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God is Here: Worship in a Wireless World

ALCM-Valpo13“What is the future of worship when increasing numbers struggle with organized religion, seek individual spiritual practices apart from community, and spend hours in front of screens?  Recent studies show that more and more people identify as none when asked to name their religious affiliation.  Yet we who gather in worship each Sunday proclaim that God is present in word, water, bread, wine, and most particularly, in the gathered community.

“How will our worshiping assemblies be renewed and revitalized in an age of change and doubt?  What are some of the challenges and opportunities before us in light of graying congregations, and young adults finding community and identity through Facebook, Twitter, and countless online sites?”

The above introduction on a post card for an upcoming conference, “God is Here,” to be held June 30-July 3, 2013 on the campus of Valparaiso University seems to suggest that congregational worship may need to change in order to “keep up” with the times.  If so, this is an age-old plea.  It is true that times are changing, but what kind of changes should congregations undergo to remain faithful to our Lord and His Word?

Much of the time, it appears that God’s Word is not the director of how Christian worship should be.  Rather, it is the culture which often seems to direct how the body of Christ should function, how we should worship, what we should say, and how we should say it.

This is not to say that we, as members of Christ’s body, do not need to repent of our selfishness, our self-centered behavior, and our “holier than thou” attitudes.  We do.  Yet such repentance does not entail a change in worship and liturgy, if such is faithful to the Lord’s Word, even if such faithfulness means that society and culture will be turned off by it.

Consider Christ, who many rejected (and still do) because of what He said (and not due to the way in which He said it).  So often we pay more attention to presentation than to content.  And I’ll admit that this is much easier.  Nevertheless, godly worship is not what I determine it to be, but what God determines it to be.

So what if the world, society, and culture don’t get it!  They won’t, because they are not of Christ, and Christian worship has Christ as the center.  This does not mean that we should go out of our way to offend nonChristians by what we do or how we do it.  Not at all!  Rather should we love them all the more, and look to Christ’s Word for help and comfort, praying for God’s Name to be hallowed, His kingdom to come, and His will to be done, even among us (Luther’s Small Catechism).

Believing in Christ, holding to God’s Word, and worshiping and living accordingly, we, as God’s people, have nothing to be ashamed of.  We confess our sins, yes indeed, yet we more boldly confess Christ.

The future of Christian worship is not in doubt, as long as the worship is truly Christ-centered, and not man centered.  Where Christian worship becomes man-centered (me-centered) it ceases to be Christian.  If God is truly present in Word (Absolution, Liturgy, preaching), water (Holy Baptism), and bread and wine (Holy Communion) in the Divine Service, the future of Christian Worship looks good, very good (Genesis 1:31).  Even with the world changing as it is, God continues creating, sustaining, and strengthening faith through these very means.  Here, too, does our Lord renew and revitalize His people “in an age of change and doubt.”

I pray that the focus of the “God is Here” conference will be on the very Word of our Lord (which does not change), rather than on the changing society and culture….But I have my doubts.

Speakers include:

Elizabeth Drescher: Religious studies and pastoral ministries programs @ Santa Clara University

Craig Mueller: Pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church-Chicago

Martin Jean: Professor of Organ and Director of the Institute of Sacred Music @ Yale University

Benjamin M. Stewart: Gordon A. Braatz Assistant Professor of Worship and Dean of Augustana Chapel @ Lutheran School of Theology-Chicago

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Music & Theology-Jewel’s “Intuition”

Reading the words of a song, even analyzing it for its content, is a good thing to do.  However, it might be a heavy dose of reality, a wake up call of sorts.  Many a popular song has moving melodies, but the words greatly lack genuine substance, let alone the truth, and often contain many a falsehood.

 

Take for example Jewel’s, “Intuition” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rraYK1QgMn0).  I like the melody, though I might here be illiterate when it comes to ‘good’ music in general.  I’m of the populists in this area.

But when it comes to theology, this is a different story.  I admit that I often gloss over the words of the songs that I listen to on the radio.  The music often drowns them out.  But I have to give this kind of practice of ‘not listening’ second thought.  Taking the words of songs for granted and even singing along with them may be more telling than not.

In “Intuition” by Jewel, she sings in part:

“…Follow your heart

Your intuition

It will lead you in the right direction

Let go of your mind

Your intuition is easy to find

Just follow your heart”

Granted, this is a ‘love’ song…but following your heart is a dangerous thing.  In reality, your heart does not “lead you in the right direction.”

Jesus says, for example, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man…” (Matthew 15:18-20).

From these words alone, we have reason not to follow our hearts, but the Word of God, and the Word alone.  “The Holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Even when it comes to love, the Word of the Lord is not deficient.  Led by our sinful hearts, we go by what we want in the moment and not by what God says.  It’s not always genuine love that we seek, but gratification.

We are to keep watch over our hearts, that our sinful desires not come to fruition, as St. Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

And in another place he says, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

Note also these words from St. James, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:13-18).

Rather than “follow your heart,” follow what the Lord says.  Hear the preached Word.  Deny yourself.  And hold fast to Christ.

Sing to the Lord!

St. Paul the Apostle writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). Christians sing to the Lord, praising and glorifying His blessed Name. Christ’s church confesses Him who died and rose again on the third day according to the Holy Scriptures. She proclaims His praises and in her song, sings His Word and doctrine.

For some bible references, both in the Old Testament and in the New, of selective words, please see the pdf.

Song,Singer,music,hymn.pdf

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