Skip to main content

accurate worship


I was reading an introduction to 1-2 Chronicles a few days ago and came across an interesting phrase:  accurate worship.  It seemed strangely out of place, yet I know Eugene (Peterson) meant to use exactly those words.  So I did some thinking and reading and researching.  Here are some thoughts that came out of that.

First, let's look at the word 'accurate.'  I consulted with a few people who are well-versed in archery and came away with some good pointers on accuracy.  First, orient yourself towards your target.  Never let it out of your sight.  Second, anchoring is very important.  Be firmly grounded (solid stance) and find a point of reference which will help you to be consistent.  Some people draw the bow back till it touches their cheek.  Every time they aim, they then pull to the exact same spot -it helps them be consistent.  This is called anchoring.  Third, use a soft grip.  Too much tension on the bow or too much tension in your body will pull you off target.  A death grip on the bow (happens when you are trying really hard to get it right) makes your muscles contract and affects your accuracy.  Hold the bow lightly, with a partially open hand, allowing it to rest naturally between two fingers.  Be at ease. 

Now a few words about 'worship.'  Ronald Rolheiser talks about fire, desire, restlessness, longing, dissatisfaction, or an ache that each of us carry inside.  This is the impetus for human beings to reach beyond what they know.  What we do with this desire, Rolheiser says, is our spirituality.  I would say that it could also refer to our worship.  Rolheiser insists that all of us have a spirituality; we all do something with our longing for something greater than ourselves.  I believe the same applies to worship: we are all worshippers. We all direct our life-energy somewhere.  

When talking about accurate worship, there are two questions:  1) who or what are we worshipping (what is the target)? and 2) how well do we worship (how accurate are we)?  If you know anything about the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, you know that they loved to worship.  Most of the time, though, it was a bit of a shotgun/haphazard approach: they worshipped Jehovah but added in popular gods from the surrounding nations.  Their worship was also known to include a wide variety of practices; they started with the directives from Moses and picked up a few other additional rituals along the way like temple prostitution (everybody was doing it).  They added and dropped targets and changed practices at whim.  It was worship, but it wasn't very accurate.  God had given specific instructions to the people, letting them know what it looked like to be connected to him, to be in a covenant with Jehovah.  Covenants need to be accurate and explicit in order to protect the sanctity of the relationship and by inference, both parties.  Accuracy matters in these things.

Accurate worship, then, means that we choose only one target (Kierkegaard talks about willing 'one thing').  It means that we keep our eyes on that target and orient ourselves towards that target.  It implies that we find some anchoring points and practice in order to become consistent.  It requires that we find stability, yet not rigidity. 

Rolheiser suggest 4 essentials for a healthy spiritual life (and I would add, for accurate worship):  1) private prayer and private morality (Jesus knew the value of a strong, private relationship with God which resulted in choosing what God chose), 2) social justice (compassion for others), 3) mellowness of heart and spirit (not being a worrier, not quick to anger, but exhibiting thankfulness and graciousness), and 4) community as a constitutive element of true worship (being committed to a group of people not only keeps us anchored, it keeps us real).  I think those are pretty good places to start helping us focus our worship and develop some consistency. 

We are all going to worship today.  Who or what will it be?  How accurate will it be?

the photo:  outdoor ribbon installation I saw downtown this summer, with a few photo adjustments

Sources:
Ronald Rolheiser.  The Holy Longing: The Search for a  Christian Spirituality.  Doubleday, 1999.
Eugene Peterson.  Introduction to 1-2 Chronicles in The Message.  NavPress, 2004.

Comments

Anonymous said…
"If you know anything about the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, you know that they loved to worship. Most of the time, though, it was a bit of a shotgun/haphazard approach: they worshipped Jehovah but added in popular gods from the surrounding nations. Their worship was also known to include a wide variety of practices; they started with the directives from Moses and picked up a few other additional rituals along the way like temple prostitution (everybody was doing it). They added and dropped targets and changed practices at whim. It was worship, but it wasn't very accurate. God had given specific instructions to the people, letting them know what it looked like to be connected to him, to be in a covenant with Jehovah."

