Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Notes on Christian Worship

Note: I first wrote this with small group home-based worship in mind.

Worship as Response

Simply put, worship is the response we make to the Lord's initiative in our lives. He created us to live joyfully in community with him and one another. Because of the Fall, this is neither natural nor intuitive. Happily, the Christian story is all about Jesus winning us back to God and giving us his own Spirit that we might learn to walk in the ways he originally intended. We can simply be with him.

I often keep a cluttered space at home, and when someone comes to visit, I have to pick up all the clutter, coats and clothing off the chair so they can sit down. Worship is somewhat like this – making a space for God to enter, by quieting our hearts and being still. The liturgy we use - whether simple or complex – is a way of knocking away the clutter and inviting Jesus in.

Creating Space for the Presence
“You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

— Ephesians 2:19.
Christ dwells in our common life. We are the temple of the Living God; we are the Body of Christ. He is here among us not because of any good and right things we say, or bad things we don’t do, but because of who we are.

That means the pressure is off. Choose to waste time. Don’t try to figure out anything new, either in regard to him or yourself. Don’t worry about saying the right things, or saying anything at all. You can speak to him, or just sit and listen. We will create an open space for him to simply be, for no particular purpose. This is a wasted time, wasted energy that could be spent getting something done. This blesses him.


Jesus will come to be among us. He enjoys our presence, and desires that we would enjoy his. Several of us may not. We’ve been forced to sit with destructive, exploitative images of God and sitting with Jesus while those old ideas are still banging around in our hearts can be uncomfortable. He’s really very much okay with that. Where Jesus is, he heals.

Avenues into the Presence of God

Invocation. Jesus comes to be with us because he loves us and because we need him; that’s why he first came to us. We can invite him into our midst on that basis; we need no other.

Praise and Thanksgiving. Sit. Remember the works of Yahweh. Acknowledge the good things you have received as being his gifts. Cite those moments of the day when some word, action or remembrance reminded you that you are loved and cared for. Thank him. Say, “I love you, too.” Tell him he’s wonderful.

Confession. Welcome him into the dark places. Don’t try to fix them up. Certainly don’t keep him out of them. Ask forgiveness only for actual sins: brokenness and need are not sins, and do not require apology. If you’ve got an incredible problem that you can’t seem to work out, tell him about it. Not that it will fix anything necessarily, but we need to cultivate a habit just being with Jesus in those places where we are uncomfortable being ourselves. If you’re not sure what to say to him because you just realized he’s not the horrible trickster god you were brought up with, say so. You don’t have to talk beyond that. Don’t make promises, just be there with him.

Listen. Read the scriptures. Let your friends affirm and challenge you. Sit and receive.

I utilized Richard Foster’s chapter in Celebration of Discipline to cover the bases.


Kevin Walker said...

Good post... that's a good book too - should be required reading for any Christian.

SaintSimon said...

This is excellent teaching about worship. I might pinch it, if your don't mind. I like the idea of clearing the clutter. But do all visitors to your house come for quiet contemplation, or do you just ocasionally lift the lid and have a party?

Kyle said...

Please do, Simon.

Don't you know that we're Christians? We throw parties all the time. Seriously. :0)