Excerpt from Celebration of Discipline

To wor­ship is to expe­ri­ence Real­i­ty, to touch Life. It is to know, to feel, to expe­ri­ence the res­ur­rect­ed Christ in the midst of the gath­ered com­mu­ni­ty. It is a break­ing into the Shek­inah of God, or bet­ter yet, being invad­ed by the Shek­inah of God.1

God is active­ly seek­ing wor­shipers. Jesus declares, The true wor­shipers will wor­ship the Father in spir­it and truth, for such the Father seeks to wor­ship him” (John 4: 23, [ital­ics added]). It is God who seeks, draws, per­suades. Wor­ship is the human response to the divine ini­tia­tive. In Gen­e­sis God walked in the gar­den, seek­ing out Adam and Eve. In the cru­ci­fix­ion Jesus drew men and women to him­self (John 12: 32). Scrip­ture is replete with exam­ples of God’s efforts to ini­ti­ate, restore, and main­tain fel­low­ship with his chil­dren. God is like the father of the prodi­gal who upon see­ing his son a long way off, rushed to wel­come him home. 

Wor­ship is our response to the over­tures of love from the heart of the Father. Its cen­tral real­i­ty is found in spir­it and truth.” It is kin­dled with­in us only when the Spir­it of God touch­es our human spir­it. Forms and rit­u­als do not pro­duce wor­ship, nor does the dis­use of forms and rit­u­als. We can use all the right tech­niques and meth­ods, we can have the best pos­si­ble litur­gy, but we have not wor­shiped the Lord until Spir­it touch­es spir­it. The words of the cho­rus, Set my spir­it free that I may wor­ship Thee,” reveal the basis of wor­ship. Until God touch­es and frees our spir­it we can­not enter this realm. Singing, pray­ing, prais­ing all may lead to wor­ship, but wor­ship is more than any of them. Our spir­it must be ignit­ed by the divine fire. 

As a result, we need not be over­ly con­cerned with the ques­tion of a cor­rect form for wor­ship. The issue of high litur­gy or low litur­gy, this form or that form is periph­er­al rather than cen­tral. We are encour­aged in this per­cep­tion when we real­ize that nowhere does the New Tes­ta­ment pre­scribe a par­tic­u­lar form for wor­ship. In fact, what we find is a free­dom that is incred­i­ble for peo­ple with such deep roots in the syn­a­gogue litur­gi­cal sys­tem. They had the real­i­ty. When Spir­it touch­es spir­it the issue of forms is whol­ly secondary. 

To say that forms are sec­ondary is not to say that they are irrel­e­vant. As long as we are finite human beings we must have forms. We must have wine­skins” that will embody our expe­ri­ence of wor­ship. But the forms are not the wor­ship; they only lead us into the wor­ship. We are free in Christ to use what­ev­er forms will enhance our wor­ship, and if any form hin­ders us from expe­ri­enc­ing the liv­ing Christ— too bad for the form.

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Fos­ter, Richard J. Cel­e­bra­tion of Dis­ci­pline: The Path To Spir­i­tu­al Growth (pp. 158 – 159). Harper­Collins. Kin­dle Edition.

[1] Shek­inah” means the glo­ry or the radi­ance of God dwelling in the midst of his peo­ple. It denotes the imme­di­ate Pres­ence of God as opposed to a God who is abstract or aloof.