reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Monday, February 20, 2006

Thoughts about worship. Again.

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |
Ok. Was doing some seminar stuff for our lovely group of musicians at Christ Church Liverpool yesterday on this whole worship thing. (I blogged on this before - after reading "Stop Dating the Church".) I was much helped by the Blue Fish's excellent notes on this - so thanks Bishy.

Now basically I said, church is about encouraging each other, not specifically meeting with God. In the Old testament the people gathered to meet with God on one-off occasions - now we are permanently and really in heaven with Christ, brought to God and secure in him because of the death of Christ. Church becomes a means for us to encourage one another to hold on to these promises, address issues of sin in each other's lives and hear God's word.

Ok - so God ministers to us through his word, we minsiter to each other through our gifts.

Here's the thing I've been pondering since though - and sorry music team if this is confusing for you, I don't mean to cloud the issue. But gifts are spiritual gifts, right? They are the outworking of the Holy Spirit who is God in the life of the believer. What's more, the Bible makes a big deal about the fact that God can't be seen, but some of his character can be experienced through the church. I thinkthat's what the apostle John means when he writes:
"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."

So, in fact, if I go to church and I encourage other believers and they do everything they can do to encourage me in the power of the Holy Spirit, and hence God's love is being seen and experienced in a way that I can't experience it when I am on my own - well maybe I am "meeting with God" in more than just the "God ministers to us through his word" type of way.

True, this is miles away from the individualistic and trancelike "manifest presence of God" I was encouraged to expect at the mass meetings of my youth when we thought we were provoking God's glory to fall "as on that ancient day". Nevertheless, if we are going to say that God dwells by his Spirit in the church (not just the individual believer) then I think I should perhaps expect to meet Him more manifestly when the church is together.

Just to clarify - this is not, I don't think, mysticism - that God is somehow mystically "more present" to me in church. Rather that as we genuinely are church together, God's presence amongst us as his people is shown as we serve each other in the power of the Spirit. Hmmmm. Maybe we need to have another session music bods so you can help me clear up my position on this!


Blogger Andy said...

"I am a music bod, I come from down your way! "What can you play?" I can play..."

Mo, glad to see you blogging rather than blubbing ;o)

The issue around the reality of the presence in the gathered church is something that has vexed many since the reformation (and before). How do we express the nature of God's presence being made manifest (objective and experiential) in the unified maturity of the church, without delving into mysticism or sacramentalism?

I like your thinking on this but feel the tension in trying to get to the heart of it. Pity we can't sit around a coffee and sort it out. I always think given the Bible, time and decent coffee the most vexatious of questions can be satisfactorily clarified.

5:30 PM  
Blogger thebluefish said...

Nice worship thoughts btw. Interestin thoughts on the presence of God - something is going on there - definitely not "as in that ancient day" - who wants less than we have now! - but must be something going on - some by faith experience of God's presence as we draw near to God...

Liking Andy's coffee & bible strategy for that... not so easy if you're not in the same place tho! That said if we can worship God anywhere now, maybe we can do virtual coffee over open Bible by blog... hmmm...

10:15 AM  
Anonymous naomi said...

not sure how this contadicts anything you said on sunday? maybe i'll read it again...

10:35 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Vaughan Roberts talks about "the liver shiver": those times when emotionally, we are touched somehow during times of corporate worship.

He's rightly clear that it is dangerous to equate this with "the presence of God" (for all the reasons we are familiar with)- but are we to say for sure that it never has anything to do with the Holy Spirit moving us in some way?

Coming from a charismatic background, I have been very reactionary over this: "Silly emotionalism! How ever was I fooled when it was only music tickling my emotions!" But I'm now being wary not to throw-out the baby with the bathwater.

Can these emotional and subjective experiences sometimes be of God, or at least used by Him to do something in us?


4:03 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

it's been a month, you inspired a whole new blog - please: blog again, who knows what you'll start this time!

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Edward Carthy said...

Hey, just started to get into the whole blog thing and came accross your name and this entry caught my eye. The whole experiancing something emotional when in times of corperate worship intregues me also. As one with miniscule bible knowladge this is my understanding... The Truth is that God is with us as believers, period. Is it not simply that when we meet together our faith is so encouraged that this is infact true, our very emotions are submitted to this Truth. I do also think music can bring on emotions (just listen to a sad piece of music and you can see that) but just because it can, doesnt (I think) mean lively, soothing or "other" music should be ruled out.
Love in Him, Edward

2:11 PM  

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