Concentrating on worship (Preface B)

Preface, Part B:  personal leadership aspects, and prioritization of the vertical

Worship has for many years been a special area of calling for me.  Its significance in my life may be seen in my literary and musical outputs, in my print and audio libraries, and in my experiences.wpid-img_20150905_131041_265.jpg

Starting in my teens at the Cedars Church in Wilmington, DE, and continuing with opportunities at Camp Manatawny, Harding University, and beyond, I was[1] a worship leader.  The most regular, significant worship leading opportunities came in three related venues:

  • Cedars congregational assemblies, youth group devotionals, and retreats
  • Sr. High II week hymn sings at Camp Manatawny, 1998-2001
  • LIGHTS vocal band performances

Certainly not always, but often, I felt I was effective in those roles, bearing kingdom fruit.

For the last ten years, though, I have had only a few opportunities[2] to lead others in worship.  My own private worship veins have simultaneously been developing a severe case of sclerosis (which begs a chicken-egg question).  Wondering some days whether I still have something to offer, I feel somewhat like a dying man trying to do something worthwhile, to set things straight before things change more drastically.

Please don’t mistake the import of the above paragraph for me as an individual:  the words you just read were not at all easy to type.  They have undergone no material change since I first typed them.  In other words, I wish I could look back and moderate the words, realizing I had been dramatic in overstating the case, but I can’t do that honestly.  The words above speak truth wrestled from my wincing soul.  What I am attempting to do here is to process things deeply held and experienced . . . all the while realizing that I am not living as a devoted, worshipping being at this juncture.

In this blog series, I will revisit some concepts, some vocabulary, some texts, and some quotations and sayings, in order to refine my philosophy and practice—and in order to try once again to do something for the sake of God’s reign in human hearts, in spite of my own lack.

While worship is related to human life and to the horizontal connecting of humans one to another, it is the vertical expression of humble adoration and homage to the Lord that appears prioritized—both in scripture and in self-evident existential reality.

To the first point:  Jesus said, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Mark 12, ISV).

Hebrews 13:15-16 appears to echo this prioritization.

And to the second point, a quotation:

Any explanation of why men worship should probably begin with the simple idea that they just do, that they are made to worship.  It appears undeniably true that one of the hardest jobs which could be undertaken would be to find either on the contemporary scene or in the archeological records of antiquity any race or civilization devoid of worship. . . .  This homage-paying has often been from those who deny that they do worship; but be their object of reverence God or gods, crocodiles or cows, man himself, money or science, all men, with but few exceptions, worship something.   In his book Ascent to Zion, S. Arthur Devan says, “. . .  Worship remains, because the impulse to worship is elemental and universal.”

– Andy T. Ritchie, Jr., “The Objectives of Worship,” from Thou Shalt Worship the Lord Thy God, © 1969 Firm Foundation

Next:  philosophical and scholarly aspects of this current worship pursuit


[1] I struggled with the tense here.  “Was”?  “Have been”?  “Once functioned as”?  This type of question transcends the grammatical for me.

[2] Perhaps more responsibility for the last decade falls to me, i.e., I could have made a few more opportunities.

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2 thoughts on “Concentrating on worship (Preface B)

  1. John Eoff 09/09/2015 / 7:00 pm

    Brian, I feel your discomfort. Worship seems to be the center of churchanity. Everything seems to center around it. “Come worship with us” ; “Worship service is at _____o’clock”; “everybody welcome”; “bring your friends and neighbors”; “featured today (tonight) is _____”; We all like to express our appreciation for any kindness shown to us and I think that type thing is what is generally regarded as worship today, showing appreciation to God for the love he shows to us, which love is felt by us in different degrees at various times. At any rate it makes us feel good to participate in an inspiring worship service. I fail to find any references to worship services, of the nature common in churches today, anywhere in the Bible. Worship in the Bible was in the form of sacrifices. In OT days they were prescribed in detail, twice daily plus more on special occasions, and sacrifices were offered in atonement for sins. Most, if not all, of the type thing regarded as worship in our churches today seems to me to be more of a practice participated in for the purpose of acquiring a religious feeling of having done something for God; and I feel pretty sure that God does appreciate that type of worship; however, what he desires, according to Jesus, is worship (therefore sacrifice) that is both in spirit and in truth. The only way to examine those concepts is to contrast them with what he demanded previously—–specific sacrifices at specific times. Such sacrifices have been replaced by the truth they represented—the perfect human sacrifice. Such worship is not performed physically by us but is a spiritual affair, unseen, but claimed through faith in that sacrifice. Adoration for God is expressed individually and can be either solitarily or in company with like minded ones but is not prescribed as a ritual to be performed by a gathering of called ones. Don’t feel un-fulfilled when those “services” are not as pleasing as we would like for them to be. Our true worship has been done for us and we can rest in it with grateful hearts and clear consciences no matter how our worship services turn out.
    jde

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    • Brian Casey 09/09/2015 / 7:32 pm

      John, those hypothetical quotations like “come worship with us” show exactly what’s wrong with things. Makes my stomach sour a little. 🙂 The “worship service” is, as you point out, concocted out of something other than scripture, and I definitely am not looking for any such ceremony (not of the kind that passes for “church” in most groups, anyway).

      About sacrifices: that is obviously a big deal in the OT, and I have recently found even more reason to think that in Rom 12:1-2, Paul was making a direct reference to that while advocating a different kind of “priestly service” in the new times. I can see him using “scare quotes” around the words λογικεν λατρειαν there — “it sort of becomes your spiritual ‘service,'” he says, “effectively taking the place of what the priests used to do.” But this is in a different area than worship; this is service/duty, which is more horizontal.

      I know you have your hands full right now, but maybe you can stay with me through the next few posts. I’m currently finishing up some word-study things that help to clarify more what I have been after for 2-3 decades, whether in gathered groups or in private or in homes.

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