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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Worship and the revelation of God

I'm currently reading "They Will See His Face" by Richard C. Eyer, where I came across a great quote I'd like to share.

From the beginning of time, God has chosen to reveal Himself to humankind on His terms, not on ours. This is because we must know Him as objectively real and not merely as a virtual reality created in the image of our own likes and dislikes. It is not our prerogative to attempt to create new techniques for God to make Himself known to us. Nor should we mistake our loss of delight in the Divine Service as the fault of the Divine Service. Our is to respond in faithfulness to where God tells us He is to be found. From ancient times to the present, from Moses and the people of God who worshiped in tent and temple to we who gather in churches, God's presence has been made known in worship. God chooses to reveal Himself in the worshiping assembly. For us, people of the New Testament, our standing in God's presence begins with Holy Baptism, continues with Holy Absolution, and reaches its fulfillment in Holy Communion.

Some friends and I have been discussing quite a bit what a Sunday morning worship service should look like. What boundaries should be placed on music style, order of service, etc.? How formal should a service be?

I'm afraid that I too easily forget that the church's worship service, her liturgy, is the very place where the world encounters God. It's not merely a presentation of the ideas behind Christianity, or a gathering time for like-minded Christians to "connect", but befitting the title we Lutherans give it, the Divine Service. God literally comes to us, sets upon us, surrounds and speaks to us during this time.

Many good friends of mine often ask questions about the "language" the church uses; addressing music style, manner of speaking, presentation of the various elements of worship and so on. They ask if her language is one that the culture we live in can easily understand? There's a reason we Lutherans no longer worship in German -- this language question is undoubtedly worthwhile.

But sometimes it's hard for me to discern where the language used to communicate stops, and God's service to us begins, or whether these things are even as separate as I'd like them to be. Should any changes in the service be permitted as long as confession and absolution, the reading of the word, baptism and communion remain central? What about lighting, the placement of the choir, the use of individual versus corporate singing, the instruments used, the adornment of the sanctuary...?

I'm mulling over it all, and I'd like to hear your thoughts.