Wineskins Archive

January 13, 2014

AfterGlow: Externals and Extolling (Sept 1992)

Filed under: — @ 12:30 pm and

by Phillip Morrison
September, 1992

5A well-meaning brother recently purchased a communion set and had a friend take it to a new church in Russia. He had heard that these new Christians were drinking grape juice (surely not wine!) out of a single chalice, and he didn’t want any “one-cuppers” to get started in Russia. He didn’t realize that his new brothers and sisters were simply reflecting their culture, not making a doctrinal statement.

A preacher friend insisted that women in the congregation make the communion bread from scratch. The church could not use kosher unleavened bread because “the hands that crucified my Lord should not touch the bread served at the Lord’s table!” I assume he verified that no Jews were employed at the Welch’s grape juice processing plant.

I have a childhood memory of a lady rising from the waters of baptism shouting, “Hallelujah! Praise Jesus!” And of the people who quickly branded her a “holy roller,” never quite fully accepting her as a sister in Christ. What should have been a time of rejoicing became a time for suspicion and quenched Spirit.

These are extreme examples of a more common problem: giving more attention to the externals of worship than to what happens in the worshippers’ hearts. The Samaritan woman (John 4) was clearly trying to avoid any divine probing into her heart when she asked jesus which mountain was more appropriate for worship. Jesus was just as determined that she should not evade the real issue: God is a Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Worshipping God in spirit and truth is to become one with him. It is to allow God to fill and direct our lives. After all, if we do not possess the Spirit of God, we don’t belong to him (Romans 8:9). And Christ in us is our hope – our only hope – of glory (Colossians 1:27).

George Buttrick observed, “Protestant worship has sometimes become cheap – prefaced and ended in casual conversation, interrupted by a casual ‘announcement period,’ and disfigured by hymns that are poor jingles and preachments that are a ‘noisy going.’ Jesus lived the prayer he offered: ‘Father, glorify thy name.’ In thought and speech, in deed and worship, he reverenced the nature of God who is all and in all.”

It is not that we do too little in worship; we may be trying to do too much. I have been in many worship situations (and, God forgive me, I have led too many of them) where we tried to convert the lost, instruct the young, inspire the faithful, strengthen the weak, motivate the indifferent, commune with God, take care of the money, announce all the trivia – and still get out in time to beat the Baptists to the cafeteria. I wonder if the church leaders who used a stop watch to determine the most efficient way to serve communion really understood the nature of worship. Shouldn’t the people of God congregate for the singular purpose of glorifying him?

I recently calculated that I have gone to church more than 10,000 times in my life, gone to worship many of those times, and really worshipped a few of those times. Worship is not just a place to go or things to do; it is an encounter with God. True worship is so compelling, so life-filling that we are changed forever each time we worship. Robert Webber is right: Worship is a verb.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip Morrison

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