Wrong Worship, Right Worship

Days of Vengeance, page 24-25

The failure to recognize the significance of Revelation for Christian worship has greatly impoverished many modern churches. To take only one example: How many sermons have been preached on Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me” – without recognizing the very obvious sacramental reference? Of course Jesus is speaking about the Lord’s Supper, inviting us to dine with Him; why didn’t we see it before? The reason has much to do with a puritanical notion of worship that comes, not from the Bible, but from pagan philosophers.

Dom Gregory Dix, in his massive study of Christian worship, hit it right on the head: Liturgical puritanism is not “Protestant”; it is not even Christian. It is, instead, “a general theory about worship, not specifically protestant nor indeed confined to Christians of any kind. It is the working theory upon which all Mohammedan worship is based. It was put as well as anybody by the Roman poet Persius or the pagan philosopher Seneca in the first century, and they are only elaborating a thesis from Greek philosophical authors going back to the seventh century B.C. Briefly, the puritan theory is that worship is a purely mental activity, to be exercised by a strictly psychological ‘attention’ to a subjective emotional or spiritual experience…. Over against this puritan theory of worship stands another – the ‘ceremonious’ conception of worship, whose foundation principle is that worship as such is not a purely intellectual and affective exercise, but one in which the whole man – body as well as soul, his aesthetic and volitional as well as his intellectual powers- must take full part. It regards worship as an ‘act’ just as much as an ‘experience.'” It is this “ceremonious” view of worship that is taught by the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Since all the action of Revelation is seen from the viewpoint of a worship service, this commentary will assume that the prophecy’s liturgical structure is basic to its proper interpretation.

I don’t talk about worship much on this blog: but Chilton has put some thought into it.

And, since every believing Christian is a priest – or, yes, priestess – every Christian should review Revelations as a guide for worship, especially collective worship.

Days of Vengeance

The lectionary nature of Revelation helps explain the wealth of liturgical material in the prophecy. Revelation is not, of course, a manual about how to “do” a worship service; rather, it is a worship service, a liturgy conducted in heaven as a model for those on earth (and incidentally instructing us that the Throneroom of God is the only proper vantage point for viewing the earthly conflict between the Seed of the Woman and the seed of the Serpent): “The worship of the Church has traditionally, quite consciously, been patterned after the divine and eternal realities revealed in [Revelation]’ The prayer of the Church and its mystical celebration are one with the prayer and celebration of the kingdom of heaven. Thus, in Church, with the angels and saints, through Christ the Word and the Lamb, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the faithful believers of the assembly of the saved offer perpetual adoration to God the Father Almighty.”

And yes, this is from a man who loathes the kind of temples we have chosen to raise up, boxes which are supposedly “uniquely holy” and where God can stay.

Out of our hair.

But that’s isn’t a game God is willing to play.

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.

I Corinthians 6:19-20, King James Version

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