Sunday, April 19, 2015

City Notes 22 | Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of God Part 1 of 3

Emmaus City Worcester MA Worship Story of God Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

City Notes 22: Books in 30 minutes or less

City Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous City Notes books:

Emmaus City Worcester MA Worship Story of God Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Multi-ethnic Network of Missional CommunitiesAs Emmaus City posts have been recently focused on the Story of God through the lens of Jesus, Messiah, Covenants, Holiness, Multi-Ethnicity, and more, we have also been looking at how the church sings this song through the lens of Mike Cosper's Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of God with our associate director of liturgy arts. Cosper's book is wonderful in reflecting on the Scriptures, church history, and our personal and congregational engagement with words, music, people, experience, meditation, and proclamation in relation to how the Spirit of God moves us in mind, heart, and body to praise Jesus. Cosper not only shares why we worship, but he also provides examples of how we worship in song together through liturgies that capture the story of God's movement from Creation (Call to Worship, Adoration and Praise) to Fall (Confession, Lament) to Redemption (Words of Assurance, Peace, Giving, Prayer, Sermon) to Consummation (Lord's Supper, Sending, Benediction).

Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper Review of Quotes | City Notes 22: Part 1 of 3


"The gospel is actually all about worship, once broken by sin, now restored in Jesus. Worship, too, is all about the gospel, rehearsing the story and allowing it to shape the lives of the worshiping church. ... We need to revisit creation, fall, and redemption with an eye toward how worship shifts and changes from Eden, to the wilderness ... to Jesus. ... worship is both an all-of-life, 'scattered' reality and a uniquely communal, 'gathered' reality. ... (and) Jesus is our one true worship leader.– pgs. 19, 21  

Chapter 1 | The Song of Eden 

The gospel is a story about worship. It begins with promise and serenity, spins wildly and terribly off course, and is rescued in the most unexpected and surprising way possible. (We) want to tell this story. ... Worship was God's idea as he initiated creation. Just when it looked as though sin had corrupted worship beyond repair, he rescued it by sending his Son and making a way through him to worship the Father again. The Son, in turn, sent his Spirit, who awakened people like you and me and put a song in our hearts that we'll be singing with every breath from here to eternity.” – pgs. 25-26

“Before the world began, there was love. It flowed – perfect, complete, and constant – between the three persons of the Trinity. This love was an unending appreciation, a perpetual beholding and rejoicing in the goodness and perfection of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ... It was, and is, a totally self-sufficient community of love and glory. At its heart, worship is rooted in this love. The Trinitarian community is, in a sense, perpetually beholding one another with love and amazement. We're able to peek through the windows on that love in the Bible, where we see the Son worship the Father, the Father adore and exalt the Son, and the Spirit being both celebrated and celebrating the others. The word worship comes from the Old English weorthscipe, which combines two words meaning 'ascribe worth.' The Trinity can be said to be always at worship because the three persons of the Godhead perfectly behold the worth and wonder of one another ... God's own self-adoration is nothing like ours. Unlike our own self-congratulatory spirit, God's view of himself is unmistaken and unexaggerated. As hymn writer Fredrick Lehman said: 'Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade, to write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.' God's glory and perfection are inexhaustible. We can't say enough about how glorious he truly is. The greatest gift he can give us is a revelation of himself. Exalting anything else would be cruel. It's out of the overflow of this endless love that God created the world. The whole Trinity is present at creation's dawn as the Father speaks, the Son – who is the Word – carries out the creative work, and the Spirit fills the creation with heavenly presence (Genesis 1:1-3). ... the universe is the work of immeasurable brilliance, crafted with love and grace, and inhabited by the presence of the Creator, whose Word made the world and whose world sings of his glory, from the smallest blade of grace to the aurora borealis. Creation was made out of the overflow of God's own effusive and loving being, a reflection of the way the persons of the Trinity live in harmony, love, and community with one another.” – pgs. 26-27, 29

"Adam and Eve were the crown of creation, blessed with an image and breath given straight from the Creator, and tasked with carrying on the creative work on a scale suited to their smallness: subduing the earth and ruling over it (Genesis 1:28). God placed them in a garden called Eden, and the call to subdue the earth was an invitation to expand the garden out into the world around them. Adam and Eve were king and queen in a world ruled and inhabited by God, who reigned as King over them all. The garden itself was more than an agricultural project. It was a meeting place for God and man, where God 'walked among humanity (Genesis 3:8). It was the first temple, the first sacred space, set apart from creation for the intersection of heaven and earth. Adam was, in a sense, the priest over all creation, appointed by God to oversee it, steward it, and represent it before him." – pgs. 29-30

"Adam wasn't leading worship services or doing ritualistic things to earn God's approval. There was no need; each moment of his life was a pleasing offering to God. Theologian John Witvliet defines worship as 'the celebrative response to what God has done, is doing, and promises to do.' For Adam and Eve, all of life in Eden was an unbroken, loving response to God's work as their Creator, caretaker, and Lord. ... N.T. Wright summarizes this nicely when he says of creation, 'We see a large, slowly developing story: of the good creator God making a wonderful world, and putting a human in charge of it to rule it wisely and to gather up its grateful praise.' ... There are no separated-out worship services; there is only the glorious and glorifying life lived with and unto God. If someone were to ask Adam, 'When do you worship God?' he might reply, 'When do we not!' Worship isn't something other, external, compartmentalized, or confined. It is life with God, lived unto God for his glory and our pleasure.– pgs. 30-31 

Chapter 2 | Worship in the Wilderness 

As Harold Best describes it, we're continuously outpouring, perpetually worshiping something: 'At this very moment, and for as long as this world endures, everybody inhabiting it is bowing down and serving something or someone  an artifact, a person, an institution, an idea, a spirit, a God through Christ.' It's part of our hardwired, image-bearing heritage. Our lives are meant to inspire with (or inhale) the breath of God, the glory of his presence, the brilliance and beauty of his creation, and to expire (or exhale) an echo of wonder – an 'amen.' It should all be a single song, sung in harmony with the day-and-night heartbeat of creation. But under the blinding pain of the curse, the song is shattered, and a thousand other songs begin to sound across the wilderness. Now, our outpouring is matched by an inner shame and desperation, and as we scan the stormy horizons outside of Eden, we look helplessly for a cure to our brokenness in the wilds that surround us. The beauty that was meant to inspire becomes the center of our hopes. ... Just as Adam ceaselessly worshiped God in Eden, in the wild his worship continues unabated, but disconnected from the God who made him. Praise still pours forth, though missing its proper home.” – pgs. 35-36

"Worship isn't only something done consciously in songs, prayers, and spiritual disciplines. Just as Adam's work in the garden celebrated and held up the glory of the Creator, his work in the wilderness is an outpouring toward his ultimate hopes. And so is yours and mine. The way we live our lives reveals our idols. We religiously slave away at work, seeking affirmation from achievement, status, and money. We pine night and day for love, thinking that the right person would, as the cliche goes, 'complete' us. We obsess over our children, thinking that our kids' future success will provide validation for which we hope. ... In the aftermath of Eden, humanity is burdened with a deep sense of brokenness and vulnerability, and our entertainments and addictions all hold out the promise of deliverance. If only we were rich, if we were beautiful, if we were powerful, if we were high, if we were successful, if we were young, if we were victorious – if only, we think, we were relieved from the burden of shame that chased our parents into the wilderness. So our worship pours out, looking for its rightful home, hoping that as we devote our lives to a cause or an ideal, to status or beauty, we will find a cure for the emptiness that rings so cavernously within us.” – pg. 37, 39

Chapter 3 | The Song of Israel

“(God's people) are a family of lushes and adulterers, liars and lunatics, chasing voices in the wilderness, waging war and risking all for God's promise whispered under the stars to Abraham. When we hear ... 'the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,' we tend to imagine stalwart, bearded saints, whose character and faithfulness make them worthy of mention. But in fact, they are broken ne'er-do-wells whose significance goes to highlight that God is the one who remains faithful through thick and thin. He makes and keeps his promises, and our forefathers believe through tears and darkness. (Their song) is a song born of weeping, of too much drink, of long suffering, of hopeless sojourns and agonizing compromise. It's not a song of affluence and triumph. It's not the song of the saintly, sung in white robes and accompanied by choirs of angels and pitch-perfect orchestration. It sounds far more like drunken sailors, wailing a hazy lament in a land far from home, who look to the stars and feel the haunting presence of the promise, clinging to that twilit hope in spite of their circumstances, in spite of the curse, in spite of themselves.” – pgs. 45-46 

"The God of Israel is a God who shows up, shows his power over the other gods, crushes his enemies, and rescues his people. He isn't far off. He's right in front of them, day and night, in a billowing smoke and steam and a bright burning column of fire. This God dwells with his people. Israel's journey through the desert and toward the land God promised to Abraham is a tumultuous as they wrestle with faith and doubt, victory and defeat. In the midst of it, God reveals further what it means for him is to dwell with his people: an elaborate system of sacrifices, priests, tabernacles, and holy places." – pg. 48

"Theologian Marva Dawn has pointed out that the introduction of the law begins with grace. God intervenes and redeems first, then calls his people to respond to their rescue by living the new identity he's given them. As if to say, 'You were once slaves, but I rescued you and defeated your captors, and I'm now calling you to be a kingdom of priests,' God reveals himself and invites Israel to be his special people. Notice as well that God's mission isn't merely to establish a holy huddle with Israel, but is also through Israel to bless the whole world. It's a throwback to the garden with a similar mandate – be fruitful and multiply, be priests to the nations. Adam was to have given birth to a kingdom of priests, ruling over and subduing the whole earth, joining up creation's declarations of praise into a unified song to the Creator. Israel has the same charge. They are to be a beacon of worship in the wilderness, a voice of protest to the idolatry of the nations. And so begins the revelation of the law. For much of what follows, God defines the terms of their relationship, but it's all prefaced by the Passover and the exodus; all of God's demands come in the light of what God has done to rescue Israel. He will live in their midst, and they will truly be a beacon to the world because of it. In the years that follow, as Israel struggles to keep the law, God continues to call them back to himself and continues to roll out his plan.– pg. 51

"In Exodus 25, God beings giving instructions on the construction of his dwelling place – the tabernacle. Generations later, King David will build a temple to house this dwelling place, but the purpose is essentially the same: God will have a house of his own in the middle of the ordinary lives of his people. It is a house built for a king. God tells Moses to take a collection from the people – not out of obligation, notice, but 'from every man whose heart moves him' (Exodus 25:2). God wants the gifts to flow from cheerful, responsive hearts of worship (see also 2 Corinthians 9:7). ... While many world religions worship gods in temples, Israel's claim was unique. Theirs wasn't simply a consecrated center for worship; it was a meeting place where the Lord of the creation actually met face-to-face with humans. G.K. Beale points out that much of the language that describes the temple echoes descriptions of life in the garden. The continuity is no accident: These two places serve the same purpose. The garden was meant to be a the hub of worship, a meeting place wherein the goodness of creation was gathered up and offered to God in the perfect lives of Adam and Eve. Outside the garden was the wilderness, an unkempt place that Adam and his children would ultimately subdue and fill, incorporating it all in the worshiping life of Eden. The temple is a redemptive step toward restoring all that was lost when Adam and Eve fell. Here, God will meet again with his people (under profoundly different conditions), and they'll serve as a beacon to the nations, a ringing invitation for the broken world to return to worshiping its Maker. Rather than subduing and filling the uninhabited wilderness of a perfect world, Israel is charged with subduing the populated wilderness of a fallen world, where Satan and the sons of men collude in a project of death and decay. Through Israel, God means to turn back that project and shine light into the darkness of the world, and that light's bright epicenter is the temple.– pgs. 52-53

