Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Worship Old & New

Sorry I haven't posted in quite awhile.  Life gets in the way.  Here is an excerpt from one of the books I've been reading, Worship Old & New by Robert E. Webber.  I will probably be quoting from this book and author quite a bit in future posts.  He very clearly sets out many of my thoughts on religious practice and is informing my view on historical Christian worship.
"Because worship is the enactment of an event, the organization of worship is not left to the whim of creative people or community consensus.  Rather, it is rooted in the historic meeting that has already taken place between God and his people.  This meeting, enacted by God's people, is the organizing principle of worship.  Therefore, the overriding feature of biblical enactment is the representation of history.
"A cursory examination of biblical worship makes the historical orientation of enactment abundantly clear.  All the events around which Israel's worship was organized were the actions of God in history.  For example, it is significant that the major institutions of worship in Israel derived foundationally from the Exodus event: The institution of public worship at Mount Sinai celebrated the covenant that God established with Israel; the elaborate worship of the tabernacle and the temple were a commentary on the relationship between God and Israel; the synagogue accented the giving of the law; the festivals, especially the Passover, which was the central feast of Israel, commemorated the redemption from bondage.
"Historical orientation also underlies New Testament worship.  Christian worship derives from the death and resurrection of Christ.  In preaching we retell the story; in the Eucharist we dramatize the event.  Even worship on Sunday has significance in terms of enactment, for that is the day of the Resurrection.  Furthermore, the special emphasis we place on Christmas and Easter is fro the purpose of making the meaning of those historic days come alive in our experience.
"The significance of the historical orientation of biblical worship is this: Worship re-creates and thus re-presents the historical event.  In this way worship proclaims the meaning of the original event and confronts worshipers with the claim of God over their lives.
"Therefore, the overriding concern of worship is not simply the reenactment of the event, but a personal meeting with God.  On one side, the emphasis is on God who has acted; on the other side, the emphasis is on humans responding.  In this way something happens in worship: God and his people meet.  Worship is not simply going through the motions of ceremony.  It becomes the visible and tangible meeting of God through the signs andsymbols of his presence.
"In worship the order is set forth in such a way that the worshiper is able to enter vicariously into the original event.  This enactment of past events occurs through recitation and drama" (74).
A question I have here is, how aware of this order is the typical congregant?  I have spent the majority of my life in the Church, going through the "paces", but never understanding the significance of the events.  The more I learn, the deeper my appreciation for these rites my experiencing God's presence in worship becomes.

1 comment:

  1. Hello:
    Some very interesting points are raised here.In general, we are not overly fond of organised worship, preferring quiet solitude instead. But, we absolutely agree that the more one is aware of the reasons behind the various parts of a service, the greater one's involvement and the deeper one's spiritual awareness becomes.

    One of our favourite services in the Church of England is sung Evensong. Regrettably, this service has all but died out in most parishes.