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May 07, 2005

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"No doubt, my Orthodox friends will chime in here..."

Reporting for duty. :)

One of the glorious things about the Divine Liturgy is that it manifests the best of both worlds: a communal, time-tested, deeply Scriptural, and Christ-centered worship while at the same allowing for each to "enter in" in as much as he is able.

The difference, I've found, is that modern Protestant worship is concered with answering the question, "What am I getting out this?" and Orthodox worship answers the question "What is *God* getting out of this?"

In other words, it isn't "Do I feel good?" but "Did I do well? Did I give Him my all?"

[Quoted]The difference, I've found, is that modern Protestant worship is concered with answering the question, "What am I getting out this?" and Orthodox worship answers the question "What is *God* getting out of this?"

Thanks for chiming-in, Karl!

Being that I've led worship in evangelical Protestant churches for the past 30 years (eeegads), I can say fairly confidently that in the circles I've been a part of, we have worked hard at moving worship out of the 'horizontal' (addressing one another 'about' God), and into the 'vertical' (addressing God directly). However, although we intend our worship to be concerned with what you've mentioned: 'What is *God* getting out of this?', all too often we end up evaluating our worship experience -- when all is said and done -- by how it impacted *us*. If it impacted us in a powerful way, it was 'anointed'; if we weren't impacted, it wasn't. Looking back, I can now see how individualism was affecting the worship experience.

Another thought: if we were fully devoted to what we were giving God in our worship, we should expect to see a lot more *passion* in our worship. My observation, however, is that this continues to be an issue - not only in Protestant churches, but within RC and Orthodox congregations as well. The culprit? What do you think?

I'm with you on this. I'm tired of the spectator sport called church. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters are right in challenging us Protestants to evaluate our worship initiative. I had the privilege to attend two Paschal services this year, and I was very aware that the focus of worship was much more "upward" than "inward." Individualism is a debilitating addiction. And nothing can be done about it until one realizes it is a problem. Individualism thrives at the expense of community. Great Post!

This is a great post. I can say that, for me, 20 years of the individualistic, emotionally-wrenching style of worship really started leaving me feeling very shallow and very disconnected from God. I have found that the corporate liturgical nature of the Divine Service is so fulfilling. I leave a service feeling forgiven of my sins, centered on Christ and His atoning sacrifice, strengthened in the Word and refreshed for service. After two years in the confessional Lutheran church (ELS), I feel like I have found a true worship experience with me out of the center and God put back in.

"if we were fully devoted to what we were giving God in our worship, we should expect to see a lot more *passion* in our worship"

Hmmm. I suppose it depends on what one means by "passion" exactly. Visible emotion? Internal joy? A noticeable difference in the decibel level of our choir/band/chanter? Something else?

Certainly, nominalism and apathy are always temptations for all of us. And when we succumb to this, our entire life (corporate and personal) will suffer in various ways.

What I've found is that the Liturgy exposes my apathy much better than Protestant worship. The truth, sacrament, beauty, and power of the Liturgy is always the same.

While it doesn't hurt to have a good homilist, a professional choir, and enthusiastic laity, Orthodox worship doesn't depend on whether the choir is "passionate" or if the priest is "anointed" or if I'm "on fire for the Lord" the same way Protestant worship does.

I was just passing through and saw this post and had to comment on it, as another confessional (though I prefer the term "Orthodox") Lutheran.

I realize that there are a lot of different viewpoints entering into the mix here (Eastern Orthodox, RC, Protestant, Lutheran), but I think that America's worship life--especially that of American Evangelicals--is indicative of the state of the Christian Church in America. Now, whether it is a symptom or a cause, that is another question and another discussion. But the thing that has been ravaging American Evangelicalism for the past 30-40 years has also been ravaging Lutheranism for the past 15 and has left it in a shambles.

If you have to boil it down to one thing, call it Neo-Pietism, because that's what it is. But it's interesting to see how it manifests itself in worship. People have left liturgical worship practices for so long that they can no longer answer simple questions such as, "whom does worship benefit?" and "why do we worship?"

It's obvious in modern Evangelicalism that Christians want to see themselves worshipping God. It *is* very individualistic and extremely egocentric. Look at the modern "contemporary" worship music. It's all about "I worship you," "I bow down to you," look at me, look at me and what I'm doing for God. "Worshipping like this and surrendering myself to Christ makes me feel good." This viewpoint falls completely in line with the hypocrisy inherent in many of their beliefs about their relationship to God. Their Arminianism tells them that everything they do--including their worship--should be all about what they do for God, but their Pietism and American individualism tells them that everything should be about them and their relationship with God and making *them* feel close to God.

Such hypocrisy is also apparent when a typcial Evangelical starts talking about how they're glad they're saved "cause, since they been saved, they don't sin no more." They look down their noses at "sinners" and have a general self-righteous attitude toward those who aren't "on fire for the Lord." If these people took a good, long, hard look at themselves they would realize that they sin just as much now as they did before they were "saved." They're just as much in need of Christ, the Cross, and the forgiveness of their sins as they ever were. And not just once a month or once a year, but every single day.

THAT is what true Christian worship is about. I must respectfully disagree with Karl's statement that worship is about "what God is getting out of this"--because we can do nothing for God. Almighty God, who created everything and ultimately judges everything, doesn't need us, but rather, we need him. Similarly, worship is not about our receiving validation or being emotionally uplifted by God or any other "experience," as Evangelicals would say. Rather, true Christian worship is about what God, through Jesus Christ, has done for us. It is about what God gives to us, through his Son--namely the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. It is about us hearing the Word and receiving the Sacraments for the strengthening of our faith.

People have forgotten what worship is all about. It's not about our "passion" or our "feelings" or even our intellectual stimulation. It's not about us somehow contributing to God, either. Rather, it's about God giving us His gifts of Christ and faith in Christ. What "worship experience" could ever surpass that?

Jason, scripture often speaks of the reciprocity of God and frequently in 'relational' terms. Whether or not God 'needs' worship is somewhat irrevelant. Jesus made it clear that God 'seeks' true worshippers (JN 4).

The judgemental practices of evangelicals ('looking down their noses')should not be seen as characteristic of all evangelicals, nor should it be seen in isolation or as unique in Christendom; some Mainliners are just as guilty of judging and vilifying evangelicals.

All that aside, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and hope you'll keep posting here at Paradoxology.

A final question for you: have you thought about how 'individualism' has influenced even the notion of our 'receiving' from God?

Karl - a couple of thoughts:

"What I've found is that the Liturgy exposes my apathy much better than Protestant worship."

This consistently occurs when I pray ancient common prayers and/or use various guides to pray the offices. My extemporaneous prayer-life is strong, but the prayers -- especially of the early church fathers -- have an uncanny power to lay open my soul.


"The truth, sacrament, beauty, and power of the Liturgy is always the same."

That's probably true. Only that the human heart was as consistent in it's openness, hunger, and response!

"worship is about 'what God is getting out of this'--because we can do nothing for God."

Obviously. What I said was a little hyperbole. The Orthodox clearly teach that God's Essence is beyond all need. And in fact God is beyond everything!

"Only that the human heart was as consistent in it's openness, hunger, and response!"

This is our prayer, that is for sure!

Karl,

How is my great grandchild doing?

Grandmother Bev.

Wow, Grandma! I had no idea you read blogs!

Little Kirsten is doing great!

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