For the last three years I have been dancing in the wonder of the Trinity and the role of each Person of the Godhead in worship. According to James Torrance (book link to the left) Trinitarian worship is when we, the Church, "participate by the Spirit in the incarnate Son's communion with the Father." Understanding this has completely changed the way I lead worship. I must warn you now, though, that this post is more theological than practical, and it's kind of hard to put into words, so hang with me.

Torrance differentiates Trinitarian worship with two other kinds of worship. First, unitarian worship, as in the worship of theologically liberal "Christians" who view God as unknowable and Christ's relationship with the Father as unique from their own. In other words, Jesus is not divine, but rather His relationship with the Father is just like any other man's. Unitarianism is also the worship of Judaism and Islam, religions with no need for a mediator between God and man. Second, Torrance distinguishes Trinitarian worship from experiential worship, as in the worship of Christians who seek a mere "touch" or "experience" from God, but without a true understanding of their own roles and the roles of the Father, Son, and Spirit in worship.

Well, for quite some time I have been so focused on the upward movement of Trinitarian worship - the Spirit gathers us up into Christ's communion with the Father - that I have taken my eyes off of the equally important downward movement of this continuing story, which occurs before anything upward could ever be offered from my part. I'm talking about the Incarnation - (now picture this; diagram it if you must, starting with the Father at the top) the Father loves us so much that he comes down to us through His Son and touches us by the Holy Spirit both individually and corporately. This must happen first. Worship begins and ends with God's love, and we get to glorify Him and enjoy Him because of His initiation and pursuit of us.

This downward movement, this perpetual incarnation, is very experiential. However, it is a much different kind of experience than that of a mere emotionally-triggered one, detached from the Word of God and the activity of Triune love. Much of my past was rooted in this kind of hyped-up, drummed-up emotionalism disconnected from the knowledge of God as He is revealed in Scripture and a right view of my sinful condition. In fact, in settings of worship, there was very little interaction with the Bible at all, nor any real acknowledgment of sin. Instead, much time was spent singing and crying and doing whatever was necessary to get "changed" in the "presence of God" by the "power of the Holy Ghost."

Not only was my worship detached experientialism, but due to the lack of Biblical exposition and theology of the true God my worship was unitarian. Because I didn't understand the cross - what God accomplished through His Son, which can only be revealed through the Holy Scriptures - I thought I had a direct line to God and that it was ultimately up to me to prove myself, my offering of worship, as pleasing to Him. What "revelation" I did receive was whatever God "spoke" to me in the heat of the emotional moment. I didn't need Christ, the mediating Word, in order to get to God. All I needed what an emotional encounter with the god of my imagination.

Okay, heavy stuff, I know. My point is this: I have reacted so strongly, and perhaps bitterly, against my past, that I have discounted anything experiential as false. This is wrong. True worship is completely Trinitarian and extremely experiential. I experience the love of God the Father, as He displays it for me through the mediating sacrifice of God the Son on the cross, and as They send it to me through the loving, comforting, empowering touch of God the Holy Spirit, enabling me to personally and together with the Church express my love for Him, the Triune God, in return.

The Gospel in its purest form is our Triune God proclaiming, enacting, singing, and dancing His love over us; it is the Father's embrace through the outstretched arms of Jesus Christ on the cross extended to us in the possessing clench of the Holy Spirit (downward). It is only when we partake of this Triune love that we can worship Him in response, proclaiming, enacting, singing, and dancing this Gospel of love to Him (upward) and to others (outward). This activity is as experiential and as personal as it gets, and, as an aside, I have no problem singing intimate songs of friendship and love for God when they are located in the truth of who I am (a sinner), who God truly is (the Redeemer), and a true understanding of the Gospel.

Do you believe this? Do you think it is necessary for every worshiper of God to have this experienced understanding in the core of their being? I fear that this Gospel of Triune love, this foundational belief so vigorously defended by the Fathers and so eloquently proclaimed in the great hymns of the Church, has escaped, or has never entered, the hearts and minds of many in the Contemporary Church and wider church-goers today. Have we worshipers ever moved on to greater things than the Law of Moses and the seeking of signs and wonders? Have we with our unitarian and experientialist worship "spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace" (Heb. 10:29)? Hey, I'm just asking.

I leave you with the words that precede this judgment from the writer of Hebrews, and I ask, do we and those we worship with truly, deeply understand that the only way to receive God's love (downward) and to love Him back (upward) is through the shed blood of His Son and the power of the Holy Spirit?

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google
  • Furl
  • Reddit
  • Spurl
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati