Many of us Postmodern Christians love to use the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the gospel, if necessary, use words.” I get why we love it. It gives us freedom. It means that we can fully embrace lifestyle evangelism on the authority of one of the heroes of the faith. It gives us ammo to our oft held belief that we should be examples of Christ and not ram the gospel down anyones throat.
But its wrong. Its not true. Its not from Assisi. Its not Biblical.
I love the first few lines of a book. They set the tone for the whole book. They are responsible for drawing you in. Any author worth their salt knows that the first lines are the most critically important lines in the whole book.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”Charles Dickens pens in the brilliant opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities.
Melville opens Moby Dick with three simple words that drop the reader into the thick of the story before it begins with “Call me Ishmael.”
Orwell in 1984, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” What does that mean, striking 13? Why was is cold in April? More, the reader demands.
In the interest of not dragging this out and getting on to the creative stuff, I’ve decided to just go ahead and lay out what I am thinking worship is. I’ve come down to 5 things that I think make up the essence of worship. I’m just gonna lay them out here and then double back and explain them a bit.
1) Fear of the Lord 2) Obedience 3) Availability 4) Purity 5) Excellence So what does that mean and why these 5? I am sure there are more, but these 5, at least to me, biblically represent worship–the core, or essence of worship. These things, when put together, add up to a wonderful whole that leaves very little out.
When God wants to do something, he looks throughout the earth to find someone willing. When we worship, we are telling God, “Here I am, here I am, pick me, pick me!” He doesnt have to look far because he would trip over us just getting out of the throne room.
That, to me, is the heart of worship. The major word used in the Old Testament for worship is also translated bow, bow down, obeisance, reverence, and fall down. In the New Testament, the dominant word means to kiss the hand, bow on knees with the head to the ground; the root implies the word picture of a dog licking the masters hand.
If obedience is step one, then availability is step two.
Just a quick note to answer a question that has even been bothering me. Why am I writing about worship when we could be talking about Christians in culture, and the arts, and what not. I mean, isn’t that the focus of Renovo.
And the answer is that if we are to see a Renaissance, if we are to see God’s people rise up and take their place as leaders in the creative arts, if we are to tap into the creativity of the Creator, we have got to understand what worship is and what it is not.
See, when we get it, when we understand worship, then all those things that we are seeking are opened up to us. We are admonished to “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added”. Actually, we added the word seek. The original Greek pretty much says “when we place the Kingdom of God first in our lives, when we place His righteousness first, then all these things will be added.”
So we have to get worship first. And the thing that has struck me is, before be can get worship, we have to understand what it is. Hence the discussion.
We are told in various places throughout the Bible that we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, and that praise is our spiritual sacrifice. No longer do we need to bring the bull, the ram, the dove, we can offer a sacrifice by lifting our voices to God.
So the praise of our lips, the worship of our hearts is the equivalent to the temple sacrifices.
Samuel tells Saul that “to obey is better than sacrifice”.
I suppose that when I say redefining, I mean re-redefining. Worship has been redefined for us and we have to decide if we like the new definition or not. Personally, I think the direction that we got started on was fantastic, but either we got stagnant, or the enemy snuk in and mucked about.
Starting with the good. Worship has been redefined apart from a style of music or instrumentation. The guitar has *almost* universally (in America) been given a pardon from its status as satan’s tool. Drums are welcome (drummers are questionable. Just kidding…), bass is present, and singers arent defined by their range.
Love overcomes the dirt. I was about to say that love is dirty. That it sacrifices, it gets beaten, it is broken, it dies a thousand deaths. It is found in gutters and alleyways with bums and addicts.
But it’s not dirty. It is clean… Love overcomes the dirt. I was about to say that love is dirty. That it sacrifices, it gets beaten, it is broken, it dies a thousand deaths. It is found in gutters and alleyways with bums and addicts.
But it’s not dirty. It is clean. It sanitizes, washes away, covers, and paints over. It washes the inside regardless of the stench on the outside. It causes us to get dirty, but makes us clean in the process. It is absolutely essential to life, more than air, more than drink. I can’t grasp it, but I can touch it. It refuses to be placed in the box I made for it. It breaks it’s bounds and grows swallowing me whole.