Worhip and Ethics

[We] are often unable to think sharply or feel deeply for the simple reason that [we] have not worshiped truly. As William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas have noted, “bad liturgy eventually leads to bad ethics.” Never to have encountered the awful otherness-in-nearness of God in worship is never to have exercised either our hearts or our brains. It is easy to move from sentimental worship to sentimental nationalism or materialism. – Ralph C. Wood, Contending for the Faith

Youch! But good heavens the man’s right! I think Wood’s point here is the thesis of Hebrews 12. The first half, up to verse 17 or so, is about moral living. From verse 18 till about verse 24 is a reminder of the the delivery of the Old Covenant and how frightening that was. Then at the end of the chapter the author says, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Notice that all the appropriate elements are there: morality, worship and fear of God. When our worship is light and airy, our view of God soon becomes small. When our view of God is little, the problem and pain of sin turns out to be not that big a

Worship (“liturgy” in the quote) must be deep because our God is deep. He is not our best friend, our buddy, or a really good guy. He is “a consuming fire”! Does our worship reflect this truth or do we focus on him who “loves us so much that he’d rather die than live without us”? Wood’s point is that such soppy sentimentalism about God will result in soppy thoughts about sin, the church, commitment to other believers, the authority of the preacher and indeed the word preached. The authority and unction for these things is derived from God and his primacy. If he is not made much of in worship (at least!) then out thoughts about all that flows from him will be diminished. This is a very good reason that we need to gather to worship and to pray. We need the gifts God has given us to stir each other up, we need to intensify each other’s worship and prayer, we need those gifted at music to lead us emotionally, we need those gifted at preaching to lead us mentally, we need those gifted with service to leads us practically. All of these things (and more) should stir in us a greater, ever more intense worship and love of God. That will lead and guide and direct the rest of our lives.

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  • […] I’ve been thinking and reflecting on Christian worship lately. I remembered a quote I posted a while ago and just some other readings and things have kept coming up. Anyway, it was quite timely when Bob Kauflin, the Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, a Reformed Charismatic church planting organization whom I have a lot of respect for, began blogging on Idolatry on Sunday Mornings (part 1, part 2). […]

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