Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When Is Worship Worship? (excerpt)

I dialogued recently with a friend from my college days on his blog ( I don’t always agree with him, but he always makes me think. The conversation led me back to an article (sermon?) by Dr. Harold Best, a portion of which I shared in my Musings back in June. Here’s another portion:

God is now here. Period. God is now here before, during, and after all the doing is done. Period. God is now here, from everlasting to everlasting. Period. God is now here, and when we try to enhance His presence with music, artistic action, device, and tool, we risk grieving the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete: the One who speaks transcendentally to God in our stead, and Who, in sovereign power, is eternally both Means and End. Period. Despite the glamour, and the panoply of techniques at our disposal, despite the goose bumps and chills that can be raised with all of our steroided actions and overly-produced events, we are hopelessly unable to make God’s presence any more manifest than He wills. Period. All of these actions, small and large, simple or complex, new or old, popular or classical, projected on a screen or printed in a book, must always be a celebration of His omnipresence and omnipotence, His unsearchable riches in Christ Jesus, and His pre-eminent worth and work.

Sorry, but I have to jump in here. That last sentence above states very clearly the criterion by which worship should be evaluated … not by whether it is this “style” or that. Period. Best writes on:
If the music deeply moves and pleases me, fine. I make a faith-driven offering of the music and my feelings. If I am not moved or pleased, fine. I am still obligated to make a faith-driven offering and to celebrate the One the worship of Whom is infinitely beyond my feelings. In all cases it is faith unto faith and love unto love, not faith or love conditioned by my response to music, art, preaching, or environment. All of us, musicians and preachers alike, know enough of the behavioral sciences to know how easy it is to get people to “sense the presence of God.” We need only to pull something familiar out of the bag – depending on the sub-culture – anything from J. S. Bach to Twyla Tharp. We also know how to bring on a numbed, sometimes angry, silence: We do something new. But, to the truly faithful, faith converts the familiar to the strange and the strange to the familiar, for it is the Giver and not the gift that has pre-eminence. Thus, to the truly faithful, true worship is completely free of dependence on its works.
I like to think of myself as an intellectual, but reading Harold Best really makes me feel like a first-grader.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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