Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FW: Contrasts to Convention Worship

One perspective on worship at the LCMS convention…


Feed: Confessional's Bytes
Posted on: Friday, July 16, 2010 11:27 AM
Author: Jim Pierce
Subject: CC: Contrasts to Convention Worship


During the course of discussion in a thread over at Brothers of John the Steadfast dealing with worship, I made the following comments that, as one person wrote responding to my points "I believe that this point bears repeating" and I couldn't agree more. So here it is.

"We cheerfully maintain the old traditions made in the Church for the sake of usefulness and peace. We interpret them in a more moderate way and reject the opinion that holds they justify. Our enemies falsely accuse us of setting aside good ordinances and Church discipline. We can truly declare that the public form of the churches is more fitting with us than with the adversaries. If any one will consider it in the right way, we conform to the canons more closely than the adversaries. Among the adversaries, unwilling celebrants, and those hired for pay, and very frequently only for pay, celebrate the Masses. They sing psalms, not that they may learn or pray, but for the sake of the service (as though this work were a service) or, at least, for the sake of reward. Among us many use the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day. They do so after they have been first instructed, examined, and absolved. The children sing psalms in order that they may learn. The people also sing so that they may either learn or pray." —Apology XV, 38-41, Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord

What I find interesting in the above reading from our confession is that music is meant to teach us doctrine. The songs are sung so that we may learn or pray. Today's "contemporary worship" tunes are not catechetical, they do not teach but instead are a form of entertainment. Music in many evangelical circles is used to set the tone of a worship service. The music is "mood music" and the "mood" to be set is our giving an excellent sacrifice of praise to a sovereign who, upon seeing our "sacrifice", will have mercy upon us and bless us. Such thinking is antithetical to Scriptural Lutheran worship where praise is in response to what God is giving us: the forgiveness of sins.

What I am writing about "contemporary worship" is no overstatement. The lyrics of CW songs tend to be "me" centered, focusing on something "I" do for God. "I" drives all the verbs in most of these songs. For example, take the lyrics of the following "praise song" which was sung at the LCMS convention (as reported by Scott Diekmann):

I will give you all my worship
I will give you all my praise
You alone, I long to worship
You alone, are worthy of my praise

How nice of "me" to give God something, as if anything I could give Him is better than a pile of stinking dead worms. No, the fact of the matter is that I am a sinner begging at the table of God and it is HE WHO IS GIVING while I receive His free gifts. The praise that comes off my lips after I receive His gifts are the words of a man who deserves death and eternal damnation. Indeed, I have nothing to give to the Lord, I am empty, hungry, thirsty, and He feeds me and fills me. My paltry thanks in response to the forgiveness of sins He freely gives to me is the thanks of a slave to his master. When I thank and praise God in response to His gifts, I do so from what He has given me. The lyrics of the "praise song" quoted from above, comes across as if I am giving God something that isn't already His, so pat me on the back for my good deed of worship.

Most contemporary worship songs are of the same stripe as that above. They are anthropocentric and push Christ to the background where He is relegated the task of "divine cheerleader" there to help us pull ourselves across the finish line one day.

My apologies if this sounds like a rant, but I have "been there and done that" and know the utter despair that arises from the theology of glory this stuff comes out of. It is a place I never want to go again.

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