Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Eugene Peterson on Worship and Feelings

Yesterday afternoon I made a curiosity peek at the Boar's Head Tavern blog / discussion group. I didn't have a whole lot of time ... only a few minutes, really. I needed a little transition buffer between tasks, and I've heard of the Boar's Head Tavern blog via Michael Spencer's Internet Monk Radio podcast ... so I thought I'd take a look even though I had not the time to really peruse the content. On the header of the main page was a quote from Eugene Peterson that set up a sympathetic vibration in my soul. I purposed to locate it again this morning and add it to my quote library.

Evidently BHT updates header quotes daily, because the same quote wasn't there this morning. I'm pretty good at finding what I'm looking for with a google search, so I googled "Eugene Peterson" and what I could remember from the quote and found it in short order on a blog hosted by Messiah College (where we're probably sending the 2thpik for college in the Fall). More about Messiah on another blog ... maybe. You can click on the title to link to Messiah's Worship Community blog post ... but here's the quote if you don't want to leave my blog. It's from Peterson's book A Long Obedience ... a book I'm now hungry to read.

“If Christians only worshipped when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship that went on. Feelings are important in many areas, but completely unreliable in matters of faith. ...
“Living in the age of sensation, we think that if we don’t feel something, there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different, namely, that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act which develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God which is expressed in an act of worship. When we obey the command to praise God in worship, our deep, essential need to be in relationship with God is nurtured.”
I love what Peterson says here, although I think it's a little too black and white. I don't think we need to completely ignore the emotional component in worship. I think that there ARE times when what we feel moves us to act in worshipful ways (according the Biblical definitions of worship ... which are not necessarily consistent with our modern/post-modern cultural definitions of worship). But I agree that we are far too prone to look to emotion to make us feel worshipful. Romans 12:1-2 reminds us that worship is not feeling, but action; not something that benefits us, but something that moves us to act in ways that benefit others. I came up with this one on my own:

The chief criterion for evaluating worship is not how it makes me feel while I'm in the service, but how it makes me act once I leave.

That's enough to think about for now.


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