Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Forms and Rituals

While I was waiting for my oil change on Tuesday morning, I did some catch up reading in Music Ministry periodicals that I get. In the January/February issue of Worship Leader magazine, Darlene Zschech (of Hillsong Church in Australia) included a quote from Richard Foster’s 1978 spiritual growth classic The Celebration of Discipline. It has been probably 20 years since I read the book, but I do have it in my library. It was way over my head in spiritual depth back then. Reading this quote makes me want to pick up the book again. I’ll add it to my 2-foot high stack of books waiting to be read. Read what Foster said about worship:

Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father. Its central reality is found ‘in Spirit and in Truth.’ It is kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our human Spirit. Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the formal disuse of forms and rituals. [emphasis mine] We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy (a form and arrangement of public worship laid down by a church or religion) but we have not worshipped the Lord until Spirit touches Spirit. Singing, praying, praising, all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them. Our spirit must be ignited by divine fire.

Foster hit the nail on the head. There are those who mistakenly believe that the only way to encounter God is in the historic liturgical forms of certain churches. I personally love well crafted liturgical worship; and I have had some profound worship experiences that way. On the other hand, some people think that we must of necessity abandon old forms and patterns in order to worship God in spirit and in truth. I have also had some deeply moving worship experiences with very “non-liturgical” worship. It wasn’t the forms and rituals (which are present even in “contemporary” worship) that did it … it was the Spirit of God.

In the same issue of Worship Leader, Reggie Kidd (Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando) noted that “While introducing the concept of Mere Christianity to his readers, C. S. Lewis acknowledged that the specific forms Christianity takes are myriad, confusing, and seemingly contradictory. Nonetheless, [Lewis] maintained, at the center of the Church’s life ‘each communion is really closest to every other in spirit, if not in doctrine.’ And this suggests that at the center of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice.”

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


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