I recently read a blog post (and all the comments) about the matter of worship.
In the post, there was a short essay written by the President of the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He quoted a man by the name of Paul Z. Strodach, who said that “Worship is seeking and apprehending the Presence of God.” It is “the bond of meeting” with God Himself. I think that there is a lot of good to this definition of worship.
There is no doubt that faith does this seeking – so long as we talk about it in the larger context of God first coming to us through His wonderful words and Sacraments. But the thing is, I think it is something that we grow into – that is, where our faith does some active seeking of God. If we have been so blessed, we are first literally brought to God by faithful believers, usually our parents. The faith infants receive from God is first passive – and we are to remain like infants… like children, no? (child-like, not childish)
I also think that this definition above, if it gets isolated, is liable to be misunderstood. Sure – as we grow, becoming more independent in our desire to feed on God’s Word and Sacraments, we desire to seek and apprehend God’s Presence without the direct help of others. Still, the question is: how do we do this? Do we do this simply by showing up at our Father’s house, and like little children, eagerly hear the same old story over and over again about who we are, about our Father’s Son, and what He has done to save us – and to be fed a Real Heavenly Feast while we are at it? Or, on the other hand, do we do this to some degree also through sincere, emotional, “heart-felt” worship that “moves” us (“now this is worshiping in spirit and truth!” we might say) – i.e. to act in an active, “faith-exercising” fashion? (not saying we do this in our own strength – the Lord provides the strength, to be sure). After all, could this not be what “God[‘s Presence] inhabits the praise of His people” means?
If the second option, I need to ask “doesn’t having faith like a child simply presume that we simply be present and receive God’s good gifts?” (since Christians are fundamentally those persons for whom the imperatives of life follow the indicatives, as Michael Horton has said – what we do proceeds from what we are, by God’s declaration…).
For me, in the second way (with some focus on the importance of more emotional worship, that is) it seems as if the worshiper might be tempted to secure God’s attention, kind of like the “ascending into heaven”, that is “bringing God down” Paul talks about in Romans 10. And if this is the case, might not one be tempted to trust one’s feelings instead of looking outward – where He has promised to be? Perhaps our “spirit” within rather than the Spirit from without? Might we be tempted that this is all More like falling in love than something to believe in? (see # 36, 38, and 54 in the post) But how about Someone to believe in? (Song of Solomon yes, but let’s not forget God is our Father as well…). And, if this temptation is real, might this not imply (via Lex orandi, Lex credendi) that the worshiper (even if unknowingly and unconsciously) might begin to try to “earn God’s indicatives”… where the “therefore by the mercies of God…” in Romans 12, which recalls all of Romans 1-11 (the “creeds”!), falls by the side? After all, why can’t they get busy for God (perhaps in “deeds not creeds” fashion?) leaving the uninspiring and dated past behind (and those who cling to it) and “move on/forward” in glorious creativity? (perhaps to prove their love to their Lover?) Are not more emotional songs that allow us to connect with Him necessary (not at the expense of good doctrine of course…)?
It seems to me here that Christians, whether they know it or not, may very well be assuming for themselves the responsibility of getting God’s attention and trying to make sure that He dwells with them so that the relationship with Him is maintained and strengthened – as if He Himself is not concerned about this matter…
Trying to do theology like a child when it comes to the theology of worship, it is hard for me not to think along these lines above – (although, I am open to discussion on this matter) after all, “spiritual worship” is all about God’s ordained means: His Word and Sacrament (otherwise it is not spiritual!). “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63) and not only this, but “there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (I John 5). Not that only words from the Bible give life, for our own words, spoken in accordance with His, do the same. In short though, these are the divinely instituted rituals that He uses to reach us His people again and again: “ritual of Words, water and blood” (Rev. Jonathan Fisk, @ #34 in the post – and see #63 as well, which clears up a lot!)
Just like the child, who not only delights in story time each night, but wants to here the same old story yet again.