Wednesday, February 16, 2011

True Worship - Why Our Lives Must Align With Our Words

 This is an excerpt from "Why Church Matters" by Jonathan R. Wilson.  He is a bit heady and uses big words, but it is well worth reading, and a great follow-up to the series on worship that I just finished posting.

True worship requires an understanding of the one true God and increases our understanding of that God...The worship of the people of God becomes untrue when they wrongly construe the God whom they are worshiping and when they try to combine the worship of other gods with the worship of the one true God.  The Israelites misconstrue the God whom they are worshiping when they think that ritually and legally correct worship places God under their control.  This attempted domestication of God wrongly treats God as something like a petulant giant who has to be mollified.  In a reversal of Marx's dictum, this approach is worship as the opiate of the god.  As long as we are ritually and legally correct in our worship, God will be drugged and will not notice that God's character and will are being violated in every other area of life.  This is the worship that Isaiah condemns in Isaiah 1.
The church commits this same error today when we think that enthusiastic, well-planned, perfectly executed worship excuses affluent, consumptive lifestyles that depend upon unjust economic structures and practices.  We also commit this error when we think that beautiful buildings and large offerings will distract God from the tragic, sinful reality that our churches are still some of the most racially segregated institutions in our culture.  We fall into this error as well when we think that beautiful music and well-crafted sermons make up for our failure to visit those in prison.
These errors lead to worship that is untrue because they are errors in our understanding of God.  They reflect the belief that God is not "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" (Anselm's definition in his Proslogion) but rather "that than which nothing is more narcissistic."  As long as we feed God's narcissism with our worship, we can get away with almost anything.  But that is not the character and will of the one true God.

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