"Terror has a strong grip on our imaginations, and most of us would probably prefer to leave it disassociated from the loving, comforting God we've come to expect. A terrible God is anathema to us because we've lost sight of the God of Israel, who we're told in Scripture is a consuming fire. His descent onto Mount Sinai to reveal the law to Moses was life-threatening to the bystanders (Exodus 19:16, 18, 21). Fire, smoke, thunder, and death accompany the presence of God. This is the price of sin for a fallen world, where once God could dwell in glory and we could dwell in safety. Now his holiness blazes in our sin-stained atmosphere, a scorching warning to those who would dare go near him apart from some measure of protection. ... the temple itself is a means of God's immense grace. By inhabiting a temple behind layers of curtains, high walls, and levels of protection, God shields his people from the unbearable, fiery reaction of sin's exposure to holiness. Even after the temple is established, not just anyone can march behind the curtains. ... Fortunately, God makes plans that eliminate this debate in Exodus 28-29, inaugurating the priesthood with Aaron and his sons. These men will be the mediators between God and men, a set-apart class of religious men who care for the temple and carry out the religious work of making offerings on behalf of the people. Israel will gather at the temple, and the priests will facilitate their worship, making the sacrifices, passing through the curtains and standing before God's presence, and returning to the people to offer assurance that God has heard their prayers and forgiven their sins. Just as Adam stood as the chief representative of creation before God, the priests represent God's people, and their work gathers up Israel's praise in one voice, offering it in an acceptable way." – pgs. 53-54

"It's beautiful to see how King David, in the throes of guilt and repentance, acknowledges that this whole system is God's way of providing for us. Though the actions of Israel's praise are all carried out by human hands and mediators, David, in great prayer of confession in Psalm 51, nonetheless cries out to God, 'Purge me with hyssop' (v. 7). He doesn't cry out to the priest. He knows that God must be the one to wash him clean." – pg. 55

"Our God is likened to a refining fire – a raging inferno that burns away impurity and leaves only what is purified and perfect (Malachi 3:2-3). We misunderstand the wrath of God if we think it's only emotional rage, like an angry, frustrated parent. It's not; it's a rage made of a pure, perfect, and holy hatred of sin and evil. On the flip side, it's a rage built upon the deepest love of what is good, pure, and perfect. Such wisdom and love can only respond with disgust at evil's destructive grip on the good. And just as we underestimate God's holiness, we underestimate how deeply sinful we are. We think of ourselves as good enough, smart enough, and likable enough to deserve forgiveness from God. ... If we truly understand how holy God is, we'll see that all of the actions of the temple weren't about protecting the people from the overwhelming holiness of God. The priesthood was established not as ranks of exclusivity – as if God were trying to keep us away from him – but as the best means for providing some kind of access to him. And the sacrifices weren't the demands of an egotistical tyrant but the necessary demands of sin, horrifying evidence of how far we've fallen from the love-filled community of Eden. They were God's way of redeeming people from a world so sin-sick that his presence in our midst resulted in earthquakes and storms of billowing smoke and flame. ... The Old Testament is the story of God rescuing Israel and calling them back to repentance again and again. They fail to keep their promises over and over, but God continually shows up, calls them back, and provides a way for them to be forgiven, keeping the promises he made to Abraham ... – pgs. 57-58

Chapter 4 | The Song of Jesus

"As Israel's failures mount up, voices being calling from the desert, rumors from fiery vagabonds in the wasteland, hinting at a chosen One, a suffering servant who will carry on our guilt on his shoulders, whose body will be a gateway through which the Spirit of God makes his way into men's hearts both great and small. ... Though creation's first daughter failed to remember her God, her God never fails to remember her. He made a promise to her, and as the history unfolds, he brings about its most pivotal event through the virginal womb of one of her daughters. Mary, like the generations before her, is drawn by God into participation in the grand narrative of redemption. The wonder of her pregnancy is a testimony not to her own perfections, but to the God who keeps his promise. ... the difference between Jesus and Israel is that Jesus has never forgotten God's word. He has never forgotten the promise. He was there when God said to Eve, 'he will strike his heel,' and he knows that bearing Satan's heel strike is the only hope of redeeming his people once and for all. So he marches to the cross, bearing the shame and scorn of Jerusalem and the whole world, despised and rejected, a worm and not a man. The sun turns black, the earth shakes, and the Son of God, who holds the universe together, through whom everything was made, gives up his spirit. He dies. The King of Glory dies. ... The suffering servant becomes a worship leader, inviting the world to come and worship the God who has rescued (them).– pgs. 61-63, 65 

