Worship as Belief

It falls to me to pick the worship songs for our house church.

This, as you might guess is something of a liability for me, and perhaps my group. I comb through the song sheets, looking in vain for “Praised Be Thou, Inaugurator of Participationist Eschatology” and the like.

So instead, I have to go with what we have.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, as I thumbed through and picked out a few things, I did so with a little bit of an internal eye roll. I grabbed a song that I knew was little more than a compilation of scripture verses. I knew it was a theologically and pastorally apt conjunction of scripture and real life.

But it wasn’t me. I wasn’t feeling it. I felt like a bit of a hypocrite singing first person singular lyrics about myself that didn’t reflect my reality, how I actually have responded to life as late.

You get it? I didn’t want much to do with the song. But I picked it anyway, inasmuch as “The Galatian Praise Song” is something I try to save for Lent.

But then…

When it actually came time to sing the song, I found myself able to sing it, to believe it, to celebrate the reality of what I was singing.

How do you think about worship?

Usually, I think of it as an attempt at an authentic response to God, reflective of where I was when I came in.

And that’s an important piece of it.

But there’s something else going on in worship as well. Worship becomes a tutor to our hearts. We sing what is true, even when we don’t believe it, or didn’t a few seconds before, in order to enter into the belief that we lack.

Worship isn’t just about experience, it is also about ultimate reality. Or, perhaps better, is about creating an experience that expresses and embodies–and therefore summons us into–the reality into which God has called us in Christ.

When we gather as one and with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we participate in the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises. We speak truth again, we catch a glimpse of reality.

And we can believe.

5 thoughts on “Worship as Belief”

  1. Daniel – I think you are spot on. I am no expert on worship, but what I’ve learned over my years as a worship leader is that I think too often it is used to contrive an emotion. What it needs to be is a way of emptying ourselves before our Creator and Savior and letting Him fill us up.

    I also think too often we use the term “worship” for the music portion of our services. Really, it ought to be an ongoing process throughout each day. What consumes our thoughts? Our time? Those are the things we worship.

  2. Daniel – Not only is this spot-on, but it’s immensely difficult. In the past few years I’ve tried to participate in the practice of praying (often chanting) the Psalms, to allow scripture to teach my spirit the posture of prayer. I’ve learned as a result that my spirit tends to prefer autonomy, praying only whatever the hell it decides to pray. This seems to relate to what you are saying about worship, and I must admit I’m a slow learner on this one. I find I am slow to learn a posture of worship from those who have come before (even if “those who have come before” include psalmists whom I have been reading since childhood).

    This was my long-winded attempt to say “I concur.”

  3. “Worship becomes a tutor to our hearts.” That is well said. Reminds me of Colossians 3:16. Also reminds me of past conversations about 1st person worship songs. If you can’t sing a song with authenticity, that’s a time for reflection. Is it the song, or is it something else?

  4. With apologies to C.S. Lewis, it sounds as though you were surprised by worship! How wonderful. It puts me in mind of my favorite verse from the hymn “When in Our Music God is Glorifid” — “How often, making music, we have found / a new dimension in the world of sound / as music moved us to a more profound / Alleluia!” I really like your image of worship as a “tutoring of our hearts.”

    And I went back and looked at the “Galatian Praise Song” – very funny!

  5. Danielle – Over the last few years as I have been losing my faith I have found worship extremely difficult especially the first person songs. I have often changed the lyrics as I song them to be 2nd or 3rd person in order to be able to sing them at all. This is something with which I am still struggling, I haven’t found it any easier but nothing worth while ever is.

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