Sunday, May 4, 2008

Worship: Call and Response

Worship is a conversation. It is a formalized, ritualized conversation, but it is nonetheless a conversation. There is that about worship that involves a give and take, a reciprocation. It is a progression of call and response between the God Almighty and His people.

I say “Marco!” You say……
I say “Thank You.” You say…..
I say “Peace be with you.” You say….

This sort of call out and reply is woven into the very fabric of every liturgy in numberous ways. Look at the bones of a liturgy. Any liturgy that is God-centered, and properly structured around the character and work of God as displayed in scripture will have 4 basic parts.

Gathering and Adoration
Confession and Absolution
Thanksgiving and Giving
Receiving the Word and/or the Sacraments.

There are many variants as to how each of these sections is accomplished, and the terminology used, but at it’s most basic these are the parts of a liturgy. And each of them is includes elements of God calling and His people responding. In fact, each element is a call, to which the next element is a response. They are layered.

It works like this:

God’s Work: We gather together
Our response: We offer our voices in song or our thoughts in meditation and prayer as the service begins.

God’s Work: We hear (or take part in) the proclamation of aspects of His character (power, majesty, holiness, lovingkindness, mercy, etc.) or his work (creation, freeing Israel from Egypt, sending his prophets, miracles, resurrection, etc.)
Our response: We offer our voices in song, or we pray to acknowledge the truth, and/or we stand to acknowledge His primacy.

God’s Work: God reminds us of His character and work through the scripture.
Our Response: To confess our own character and work, which are sinful.
God’s Work: He proclaims us forgiven.
Our response: We offer our voices in song, we acclaim His mercy, we give thanks in many ways including offering our gifts back to Him.

God’s Work: He speaks to us through his Word
Our Response: We pray, we meditate, we listen, we go out to live in obedience to his commands and in communion with His Spirit.

If we are worshipping with purpose and intent, we are listening to God speaking, and watching His acting, and we are responding with speech and actions of our own.

All of this flows from God’s revealed message to us, the Holy Bible. The Bible is our record of God’s call to us. In it he reveals to us his character and his deeds. The job of the Worship Leader is to point you to God’s call, to draw your attention to it and make it easy to hear by declaring God Work and His Character in many different ways. Because Jesus is God made manifest to us, the very image of the Father, we center our worship around Jesus, but through God’s Holy Word. If we, as leaders have done our job properly, the whole service will be infused with the scripture, and therefore, with the Holy Spirit, and God will work in us according to his will thereby.

Now here is one of the deepest layers of this whole call and response structure. Sunday is one day. It is the day set aside for God’s call to meet with Him. The rest of the week is our response to what God does to us and for us when we gather to meet with Him. Sunday worship is just Response Practice for the rest of the week
We are training ourselves to hear God’s call and respond throughout the week

And our gathering to worship is part of that weekly cycle of call and response. If you went to church today, it was because God called you. Your attendance was no accident, and it was no mere acting out a habitual behavior. Whether you realize it or not, you were specifically called to worship. Your response was to rise, dress, eat and go. Even such mundane things as rising from bed, dressing and eating are are acts of worship. They are made holy by God’s call and by our response.

This is also why our actions in worship include such mundane and material things things such as eating bread and drinking wine. Our faith reflects the Great Miracle of the incarnation at every level. YHWH is the God of all of life, there is nothing that does not belong to him, and everything that He created is good. All has been bent by the fall, but when He emptied Himself to take on the flesh of a man and live as one of us, He changed the rules, and raised His creation to a higher level of holiness. We eat bread and drink wine, in part because God is telling us that He meets us in such things. It is not all wooo wooo spirit this and ooo oooh spirit that. He made us to be the place where spirit and matter meet in an ineffable mystical union. He perfected that union by partaking in it, and He invites us, even commands us, to partake in it with Him.

So we come together to hear his call, and when we leave, what we do for the next 6 days is our response. Our rising up and our lying down, our eating and drinking, our labor and our play, it is all an offering to Him. It is all of it our worshipful response to His loving call. Be aware that every act on any day is an extension of our worship on Sunday.

Let us then approach him with joy, and solemnity, with boldness and humility, for He is both great and kind and his love knows no end.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good stuff. I want to commend yet another book to you- "The Lord's Service" by Jeff Meyers. It is a Canon Press book and I have found some good stuff there.
He is risen!...

Ron J.

PS. I have begun to get a blog of my own going. I will let you know when and where.