Yes, let's look at the word "accurate," particularly as "conformity to truth."

If you know anything about the people of Israel, you know that they were pantheists until after the Babylonian exile, at which point they became more-or-less exclusively monotheists.

If you know anything about the Old Testament, you know that the historical/archeological evidence supporting an actual person "Moses" and "wandering around in the desert" is next-to-none.

There isn't much accuracy in your interpretation of the Old Testament, unless we understand the Bible to be a document that should be taken at face-value (in which case as a woman you should be silent).

For an edutainment approach to biblical archeology and the Old Testament see Nova's 'The Bible's Buried Secrets'.

Regarding Rolheiser's suggestions:

"1) private prayer and private morality (Jesus knew the value of a strong, private relationship with God which resulted in choosing what God chose), 2) social justice (compassion for others), 3) mellowness of heart and spirit (not being a worrier, not quick to anger, but exhibiting thankfulness and graciousness), and 4) community as a constitutive element of true worship (being committed to a group of people not only keeps us anchored, it keeps us real)."

1. The Son of Man unified public and private morality, he came to fulfill the law (public morality) not destroy it. Our notion of a "private relationship with God" is a cultural construction that does not exist in scripture. The cult of this "private relationship" has come to define "spirituality," which has become a useless practice that encourages the oppression of the supplicant, instead of the liberation of the believer. This is a lie of the Antichrist. It is not a coincidence that this kind of spirituality is easy to commodify and sell to consumers.

3. The myth of the "kind & gentle spirit," combined with the lie of the "personal relationship" are used to oppress. If you ACCURATELY examine the lives of modern figures who have actually followed Jesus (and are not just 'fans' of a make-believe friend they have a personal relationship with) you will find that they are plenty spiritual, and plenty pissed-off: Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind. The so-called "Christian" community is determined to promulgate the notion that such leaders are kind, gentle, and do not question authority. This is another lie of the Antichrist.

2 & 4. The Son of Man spoke of social justice and community as the only forms of spirituality. This is the essence of the Logos: the power of truth that emerges between people in wise discussion, a force with transformative powers that we can not know on our own, a power that must speak truth in order to be legitimate.

Popular posts from this blog

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…

theology from the margins: God of Hagar

Our contexts have major implications for how we live our lives and engage with our world, that much is obvious. However, we sometimes overlook how much they inform our concepts of God. For those of us occupying the central or dominant demographic in society, we often associate God with power and truth. As a result, our theology is characterized by confidence, certainty, and an expectation that others should be accommodating. For those of us living on the margins of society, our sense of belonging stranded in ambiguity, God is seen as an advocate for the powerless. Our theology leans more toward inclusivity, and we talk less about divine holiness and righteousness and more about a God who suffers. On the margins, the priority is merciful and just action, not correct beliefs. 
There are significant theological incongruences between Christians who occupy the mainstream segment of society and those who exist on the margins. The world of theology has been dominated by Western male thought…

the movement of humility

We live in a context of stratification where much of society is ordered into separate layers or castes. We are identified as upper class, middle class, or lower class. Our language reflects this up/down (superior/inferior) paradigm. We want to be at the top of the heap, climb the ladder of success, break through the glass ceiling, be king of the hill. This same kind of thinking seeps into our theology. When we talk about humility, we think mostly think in terms of lowering ourselves, willfully participating in downward mobility. This type of up/down language is certainly present in biblical texts (James 4:10 is one example), but I believe that the kind of humility we see in Jesus requires that we step outside of a strictly up/down paradigm. Instead of viewing humility as getting down low or stepping down a notch on the ladder of society, perhaps it is more helpful to think in terms of proximity and movement.

Jesuit theologian, James Keenan, notes that virtues and vices are not really…