Saturday, June 30, 2007

MY Worship - It’s About Me

In the Saturday Edition of the Wichita Eagle, June 30 2007 in the “Faith & Values” section the following photograph by Kelly Glasscock appeared.

Upon seeing it my wife said, “Oh! Wow! That really says a lot! . . . That style of worship is really all about showing what a good Christian a person is.”

There is no question that it is a show. There is no question as to whom the show draws attention.

This really is an important contrast between what is often labeled “Praise and Worship” or “Contemporary Worship” and the historic liturgical worship of the Church catholic. The focus of the “show” is truly very, VERY different.

In connection with this it is appropriate to ask why the difference is chosen. Why do so many choose the enthusiastic emphasis and reject the liturgical focus?

The answer is quite clear. In the Praise and Worship choice the focus is on the individual. The Worship is then about Me and My faith and My love for Jesus and My commitment and My zeal and My . . .

The attention is on Me and My worship.

Thus today, many churches offer a variety of choices, to satisfy individual tastes. In many churches today the menu includes such choices as “Contemporary,” “Traditional,” and B lended worship selections. Within the same congregation three different styles of worship are offered to satisfy the felt needs of the various members. Truly the focus is on My worship. “What do I want My worship experience to be?”

In the historic liturgy of the Church the focus is very different. In all aspects of the divine service the focus is upon the Lord and His means of grace by which He comes to His Church as those who have been called together by His Holy Spirit to be one congregation gathered for one divinely appointed purpose, to receive the life that He gives through His means of grace. From beginning to end, every word of the service has this as its focus. In the historic liturgy, each individual is directed away from his own actions and desires and thoughts so as to see and hear and taste the holy, perfect, and loving actions and desires and thoughts of the Lord. Every action of the pastor is carefully crafted to direct the people's hearts and minds away from themselves to the Lord and what He is doing for His people. Moreover, the actions of the congregation are united in common confession and hymnody. No particular person is singled out, not even the pastor. All attention is upon the Lord and His acts of mercy and love. In the divine liturgy no discrimination exists. Every person is treated exactly the same, regardless of age or beauty or wealth or apparel or abilities. Even the historic vestments of the pastor are designed to say that he is not the focus, not his skills, not his appearance, not his personality.

Truly there is a difference in the focus of these two approaches and understandings of worship.

Interestingly, in the churches that offer a variety of styles, there is not a variety of focus. For with the offering of choice in the service, the only focus is the disintegrative focus of selfishness. Each person is doomed to focus only upon self and to rely upon one's own decision and commitment.

This is a real tragedy. For the Lord calls His Church to be one in Him. In Him there is no discrimination. The only discrimination experienced in the liturgy is the separation that God works through Baptism, in separating the called unto Himself to stand apart from the world, gathered into the unity of His Holy Communion.

When I come to the divine service, I give thanks that the focus is not on me and my sinfulness. Rather, God's merciful love is poured out from beginning to end, and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guards and keeps me with all the saints in Christ Jesus. I cannot understand why any informed person would choose anything else.


Anonymous said...

I believe that people, even those informed, make this sort of choice because they don't want to call sin - sin. Much "better" to try to convince oneself that, "I'm not so bad" and "Lucky for Jesus that I love him so and try so hard"... as if He NEEDS anything from us.


Anonymous said...

Maybe this has nothing to do with it, but this came to mind:

Matt 6:5-6

5 "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. NASU

Luke 18:10-14
10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' 13 "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' 14 "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

But I guess this just in not flashy enough? Is it a bad thing to show a little respect for our Savior? Is it a bad thing to call something what it is? I hate this need we have to focus on ourselves!


Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Sin. Ah yes. That ugly concept that if one admits as his own, causes contrition and humility before the Lord. Indeed, we all dislike seeing this in ourselves. Yet in confessing our sin, we can hear the gracious declaration of absolution from the Lord of mercy. But when we are busy trying to prove to ourselves and others how much we love God, all we can really hear is our own noise.

This is why the Lord says in your quote from Matt 6 that we should not make a show of our devotion to the Lord and why in Luke 18 He says that the pretentious Pharisee did not go home justified (declared righteous by God). After all, how could he hear God's declaration of righteousness in Christ when he was so busy with his own declarations of goodness and godliness?

Good points, MG. Thanks for sharing.

Ron the ranch hand said...

I found your article spot on and illuminating. Our church has the blended/traditional thing going - the need for a vocal few to stand up in front of the church and perform is really jarring. We have the full liturgy but having them up in front disrupts the service for me. We have moved in the right direction, our Pastor now reviews all music, and we have moved away from stand in line communion, but still have far to go in my opinion.

Not to many years ago I would not have seen the issue, but the Lord has lead me to read his Word and take the time to learn why the liturgy and divine worship service is such a blessing.

Alexandria Collier said...

I stumbled upon your blog and I guess maybe I didn't understand what you were saying. I didn't pick my church-the Holy Spirit led me there. And when I got there, it was Pentecostal. I came from a purpose driven church that started preaching out of the message Bible. When I worship the Lord I worship Him in spirit and in truth. it is all about Him. There are times when I fall prostrate on the floor because of His Glory! The Lord is so Good I just get so excited about Him. Now if you were just pointing out the apostasy of the faith and values section af the apostate wichita church, then I understand. My pastor preaches Christ and Him Crucified and that alone for salvation and sanctification. He always tells us that if you want to see how far away from the Cross the church locally is, open of "faith and apostasy"