Monday, May 7, 2012

Leaving with a Full Bag

On the April 19 Table Talk Radio show, Pastors Goeglein and Wolfmueller ran a song through the praise song cruncher by Matt Redman titled “The Heart of Worship.” I thought I’d add my two cents worth as well. For the sake of discussion, pasted below are the lyrics (without the repetition), as well as a quote from which explains how this song came to be.

When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart

I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath
The song dates back to the late 1990s, born from a period of apathy within Matt’s home church, Soul Survivor, in Watford, England. Despite the country’s overall contribution to the current worship revival, Redman’s congregation was struggling to find meaning in its musical outpouring at the time.

“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”

Matt says the question initially led to some embarrassing silence, but eventually people broke into a cappella songs and heartfelt prayers, encountering God in a fresh way.

“Before long, we reintroduced the musicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and He commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”
There’s certainly some good things to be said for this song and its genesis. The thought of taking a look at what’s happening in your worship service is always a great idea. Their conclusion that “worship is all about Jesus” is rock solid. Pastor Pilvachi’s question to his church family, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?” truly is a profound question. He’s right, in a sense, that we are to be both “producers” and “consumers” in worship. God gives to us His Word of promise in all sorts of ways in the Divine Service, and we respond in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. But looking at what’s being said up above, I’m not quite sure they’re totally on the right track.

The lyrics say “Longing just to bring something that's of worth….” Maybe he’s getting the cart before the horse. Luther talked about showing up with an empty bag, not a full bag. Worship always begins with God giving to us. Psalm 51:14 says “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.” Before we can sing, our sorrowful hearts must be forgiven. Where there is no repentance and forgiveness, there can be no true worship. And our response to God? Even that is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit, as verse 15 illustrates: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” As Article V 189 of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession explains, “we can offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest comfort, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to desire to receive the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness.”

This congregation’s doubts about their worship practices illustrate their misunderstanding of what worship is all about. If your worship is primarily something you do, something active rather than passive, you’ll never know if you’re doing enough, or doing it right. You’ll be searching your own heart rather than the Scriptures. When worship becomes primarily something that God does, we can rest in His promises, certain that we’re forgiven and righteous in His sight. Consider Hebrews 10:19-25:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
We can approach God in full confidence. He has forgiven us. He who promises is faithful! This assurance releases us from any burden of sin and self-consciousness, free to worship Him in spirit and truth. We no longer have to worry about whether or not our sacrifices are worthy. Christ makes them worthy. Then, we can pray, praise, and give thanks, glorifying God and leaving the nave with a full bag with which to serve our neighbor.

So sing away good Christians! Sing with joy in your heart! He is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

photo credit: Bill Gracey

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Distilled down to its essentials, this song and its genesis demonstrate nothing more that Saddleback worship philosophy.

On the other hand:
"Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling...."

Joe Strieter