Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What is Worship?

Worship can be briefly defined as acknowledgment and adoration of the sovereign Creator God. In a larger sense, all of life is worship. We worship God by living our lives in service and obedience to Him.

To understand what worship means in a more narrow sense, I suggest we look to the Bible. Here we see spontaneous worship (Genesis 24:26, Joshua 5:14, Judges 7:15, Matthew 2:11, 14:33, John 9:38, etc.), prepared, or regular worship, private and public (Genesis 4:2-7, 22:1-18, I Samuel 15:10-25 etc.), and public, congregational worship, which is usually more liturgical (Leviticus 1-9, I Kings 8:54, II Chronicles 29:21-36, Luke 2:42-43, Revelation 7:11 etc.). This more “formal” worship can happen with one person reading their Bible and praying to God, or when “a few are gathered together” to worship and/or praise Him, but the “pinnacle” of worship is when a congregation, representing the Body of Christ comes together for formal worship. Historically, this public congregational worship has been based on the model for worship given by God to his people in Leviticus (a whole book in the Bible about worship!).

In Leviticus, we have the all the sacrifices described in detail along with the description of the tabernacle with all the goats’ skins, brass basins, altars of incense and other stuff that can look boring to us, but in this book we have God’s model for our worship of Him is spelled out in great detail to His people. What follows is a summary of the model given in Leviticus and a summary of how this model is reflected in New Covenant (or New Testament) worship.

Worship consists of a series of sacrifices in a particular order with certain meanings. The basic order of worship is given very succinctly in Leviticus 9:22. “Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” Worship begins with the sin offering because we must be made clean and holy before we can come to God to worship. We confess our sins, and God is faithful to forgive and make us holy. This is represented by the Kyrie or its equivalent in the historical Christian worship service.

The sin offering is followed by the ascension offering, or the whole burnt offering. In this offering, the worshiper, represented by his animal was “torn apart,” and put back together again as a sweet smelling smoke ascending to God. In New Covenant worship, we are ascending to the throne room of God to worship. After God forgives us, we respond with song as He lifts us up to worship Him. This section of the Mass is the most musically involved and includes the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Benedictus. We glorify God for His forgiveness of our sins (Gloria), profess our faith (Credo), join with the angels in heaven through the Sanctus and Benedictus. The teaching part of the service also happens here. We are “cut apart” by the Word (Sword of the Spirit), and put back together again as people better equipped to serve God.

The whole burnt offering, or ascension offering was accompanied by the grain offering (also called the tribute offering) where we bring God representation of our work. The Israelites offered grain that God had given them improved by grinding, baking, and covering it in oil and incense. Some of it was burnt as an offering to God, but most of it was kept for the priests (think pastors, musicians etc.) to eat. This is the tithe that supports the Church.

Liturgical worship climaxes with the peace offerings as we sit down to eat a meal with God. Part of the peace offering was burnt as an offering to God, part of it was given to the priests, but the majority of it was eaten by the worshiper and his family. When we take communion, we sit down to eat a meal with God. He feeds us from His table. We also remember His sacrifice for us, which is greater than any sacrifice that we offer to Him. He administers His Grace to us through the sacrament of communion. In the historical liturgy, the Eucharist was accompanied by the Angus Dei.

When we worship, we offer our praises and prayers to God, but in the end, God has given us so much more back. Worship can almost be seen as a sort of transaction (I know that sounds kind of bad). We offer our praises and prayer, and covenant to serve God better, and God forgives us our sins, teaches us from His Word, and lets us enter into the community of God through Communion.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What is music?
Many definitions of music have been put forward, but short and concise definitions seem to fall short. Music has been defined as “organized sound,” but that seems to encompass more than just music. The puffing of a steam engine, and the whine of a siren are both “organized sound” and while they may have some musical aspects, they are not real music. Some say that music is “emotion externalized” but so is a kiss or a punch in the nose.

Music has been defined as “the poetry of the air,” “the mediator between the spiritual and sensual life” (Beethoven), “the wine the fills the cup of silence” (Robert Fripp), “the universal language of mankind” (Longfellow), and “moonlight in the gloomy night of life” (Jean Richter). Some of these might be helpful, but they don’t really get at what music literally is. Martin Luther kind of sums it up when he says “The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them…” Music really defies definition.

One definition in the dictionary for music is “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” This does not sound as poetic or profound as some of the definitions above, but it is more specific and I find it more helpful. I would modify that and say music is a combination of pitch, rhythm, harmony, timbre and form.

Pitch makes up all melody and harmony and is present in all of what is commonly called music. Rhythm covers all the time element of music. Music is a performance art, and it cannot be music without time. Meter, tempo, and length of the music all fall under the rhythm category. Harmony is present in almost all music, and has been developed to very high degree in the West. Some monophonic music lacks harmony (it is still sort of present in the overtone series), but harmony is often still implied. Color, or timbre is what makes a guitar sound different than an oboe. Form is also present in all music whether it be in Sonata-Allegro form, or a simple AB folk song like Arkansas Traveler.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Since I'm thinking and writing about a lot of important musical issues right now for a couple of my classes at college, I thought I'd put together a blog to post some of thoughts.
Questions important to me right now include:
What is good music?
How do we know?
What is the purpose of music in the Church?
How do we best reach that goal?
What kind of music should be used in the Church?
How can the Church again become a former of culture and art?