Thursday, June 14, 2007

Follow up to Worship and Hebrews

This was originally a reply to Tim's comment on my Worship and Hebrews post but it got too long and needed a whole separate post by itself!

Was wondering if you were going to pop up. :-p

My post wasn't really about song lyrics per se as it was about letting the Word shape the practices of our worship, in this case, Hebrews. I hope you'll read my post again and see that. I have no problem with simple songs. In fact, I think we need them as well! So I'm a big fan of Chris Tomlin, for eg., because I think he writes songs that are great to sing and easy to understand. Another eg. would be Vicky Beeching - I really like Awesome God and Yesterday, Today and Forever.

OK, let's try to deal with your comments a little more systematically. :)

1. Because we are sinners, and depending somewhat on our temperament/personality, there is always the danger that we start looking for faults in just about everything, in the name of doctrinal purity and such. We want to score points for our team. So yes, of course it is possible, and we need to guard against that and repent if we are guilty.

2. You speak of the "moment" and "worship time". Do go back and read point no. 2 of my post. Firstly, I want to stress again, as I did in my original post, that I don't doubt that there are moments during our singing when we palpably feel God's love, or his mercy, or his assurance. In fact, we should be suspicious if we never ever feel them!

But what if we don't have that moment? Does that mean somehow God is not with us? Or he is with us, but not in such a "powerful" way? I think you will agree with me here that the answer to the above questions is negative, but if so, then surely we must be careful that the language we use must not perpetuate such beliefs?

This is where Hebrews come in. In the OT, we get plenty of instances of sacred ground, sacred space, sacred time etc., places where individuals met with God (eg. Moses and the burning bush). But the point is that when Jesus came, he negated the need for such, or perhaps, it's better to say he re-sacralized all of space, time etc. That's why we use the language of "living sacrifices" (Romans 12). The Hebrews were tempted to go back to OT systems of sacrifice and priesthood, and the writer tells them "Don't do it!". For our worship to God is only acceptable because Jesus is our Priest and once-for-all sacrifice. Music doesn't need to act as a mediator between God and us.

I feel this is important because I think it is ultimately a pastoral issue. The Christian who does not feel that God is near needs to know that he is always able to call on His Father even if he does not feel him. The harried mother who is constantly struggling trying to keep up with her two kids needs to know that her imperfect attempts to raise and instruct her kids is worship.

In my experience, many charismatics would affirm this, which is why my plea is that they employ language that reflect this. "Worship" has become a confused term, and we should reappropriate it as a biblical word.

3. Back to lyrics. Again, I am not arguing against simplicity, or even songs that employ romantic imagery. But surely there can be songs that tell us more about the person of God? Let's take Vicky Beeching's song Awesome God as an eg.

Your voice is the voice that
Commanded the universe to be
Your voice is the voice that
Is speaking words of love to me
How can it be?

Brilliant! She immediately draws attention to our Creator God, who speaks creation into being. And then she draws attention to the Living Word, who demonstrated his love for us. When we see the connection between the two: "How can it be?" is certainly the appropriate response! See, you don't need to be Charles Wesley or Fanny Crosby!

Don Carson talks about how sometimes our worship songs actually defer worship. For eg., sometimes we repeatedly sing lyrics such as "We'll magnify your name, we'll give you all the praise", but what are we actually doing? We're singing about how we're going to worship him without ever actually getting around to worshipping him! Rather, surely the right way to adore God is to talk about his attributes, his actions etc., just as you would when you talk about another person! Moreover, we should be singing truthfully about God, which is why we can't simply ignore a wayward lyric. Again, that doesn't mean we can't ever sing such lyrics as above, but it shouldn't stop there.

When we do so, we help each other because we are reminding each other about God.It doesn't matter if it's a song like Forever or How Great the Father's Love for us. And surely this becomes worship as well, loving our brother?

I guess you might have picked up by now that my original post was especially for my charismatic brothers and sisters. As someone with a foot in both the conservative and charismatic camps, and who is very encouraged by the fact that in Britain at least, the dividing lines are no longer so prominent, I'm hoping that the charismatic movement in Malaysia will come to a similar point of maturity. And I think charismatics need to think about their own tradition(!) of worship. At the same time, I acknowledge conservatives should learn from charismatics that our worship has an experiential dimension to it as well.

So those are my off-the-cuff remarks.

P/S I realise that in this post, I used the word "worship" in more than one way and apologise for adding to the confusion! Read it in context of the sentence, that should clarify how I'm using the word. :)

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Blogger Tim said...

ahaha cool i feel humbled that u've devoted an entire blog entry just for me :)

ill try and reciprocate in the near future.

8:55 am  
Blogger BK said...

Just for future records, a post by Ian Stackhouse which might be relevant for this discussion:

Looking Behind the Charismatic Curtain

8:45 pm  

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