This past weekend at Eastbrook, I stressed the importance of Christian worship being centered in the Trinity in my message “Worship in the Beauty of Holiness” in the concluding weekend of our series “Roots.” There are some things in our faith that I would consider secondary, but the Trinity is not one of them. The Trinitarian understanding of God – one God in three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is at the core of our faith as Christians.
As Bruce Milne writes in his book, Know the Truth:
Just about everything that matters in Christianity hangs on the truth of God’s three-in-oneness.
Or, to hear from an ancient commentator, Origen writes:
The believer will not attain salvation if the Trinity is not complete.
In the midst of our contemporary worship that often emphasizes personal experience or musical styles, the theological content and shape of our worship must not be underemphasized.
Since I didn’t give as much time to fully addressing the Trinity as possible, and because I am limiting my preaching largely to references found within Acts, I wanted to post some additional resources here. The following two resources can be downloaded as PDFs below and are resources from when I taught the session on the Trinity in the Elmbrook Church New Members class:
This past weekend at Eastbrook, I preached about worship in a message entitled “Worship in the Beauty of Holiness.” Whenever I think about worship, I always remember this striking quotation from Annie Dillard in her marvelous book, Teaching a Stone to Talk.
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.
– Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, 58.
This past weekend at at Eastbrook Church I concluded our series, “Roots,” on certain non-negotiable characteristics of the church, and Eastbrook Church in particular as we celebrate 40 years. This final weekend took us into an exploration of worship based in Psalm 96:9. I admit that I still love the way that the King James Version states it:
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Rooted in this idea, I explored how worship is both a gathering and a lifestyle, how worship is rooted in the Triune God, and leads us into the extravagance of eternity around God’s throne. Some folks know that started out in ministry through music and worship ministry, so this is admittedly close to my areas of greatest passion and concern for the contemporary church.
You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.
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The psalms are the prayerbook of the Bible, prayer-songs that were often used within the corporate and private worship of the people of Israel. They are also one of our strongest biblical resources for shaping our life of worship today within the Christian church. The entire psalter concludes with a summary psalm of worship, Psalm 150, and I would like to share some thoughts that leap out to me about worship from this psalm.
Worship is God-Centered
The beginning word of Psalm 150 is simple: Hallelujah, which means, “praise the Lord.” The theme and tone of this psalm, something which sums up the entire book of psalms, is God-directed praise. This word, hallelujah, sets our spiritual compass to true north in God. Here at the beginning of this psalm, yet at the end of the entire psalter, we remember that God is the center-point of attention for our worship and rooted anchor for our lives. An oft-repeated phrase about worship is: “its’ not about me.” Hallelujah is the personal and communal exclamation of that reality. When we conclude the final word in the psalms with an introductory word, “praise the Lord,” we are forced to remember that worship and life is not about me but about God.
The Intersection of the Mundane and the Holy
In the next verses of Psalm 150, we find location in worship within God’s sanctuary or tabernacle even as our imagination stretches up to the heavens or the firmament of the sky. The psalmist reminds us that worship simultaneously draws us near to God in a Read More »
Michael Emerson, best known to me as a co-author of the outstanding book, Divided by Faith, wrote a very good review of a new book by Gerardo Marti entitled, Worship Across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation. A number of folks here at Eastbrook Church sent me links to the article because it relates to who we are here as a ‘multi-everything’ church.
This is the core question of Gerardo Marti’s fascinating new book, Worship Across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation(Oxford University Press), and one that occupies the minds of many a Christian leader attempting to do multiethnic ministry.
Marti’s answer is shocking.
After carefully studying twelve successfully integrated churches, he came to a clear conclusion:
It doesn’t matter what type(s) of music.
What? This answer seems counterintuitive, and Marti admits it is not the one he thought he would find. He also notes that it is not the answer most anyone gives, even those heading up successful multiracial churches… [Read more here.]
What do you think? Does music style matter in multiethnic churches? Should there be a ‘buffet’ of musical styles or one main style that everyone adjusts to?
What do you think actually helps bring people together across various backgrounds in worship?
You can also read three responses from practitioners by visiting the Unity in Christ Magazine web-site here.
I came across these striking word from A. W. Tozer recently while reading through the title essay from the book I Talk Back to the Devil. Like many great books, this one had gone out of print. Thankfully, it is now back in print and available for a new audience.
Some of you go to the ball game and you come back whispering because you are hoarse from shouting and cheering. But no one in our day ever goes home from church with a voice hoarse from shouts brought about by a manifestation of the glory of God among us.
Actually our apathy about praise in worship is like an inward chill in our beings. We are under a shadow and we are still wearing the grave clothes. You can sense this in much of our singing in the contemporary church. Perhaps you will agree that in most cases it is a kind of plodding along, without the inward life of blessing and victory and resurrection joy and overcoming in Jesus’ name.
Why is this? It is largely because we are looking at what we are, rather than responding to who Jesus Christ is!
Here is my final note post from David Crowder’s Fantastical Church Music Conference in Waco, TX, last week. This is from a break-out session with David Taylor entitled, “Singing the Ever-Renewing But Not Necessarily Straightforward New Song.” David is a PhD candidate at Duke and the author of For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts.
“It may indeed be said that the purpose of the Psalms is to turn the soul into a sort of burning bush.” – Stanley Jaki, Praying the Psalms
“I Know the Lord’s My Shepherd” – contemporary rendering of Psalm 23 to the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” – unfitting
What does it mean to ‘be fitting’ with the text, music, congregational singing and setting
How do we think about the “fittingness” of new songs for congregational worship?
Three distinct meanings in the Psalter for the phrase “new song” with examples from current song writers
Criteria for selection of ‘new songs’ that are fitting:
- Could my home church do this song?
- Could the average person sing this (they might need to be taught it)?
Phrase “new song” found in the Psalter:Read More »