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Week Three: Second of Two Reflections on media for icews

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Thelogy Course with Dan Wilt

I am reflecting here on N. T. Wright’s article, “The Word In Worship”.

He writes about the “almost cavalier way in which scripture is treated within worship”.

This observation is not far off from the truth, at all. Recalling a song-writers’ workshop that I attended two years ago, the emphasis was indeed on small snippets of scripture becoming the basis for new songs. These short verses which make up a song are actually part of a larger context, and when we ignore that in favor of writing a new song, we miss out on the richness of meaning that was intended in the writing.

I tend to agree with Wright, in that an understanding of what is going on around that snippet of scripture is vital to walking away from church with an enriched understanding of God’s character or without being able to agree down through the ages with the truths passed on. How, then, can we pass on these truths if we merely sing portions of them?

In the blended worship style, which covers the gamut from Hymns and liturgy to the pop choruses we hear today, there is still a danger in missing the point with scriptural songs if they are only included to satisfy a requirement of blending in. Take, for example, the opening hymn. An opening hymn should be a call to worship, and several elements are looked at in choosing the right hymn. It should be a life-giving message, perhaps, which unites the weary into the glorious presence of God, ushering them right into a corporate stanza of praise. Would it be fair to say, though sad to admit, that occasionally the hymn finally chosen has been categorized not by message, but by its tempo? Hmmm.

I am curious to dig into some of the prayer books mentioned by Wright: for example, he mentioned St. Augustine and Bernard of Clarvaux. I am curious to see how the people embrace these prayers, and how we could fit them into our service.

For me, meditating on the scripture our pastor is planning to preach from helps me to prepare my heart for worship. Sometimes he sets a season for a topic, and I can get an idea of what songs may glorify God in the message. Pastor and I had a great discussion once about planning service, and we both agreed that the worship needed to glorify God, usher the people into that place of encounter with His holy presence, and sing of eternal truths.

We have begun to add readings of the scripture back into our services, but not to standardize the service; rather to enlighten the people to reading scripture as part of our worship of the Lord.

Finally, I’d like to add that I’ve taken lately to doing some of my worship planning from the seats in the sanctuary. What if I were a person who came to church for the first time ever? What would I need to hear? Or, suppose I came in tired of life, ready to give up? It’s been so many years since I had one of those experiences where I did not know what to expect from worship. As leader, I always know what is on the slate. So, in reviewing these great needs that people carry on their shoulders into service, it could very well be that the tried and true prayers, the pilgrimages of the saints gone by, could offer solace and strengthen faith just as well today as they did long ago?

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July 24, 2008 - Posted by | ICEWS eb 2008

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