July 05, 2013

How Worship Forms Us When we reduce discussions about worship forms to simply matters of style, we miss a crucial aspect of corporate worship: worship forms us. You see, it's not simply a matter of preference, of how one generation likes the "good ole hymns" and another generation likes rock n' roll. It's a question of what forms us as the people of God. But...you may be wondering: Does worship really do that? To be clear, by "worship", I mean the whole church service, not simply the "music portion. And by "worship", I don't mean it in the generalized "all of life is worship" sense. I mean the particular thing: the corporate gathering of the people of God-- what we call the "church service." Perhaps you think, as one prominent mega-church pastor/author/speaker suggests, that so long as we go "deep" in the message/sermon, we can go "wide" with our musical choices and decisions about the lobby and parking lots. Or, like his colleague (another wildly influential pastor/author/speaker) has said, we can do "anything short of sin" to get people to know God. Who cares what we draw them with so long as we preach the Gospel once they get there, right? James K. A. Smith, a philosopher at Calvin College, might say we're missing a crucial part of the conversation. In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Smith argues that we are more than the beliefs we confess; we are the way we "navigate the world"...and we learn that way in corporate worship (i.e. church services.) Smith explains: "...I engage social theorist Pierre Bourdieu. He had an expansive notion of belief. He thinks your body believes things that your mouth could never articulate. The orthodox Christian tradition was launched with the Incarnation of God in Christ, the apostolic witness, and the Scriptures. But we...
"A New Liturgy" For awhile now, I've been watching Aaron Niequist from afar, admiring his work. He has undertaken the beautiful task of writing "a new liturgy"-- a mix of spoken word, Scripture, original compositions, and re-arranged hymns-- for the themes of life. Aaron and I share the belief that all of life can be received as a gift and offered back to God in grateful praise. This is what it means to live eucharistically. He has made four of these projects around different themes, from God's love to the splendor of creation. I have been so blessed and encouraged and inspired by them. Today, Aaron releases the fifth project: a liturgy about work. It is divided in two parts, one designed to be prayed along with on the way to work, and one designed to be prayed along with on the way from work. I frequently talk with people who are trying to find meaning in their work. At least part of the answer is found in offering our work-- our hands and gifts and time and moments-- to God at the start of each day. I think this project gives voice to such an offering. When I have written or taught on the need for a fresh imagining of the liturgy, for the Spirit to lead us to give new voice to words and phrases that reflect and reveal the Trinitarian God we worship, I think of Aaron's work. This project is full of beautiful music-- songs and sounds that will awaken wonder and worship in the heart of the listener. This project is full of profound prayers, many culled from the rich prayerbooks of the historic Church. This project is full of well-placed words, from Scripture and from other places, that are sure to be food to your soul. Here's...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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