What is Worship? Part 2

One of the best images of what a worship service is meant to be comes from a familiar children’s movie. The Lion King provides a compelling image of what our worship services should look like. Just so that the image is fresh in our minds let us take a look at the specific scene.

Just as Jesus taught in parables this visual serves such a function. That being said it is important to note that each character of this parable does not end on themselves they point us toward something else. In this scene there are three crucial roles that are embodied in the typical worship service. Rafiki is the minister, Simba is the congregation, and Mufasa represents God.

“Remember!” is what Mufasa bellows out from the heavens. The call to remember is a crucial part of worship. Simba slugs into the service with a downtrodden heart, a guilt filled soul, and a directionless life. Simba tells Rafiki that Mufasa is dead and Rafiki retorts “nope wrong again, he’s alive!” With some puzzling twists and turns Rafiki leads Simba through a thicket; but at the end it all culminates with one word, REMEMBER. Rafiki like many ministers refuses to let Simba live in a lie that has distracted and discouraged Simba from his identity, call, and father. Rafiki brings Simba into the life changing reality that Mufasa, God, did not stay in the grave.

Worship is a call to remember our baptismal identity, God, and mission. Possibly a more formal way of putting this concept is that worship is covenant renewal. To show that this idea is not just from a childhood love of The Lion King, it will be helpful to look at a biblical example of covenant renewal, which has been highlighted by a great professor. Along the way it is necessary to talk about how this idea shapes our understanding of the different movements in worship.

It is in Joshua twenty-four that a biblical example of worship as covenant renewal is found.  In Joshua twenty-four we find a people that have battled to claim the Promised Land, a people perhaps disillusioned by the journey from Egypt to Elect. Understanding how Joshua twenty-four shapes worship will change the attitude of the congregation and enhance the formation of our beings during said worship.

A great professor illuminated that Joshua has five movements that inform us of worship. The first occurs in verse one, the gathering of the congregation: in today’s context this would be a call to worship. The text says that Joshua gathers the tribes but it would do us well to not lose sight of the fact that God calls Israel to himself; just like he did in their liberation from Egypt. John D. Witvliet writes “that worship’s divine encounter like faith and salvation is more like a gift we receive than an accomplishment we achieve.”[1] The next movement, is verse two, the “Thus says the Lord” movement, also known as proclamation. Then, in verse sixteen we get the peoples response, an acknowledgement of their remembered identity, God, and mission. The fourth movement is in verse twenty-six memorial a visible sign of their remembrance or renewal of covenant, we partake in the Lord’s Supper, a memorial of what Christ has done on the cross. Lastly, in verse twenty-eight there is the sending out of the people. This is the time of benediction for mission in between worship services.

What is done in any given worship service is ultimately about covenant renewal. We cannot haphazardly slug into worship with an attitude of doing the same “old” thing. That is to miss the beauty and the grandeur of worship. We gather knowing God will show up and move and if we are versed our Bibles we know how amazing that can be. We get the opportunity to do what God’s people have done since the first covenant was set up and what an honor it is to worship in the witness of the heroes of the faith. The congregation comes to remember because the world has made them forget and they go out in God’s power to make the world remember. We get to remember, far better is it hear the Spirit whisper “remember” than to continue on forgetting.

[1] John D. Witvliet Worship Seeking Understanding p. 276

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