Gordon Graham on imagination in worship
The greatest poetry is an imaginative achievement, not a biographical report. It would be absurd to think, for instance, that Shakespeare had to experience all the jealousy, ambition, love, despair, remorse, paranoia, light heartedness, or grief that he powerfully depicts in the poetry of his plays. It is his astonishing, and seemingly unlimited power to give imaginative expression to these many states of mind without having experienced them, that constitutes his unsurpassed literary gift.
So too with religious poems and hymns. When ordinary worshippers sing some of the finest Christian hymns, for instance, the religious sentiments expressed often far exceed their own. They may also exceed the religious sentiments of those who wrote the hymns. Contrary to what is often supposed … this need not imply either insincerity or a lack of understanding. Religious worshippers set their sights on higher things, hoping to connect with something that transcends ordinary experience. Emotional elevation by means of hymns, poems, and prayers that imaginatively express ideals of feeling play an important part in this endeavor.
from Philosophy, Art and Religion: Understanding Faith and Creativity (Cambridge Univ Pr), 110-111.
James Torrance on scripture, worship and theology
I have long thought and taught that the right road into Christian theology is taken by reflecting on Christian worship in the light of the Bible. The Bible is supremely a manual of worship, but too often it has been treated, particularly in Protestantism, as a manual of ethics, of moral values, or religious ideas, or even of sound doctrine. When we see that the worship and mission of the church are the gift of participating through the Holy Spirt in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and the Son’s mission from the Father to the world, that the unique center of the Bible is Jesus Christ, “the apostle and hight priest whom we confess,” then the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation, the atonement, the ministry of the Spirit, Church and sacraments, our understanding of the kingdom, our anthropology and eschatology, all unfold from that center.
from Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, (IVP, 1996), 9.
I consider the following my first real venture in theology. Back in college a fellow student wrote an open letter in the school newspaper questioning the point of our mandatory chapel services. It seemed to me that he was speaking for more students than just himself, that this was a public conversation worth having, and that I stood in a position to contribute to that conversation. Here was my response.
“In a recent letter, third-year student Danny, with both courage and honesty, asked two questions which expressed his frustration with mandatory chapels: “Why is chapel mandatory and how is it beneficial to the students who don’t want to be there?” He contended that “forced gatherings cause resentment”; that chapel’s mandatory character “makes chapel worse for those who want to be there”; and that our speakers typically offer little more than “Sunday school lesson[s].” He also claimed that these wrongs compound, and result in the rusting — rather than the sharpening — of the metaphorical iron of our spiritual states. As an alternative, Danny would like to see the institution of a more consumer-sensitive chapel. He seems to feel such a model would better cater to the student body — or at least let those of us who would rather not attend off the hook.
“Though I realize there are students who share Danny’s grievances, I don’t. But it’s really Danny’s alternative model for chapel that I find most troubling. For Danny would have us relativize our worship around a consumer-driven narrative, that is, around another gospel. In contrast, I would suggest that rather than adopt the agenda and prescriptions of a story which champions personal choice, we should instead, if only by our attendance, tell the story of the Son’s obedience in the Spirit to the Father. Maybe then at least God will still benefit from our mandatory chapels. God’s worthiness of worship, after all, is the principle reason we hold chapel. That’s the faith Westmont confesses. And that is why we students are required to attend chapel — so that we might, as a Christian college, more fully embody that confession. Either way, I thank you, Danny, for kicking off a discussion on one of our most important and worthwhile institutions here at Westmont.”
Minor alterations have been made to the text as it appears; the original is available HERE.
John Webster on worship
[something I get tempted to forget]
the accumulated wisdom of the Christian tradition is this: assembling and meeting together is basic to the rhythm of the life of faith. It is not an option, something which we can drop in and out of as the fancy takes us. It is what God requires, and it is what builds us up. Our culture very easily relegates religion to solitude; it tempts us to replace worship by spirituality, and to think that the life of faith is just self-cultivation, growing a more interesting me. And to that we Christian folk must politely and firmly say, quite simply, no. God is honored by obedience to his command; and his command is that — however unappealing it may be — we must give ourselves to the public praises of his people.
From The Grace of Truth, (Oil Lamp, 2011), 124-5
See also, Austin Farrer on boredom in church
Austin Farrer on boredom in church
Well, but if I go to church, I’ll be bored, and I shall scarcely pray. True enough, you’ll be bored; and I dare say your spiritual resources are very limited. You’ll be bored: but God will be publicly honored or — put it negatively — at least he won’t be publicly insulted: and you, for his honor, will have endured to be bored. And what will be the effect of your being bored? Don’t you see that the effect of it is to throw you back on God? Why are you bored? Where are your spiritual resources? This is to make you know — I must be born again: or rather, since you have been born again, in the fount of baptism — I must dig away the stony rubbish, and let out afresh the fountain of living waters, which God has opened there, that it might spring up to eternal life.
from The Essential Sermons, (SPCK, 1991), 162.