Monthly Archives: October 2006

Scriptureless Worship

Often, it’s hard to trace back how I’ve made my way through the internet to a specific blog post. Unlike Hansel and Gretel, I’m not prone to leaving a trail of bread crumbs behind me. (Okay, so that was a really bad metaphor. Fill in the previous sentence with one that makes more sense to the predicament of me not caring how I get places on the internet.) Tonight, I ran across a challenging post by Paul Lamey called The Problem of Scripture-less Worship.

Lamey writes about something that all of us who plan worship services should know instinctively, the primacy of the Word of God. Here is a brief quotation, I recommend reading the entire article.

Brothers, read the Scripture to and for your people so that they might hear God’s voice and be changed. The means of evangelism and the continued sanctification of God’s people is the reading and proclamation of His Word. The Church has the distinct privilege to be the pillar and support of what God says and ministers have the unique opportunity to insure that a steady diet of Truth is administered into the ears of the congregation. The only time some will hear the Psalms read (or sung) will be on Sunday mornings. The only time some will ever dive into the dark continent of the “older testament” will be when they hear it read or preached by a Christian minister. The only time many will hear The Gospel (outside of a tract) will be when it is read from one of the four Evangelists.
Do whatever you have to do to make it happen. Cut short the announcements or bump Sister Susie’s solo but heed the words of J. R. Miller who wrote that “The reading of the word of God ought to be an event.”

Seraphim Experience

This past weekend, I spend a lot of my time finishing Eugene Peterson’s book Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work. Peterson is one of the finest writers on pastoral theology around today. This book, written in 1980, uses patterns from the books of Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther to inform pastoral practices for today. On page 183, in the section on Ecclesiastes, Peterson writes concerning worship:

[N]either Bible nor church uses the word “worship” as a description of experience. Pastors hear this adjectival usage in sentences like, “I can have a worship experience with God on the golf course.” That means, “I have religious feelings reminding me of good things, awesome things, beautiful things nearly any place.” Which is true enough. The only thing wrong with the statement is its ignorance, thinking that such experiences make up what the church calls “worship.” The biblical usage is very different. It talks of worship as a response to God’s word in the context of the community of God’s people. Worship is neither subjective only nor private only. It is not what I feel when I am by myself; it is how I act toward God in responsible relation with God’s people. Worship, in the biblical sources and in liturgical history, is not something a person experiences, it is something we do, regardless of how we feel about it, or whether we feel anything about it at all. Experience develops out of worship. Isaiah saw, heard, and felt on the day he received his call while at worship in the Temple — but he didn’t go there in order to have a “seraphim experience.”