Thursday, April 27, 2006

final thoughts on worship (for now)

so my initial thoughts on worship centred around the general feeling that worship isn't scratching where it itches. people who, through worship, have briefly tasted God now long for more. other people who, through worship, have found themselves transformed in some way now long to continue along that process of transformation. and, if something is missing from worship, i believe that looking for innovations within the current methodology is not the way to go about finding whatever is missing, i.e. there's no point in hankering after 'more intimate worship' because a) that is what we're already doing for quite a while, and b) it is patently not working if people are still unsatisfied.

following up that bunch of thoughts, i wondered if one way of arriving at a satisfactory answer is to ask the question 'what is worship for?' and to then consider the secondary purposes of worship which God has graciously arranged. so, although worship is primarily for God, he also has made it so that worship changes us and that we enjoy worship.

so final thought - let's start by asking another question: 'how does worship work?' as briefly discussed last time, the process of worship (bringing images and thoughts of God before our minds) is a form of meditation. by immersing our minds in correct images of God, our trust in God is built up. learning to trust God means we unlearn the ways of the World (trusting no-one but ourselves for our safety and welfare) and anyone who pursues this will know that it brings about tremendous change in the deep heart of a person that cannot leave the behaviour and attitude unaffected.

always, always ask 'yes, but how?'

i love hearing what worship does to people. i love hearing how wonderful worship is. write glorious prose about the intimate language of love that flows between Father, Son and Spirit and that all we are doing is joining in with that ongoing Trinitarian ecstasy! i love it and can't get enough. but write more about how we do it. write in simple terms how an average human being, fraught with human concerns of money, hunger, self-esteem, lack of guitar skills, tone-deafness, can do this. and demonstrate it! demonstrate that a worship leader doesn't have to worship with a guitar. demonstrate that you don't have to sing. because people will hear what you say, but do what you do. and while we can (and often do) wax lyrical about how worship is more than singing songs, we do not demonstrate to people otherwise. our common experiences of 'joining with the Trinity' remain entombed in 'corporate sung worship' and we do not give people any other viable models of worshipping (by 'viable' i mean a) do-able and b) experientially true.)

if worship is meditation, then we need to teach people to do it. (we also need correct subject matter to meditate with, but thankfully theological analysis is done on a song well before we ever buy the CD.) if worship changes us, envigourates us (literally 'fills us with life') then we need to teach people how to do it. to do the first thing, we must stop looking for the 'cutting edge' and trusting in our own smartness - God may be mysterious, but he is always accessible. and to do the second thing we need to be serious about doing it ourselves.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

let's talk about worship some more

so andrew gave us a great definition of intimacy - "recapturing that which was lost in Eden". what i like about a definition like this is that it doesn't attempt to nail it down for you, but rather gives you an image to explore and taste and imagine.

but we're talking about worship. for me, an interesting angle from which to examine worship is to ask what is it for? easy enough, you say, the primary purpose of worship is to glorify God. God deserves praise and glory and thanks and honour for who he is and what he's done and worship is how we regularly do that. you can then follow that train of thought into how worship should then be more than just singing songs once or twice a week, but should involve a lifestyle of constant appreciation of God, his person and actions and constant appropriate responses to those.

what's so amazing about God is that he is a master of design. so, while worship is for him, he graciously uses it for our benefit as well. as a few have testified, worship can change our lives, whether it be the single intense experience or the regular rhythm over a period of time. and, he even makes worship a pleasurable experience for us - how cool is that? something that by rights could be expected of us is actually beneficial to us and enjoyable for us.

so what happens when we bring God, his person and his actions before our minds and, in recognition of them, give thanks for them? our vision of God is enlarged. our image of God gets bigger. we have more of God to explore and taste and imagine. no wonder our lives are changed, sometimes even instantly. with a clear picture of God before us, proper perspective is given for our hopes and fears, likes and dislikes, desires and attitudes. with God before us, we feel safe in his goodness - we can stop our striving for security, and rest securely in him.

the content of worship is therefore crucial.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

for nicola jane...

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

taken from The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjery Williams.