Friday, September 02, 2005

a right response

Last fall, I wrote in response to a comment by D. A. Carson in which he said, "this side of the fall, worship properly responds to the redemptive provision God graciously made for us.” I responded strongly to this comment because of its context. The statement doesn’t bother me so badly on its own, though I might have said, worship is a proper response to..., rather than worship properly responds to.
Carson’s surrounding discussion made a context that caused the statement to say, “Christ’s redemptive provision is the only right motivation for worship.” This is quite different, and shed’s light on the avoidance of many texts and songs used in worship by other people.
The problem with this statement is that it reduces God only to redeemer. God didn’t and doesn’t seem to describe himself by way of his functions, activities, etc. God described himself as “I AM”. That seems to be all encompassing to me. Seems to me that worship is THE right response to Who God Is. Sure he is redeemer, but he’s also creator, maintainer… GOD. We’ve reduced him to a single (though ultra-important) role, and that, to what he has done for us. Job, on the other hand said, “though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” Regardless of how God interacts with me, or intervenes in my life, he still deserves worship. He is sovereign, and if I believe that, nothing that I question (though I am allowed to – “come let us reason together says the LORD”), should disallow the worship of God because of who he is. I surrender my need to understand, and to make sense of a God that is beyond my ability. I surrender my need to have a teleologic understanding of the activities of the God of the universe.
Last Summer Matt Redman released a missions emphasized worship song with the line, “let worship be the fuel for missions’ flame.” My initial response to the song, was, hey that’s a good song for a missions emphasis set. But lately, I’ve been thinking again about our response and motivation in worship and how they dictate our choices of music, style, liturgy. So the song pops back into my head.
At first these two ideas seem to mesh. The proper motivation for worship is what God has done for us, and let the motivation for missions be to gather more worshippers. Certainly worshippers newly brought to Christ, would find his provision motivation for worship. But, having been provided for, we are now open to experience and see revealed much more of a God from whom we’d been separated and had only misunderstood glimpses of before. Now we find much more motivation for worship, and the more we worship, the more reason we find to worship.
The bible says that if we don’t worship, the rocks will cry out. I find it hard to accept that the rock’s are motivated by God’s redemptive provision. But they are his creation, and this is reason to worship. We also read that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess. Everyone in heaven, earth, and under the earth. Redemptive provision seems not to be everyone’s motivation in this case.
So lots of questions come to mind.
Are purpose and motivation the same thing? Surely not, for I may be motivated by compassion to see that the hungry are fed. My compassion is not my purpose. Is the motivation of missions to gather more worshippers to God? We are missionally motivated by compassion for people and obedience to God. Both benefit from our motivation. Of course, the act of gathering worshippers is an act of worship. But the further we go into contemporary Christianity, the more narrowly we define our acts and motivation, and the less heart-motivated we become. We have to delineate between every thing we do, so that we count missions and worship and two separate purposes when in fact, either is motivated by the other, and one actually IS the other. As a matter of fact, what purpose is worth the effort required if it is not motivated by and IS worship? I don't like the phrase, "first among equals," so I don't think I can count worship as a purpose on a list of other purposes. Perhaps I have to say that worship is my purpose, AND its my motivation for other parts of my lifestyle, say, being apprenticed, being missional, serving others, and seeking community. But of course my apprenticeship teaches and inspires me to behave as the one to whom I'm apprenticed. This would cause me to be missional, to serve and seek community. dot dot dot.
So I'm swinging with a very long bat here. I'll whittle it down and ask a specific questions from a much broader grappling.
Once gathered, do the people worship motivated by having been gathered, or worship because having been gathered, they’ve been given the means to worship.
Is salvation THE reason to worship or a means by which we are made able to worship? Yes? Well help me unpack the subtle nuances that seem to bog us down on this subject.