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.”

Post filed under General Christian Worship.