact, huge. Anyone see what I mean?

More to come on the Worship and Mission Series soon.


posted by John David Walt | at 1/02/2009 05:12:00 PM



Blogger Dean Ober said...

The grammar of worship song-writing....and might I clarify, I am not that great with explaining grammar. However, I really like what this raises.

Ok.... for example....
"You give me life"
"The life I have I got (or even worse, gained) from You"

"You give me life"
This gives ownership and authority to God, and clarifies that the story being told is about God. We are simply a subject. this could even be written "You Give me Life" to establish the three personified elements, being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

"The life I have I got from You"
This empowers the worshipper, still implies that life originated with God, but deceptively says that worshippers hold the power to attain life on their own. This removes The Gift itself (Jesus) from the equation, as well as The Life (Holy Spirit).

I guess as the gift and life are personified in Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we must remember that They are not only nouns, but verbs.

so does that sound like the road we're on here with this post?

8:13 PM EST  
OpenID rogueminister said...

Wow, its funny how something that should seem so obvious, that is so right, is often forgotten. Then there is the great paradox that Jesus is the object of our worship as well as being our worship.

12:56 PM EST  
Anonymous matt p said...

This is why historically the eucharist has been for the church, the culminating act in weekly worship. Its action reveals the character of God.

3:44 PM EST  
Blogger Kendra said...

Today I visited a conference with a friend, and was really struck by the lyrics in one song:

"I was created to make His praise glorious" (The chorus)

My purpose is not to hammer someone's lyrics, and I didn't catch any credits to know who it was. But it was offensive to really break down what is implied.

The song is one of identity and purpose for the worshipper (usually begin with I as the subject, or tend to lean toward experiential expression). I do think theologically correct ones are appropriate in balance, because they help bridge between the "He is..." and "He does," therefore "I am..." or "I do..." Sometimes I need that help in understanding the application of truth. But this one seems to either have a very experiential definition of glory, or attributes to the worshipper undue credit or responsibility. Though I could be misunderstanding the heart of the lyricist, I was taken back that we would be attributed to making something gloriuos. Our God is the one who does that. Yuck. I didn't sing it.

But if the wording had been changed, as JD or Dean suggested, the message has a greater impact:

He is glorious.
He is glorified by our praise.
He created us to praise His glory.

HE is the great mastermind! Not us. =-) Though none of my rewordings quite match the original message, the language is stronger and reflects better theology when God is centered.

5:21 PM EST  
Blogger John David Walt said...

Good responses here. I think you all are seeing what I am trying to say. I like the way Dean simplifies it with his contrast--- you give me life. much stronger.

rogueminister is right as well-- he is subject and he is object. and kendra makes a good point that there is a balance. I appreciate the analysis kendra gives to the lyric-- i think this is right on point.

it's also a good challenge to try to find more active words for God's activity rather than the more easy "to be" verbage. (i.e. is).

and matt is right on point with the reference to the Eucharist-- takes a good Anglican to remind us. good work.


3:58 PM EST  
Anonymous John Page said...

If Jesus is our worship and Jesus is in us, and never leaves us, and in Him we live and move and have our being, would that mean that we worship Jesus in our selves? I'm not trying to be cute here.

If we are salt and light, and Jesus really inhabits the praises of his people and our praise comes from our heart and soul, then Jesus is In us, yes?

So, when we "worship," are we worshipping the Jesus in heaven at the Right Hand, or the Jesus who lives in us and through us?

4:05 PM EST  
Blogger John David Walt said...

good thoughts and questions john-- here's the way I am thinking about it these days. Christ is 'in us' the head of the body-- joining our worship to his priestly worship before the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.

this brings me back to the working definition of worship I continue to think through--- to participate in the intimate communion between the Father and the Son through the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

You are right to say Christ inhabits his body, the Church, giving shape and dimension to our worship and animating it in the power of the Spirit. In this fashion-- the FAther is enthroned, in a literal sense, on the praises of his people.

This is the only way I can really make sense of the New Testament. The Trinitarian grammar of the New Testament simply doesn't square with the Unitarian brand of worship so prominent in the church today.

9:00 PM EST  
Blogger John D. Palmer said...

I was just reading through one of Wesley's sermon's. "Salvation by Faith" and while he is not addressing worship specifically I thought this excerpt might lend some insight.

4. What faith is it then through which we are saved? It may be answered, first, in general, it is a faith in Christ: Christ, and God through Christ, are the proper objects of it. Herein, therefore, it is sufficiently, absolutely distinguished from the faith either of ancient or modern heathens. And from the faith of a devil it is fully distinguished by this: it is not barely a speculative, rational thing, a cold, lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head; but also a disposition of the heart. For thus saith the Scripture, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness;" and, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."

10:07 AM EST  
Blogger JAy. said...

OK, I'm a little late on the discussion, but I wanted to comment, particularly about John Page's comment/question.

I think that proper worship answers the question of whether we worship the Jesus in Heaven or the Jesus in us by saying, "Yes."

While I agree that the Trinity may be the most befuddling aspect of Christianity (I don't think our human minds are capable of fully comprehending this), if we accept a "Three-in-One" philosopohy, then the Holy Spirit given to us by Jesus is one with Jesus. Praising Jesus in Heaven is praising Jesus within us, as they are one in the same.

The precaution goes back to Dean and Kendra's comments regarding word choice. Praising the Spirit within us has to still praise the God given ability to do good, not the works themselves or the workers.

10:26 AM EST  

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