" ... Jesus offers himself as a substitute for us, taking upon himself the deadly wrath we deserve. In the aftermath, we're invited to draw near to God as never before. 'Therefore, brothers and sisters, 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 high 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' (Hebrews 10:19-22). ... Jesus ascends to heaven to complete his work in transforming worship, standing in the presence of God as our perfect Priest. The author of Hebrews tells us that the former generations of priests did their work imperfectly. They themselves were imperfect (Hebrews 7:27), and they were destined to die, unable to escape the grip of the curse (Hebrews 7:23). But Jesus is sinless and conquers death. 'Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them' (Hebrews 7:25). Other priests did their work with limited success, but Jesus is 'able to save to the uttermost.' He can finish what he starts in rescuing us. Don't miss the significance of that last phrase: 'he always lives to make intercession.' Our Priest – Jesus, who is God himself – intercedes for us. He prays for you, and he does so with a perfect and compassionate understanding of our frailty and weakness (Hebrews 4:14-16). In Christ, we are never alone, never misunderstood, never without an ally and a friend. The omniscient One who made the universe looks upon you with empathy and love and prays to the Father on your behalf. He prays for you and with you, and he invites you to join him as he worships the Father (Hebrews 8:1-2). There at God's right hand, Jesus is serving as a 'minister in the holy places.' The language used here indicates that Jesus is leading a cosmic worship service, into which all who follow him are invited to participate. This means that for every Christian, at all times and in all places, there has only ever been one Worship Leader, one who is worthy to enter that sacred space and able to endure the wrath of God in our places, making us able to 'boldly enter in' with and through him. The songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the faith we confess – all of it is an echo and an amen to the perfect worship offered to God by his Son.– pgs. 68-69
"The harmony of creation, the participation of God's creatures in the Trinity's glory-sharing life, is made anew because of Jesus. The Holy Spirit indwells the hearts of believers, who are led in worship by their High Priest and Mediator, Jesus, who reveals the Father to the church and represents the church to the Father. We worship the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Spirit. Worship is always and only participation in the life and work of our Trinitarian God. The Spirit's indwelling presence makes the final transformation of worship complete. Now, once again, God's children can journey out to the corners of the world knowing that God is with them. 'Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?' (1 Corinthians 6:19). The relocation of the temple to Jesus expands, by the outpouring of the Spirit, to include the hearts of men and women. By the power of the Spirit, we're 'in Christ' (Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30), Christ is 'in us' (Romans 8:10; Galatians 4:19), and our life is 'hidden with Christ in God' (Colossians 3:3). Our life is a dwelling place for God. ... For the church, then, worship is participation in Jesus's own worship of the Father by the power of the Spirit. It's initiated by the Spirit's prompting made possible by the Son's work, and all about the Trinity's glory. We're invited as participants and witnesses to that glory, and it's a glory that transforms us (2 Corinthians 3:18). ... It's just like creation, wherein God made all things and they glorify him by the nature of their existence and participation in his work. Once again, the redeemed are by their very nature glorifying and worshiping God. This is why Paul calls us 'living sacrifices' (Romans 12:1) and God's poiema, a word translated 'workmanship' and related to our word poem.  It indicates that in Christ, God has made us beautiful once again; our entire lives are an acceptable offering of worship, continually transforming, growing in our glorious reflection of his own nature. ... In Christ, the song comes to a triumphal completion. Like the beautiful movement of Psalm 22, the longing of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the weary blues of the wilderness, and the tear-filled lament of the exiles find themselves resolving into a glorious celebration hymn in the life, work, and song of Jesus. That's the story of worship: God creates, sin corrupts, but Christ redeems. And all of us get to sing along.– pgs. 69-72

Next post: Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells the Story of God Part 2 of 3 

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