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Worshiping the Triune God

A Study Guide to a Global Dialogue, Part 1 of 5

 

To help you smile as you read the words of “Worshiping the Triune God,” Reformed Worship has planned a series of articles that provide a framework for studying this new resource. We hope to entice you and your worship leadership team to become personally invested in the ongoing global conversation this document has begun, and to discover how your local Lord’s Day celebration intersects, informs, and impacts the worship, witness, and mission of brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe.

Every so often, a resource comes along that just makes you smile. If you have not yet taken the opportunity to read and study the new document entitled “Worshiping the Triune God: Receiving and Sharing Wisdom Across Continents and Centuries” (http://tinyurl.com/WorshipTriuneGod), get ready to smile! 

This inspiring document is written in the style of biblical Beatitudes and proverbs. For example:

Blessed are communities
in which hospitality
is practiced in both public worship and in personal lives,
where strangers and guests are welcomed and embraced, where the poor and marginalized, diseased and forsaken can find refuge under the shadow of God’s wings. (V. 5.3)

and

Wise is the congregation
that proclaims the Word of God
in ways that actively expose and resist
both the idols that we are tempted to worship instead of God
and also the idols of our distorted understandings of God. (II. 2.4)

While I’m usually the last person to get jazzed about verbiage created by committee, I promise that “Worshiping the Triune God” is worth your personal investment!

Global Origins

The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) was birthed last June out of two predecessor organizations: the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC). Its purpose is to unite Reformed Christians (about 80 million people worldwide) in common witness and service to God’s world. Calvin College hosted the gathering that birthed this organization, welcoming representatives from 256 Congregational, Reformed, Presbyterian, and United churches in 108 nations. Such a gathering in itself was impressive, and the fact that worship was one of the nine areas identified as “ways the WCRC could be of service to the larger Church of Jesus Christ” is especially noteworthy. As part of this series, we will consider how the worship of God’s people impacts the other eight “sections” of WCRC’s focus: Reformed Identity, Theology, and Communion; Christian Unity and Ecumenical Engagement; Justice in the Economy; The Earth and All God’s Creation; Leadership Development and Nurture; Gender Justice; Youth Empowerment; Mission; and Working for Peace and Reconciliation.

Many Voices

Approved unanimously by delegates to the initial WCRC gathering, “Worshiping the Triune God” represents an ongoing global conversation. Christ’s followers from Argentina, Egypt, Germany, Indonesia, Jamaica, Nigeria, the Philippines, Scotland, and the United States participated face to face, and many more voices were heard through information and insight gathered from around the globe by the research arm of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. The result: people from very different settings identified surprisingly common convictions, concerns, and practices. The document has been translated into several languages to date, with additional translations planned. But this is far from a static declaration emerging from completed research, past conversations, or a one-time “birthing” event. This document is our invitation into a deep, rich, ongoing conversation. (For more background on the document see page 16.)

To personally engage in the next phase of this conversation, please read the following portions of the introduction to “Worshiping the Triune God” together with others with whom you pray and plan worship. After you’ve smiled, consider how you can most effectively participate in this amazing global dialogue.

The Document

Worshiping the Triune God: Introduction

The sharing of wisdom is a common practice in many cultures—Eastern and Western, Southern and Northern—and is particularly suited for learning and sharing across cultures, generations, and centuries, both in oral and written forms. The sharing of wisdom comprises a significant strand of the biblical literature,
including Proverbs and proverb-like Psalms, Jesus’
beatitudes and several Pauline exhortations. To share wisdom is to knit together the sinews of Christ’s body, the church. Sharing wisdom is, thus, a central practice for global Christian fellowships, like [WCRC]. When the wisdom that is shared is a faithful echo and appropriation of scriptural wisdom, a faithful testimony to the Word and “Wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), then this sharing of wisdom can be a sign of Pentecost, not Babel—a gift of the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of wisdom” (Ephesians 1:17).

The purpose of this collection of proverbs about the practice of Christian worship is to build up the body of Christ for faithful service and ministry. This collection of proverbs is gathered by Reformed Christians. It is at once a catholiccollection, reflecting participation in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, and a particularcollection, reflecting the unique history, theological
convictions, and practices of Reformed communities worldwide. This document was drafted in response to mandates by both the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) at its 2004 Assembly in Accra, Ghana, and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) at its 2005 Assembly in Utrecht, the Netherlands, following a period of communication with member churches from both organizations. It was developed by the worship planning team for the 2010 WCRC Uniting Council in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in consultation with pastors, teachers, and other leaders throughout the world, both within and outside of the Reformed tradition, and was refined by the Worship and Spiritual Renewal Section of the Uniting General Council.

The document is designed to present a vision for worship and spiritual renewal in which we invite each other to deeper and more vital expression. It is not designed to impose a set of practices on member churches or to imply that worship in member churches already embodies the fullness of this wisdom.

The document is designed for several uses:

The document can be used within a given congregation or denomination to shape a conversation about the gifts, challenges, strengths and weaknesses of local practices. Those leading these conversations could pause after each proverb and ask “How has God gifted us to practice this wisdom?” “In what ways is God calling us to embody this wisdom more faithfully?” and “In what other ways would we express the wisdom of our practices related to this theme?” Each proverb is designed to elicit conversations that explore the connections between theological convictions and practices, conversations of testimony and spiritual discernment that are indispensable for fruitful ministry in any context.

The document can shape a conversation between and among congregations, denominations, and believers from quite different cultural contexts. Those shaping these conversations could pause after each proverb and ask “How is God gifting each of us in our unique cultural contexts to practice this wisdom?” and “In what way might God be calling us to practice this more faithfully, particularly in light of what we learn from each other?”

The document is an invitation to collaborative in-depth study and further refinement. Each proverb is a summary of a field of research and Christian reflection, drawing upon work in Biblical exegesis, theological reflection, and historical scholarship. Each proverb could be fruitfully refined after continuing reflection in light of the challenges of faithful discipleship. Thus, this collection is not designed to be final or complete. It is designed to be open-ended: any member church or ecumenical partner can easily supplement this collection with its own materials. Future WCRC gatherings could also amend this collection by adding proverbs to respond to unique challenges that arise in the future.

The ultimate goal of all these uses, however, is not simply to enhance conversations or to result in a better document. The ultimate goal is nothing less than to elicit, by the Spirit’s power, the faithful and grateful worship of the triune God. May God’s Spirit bless these words and all who wrestle with them so that the church of Christ may be strengthened.

Questions for Reflection

A. An important distinction is made between the experiences of God’s people as recorded in Acts 2:1-12 (Pentecost) and in Genesis 11.1-9 (Babel). After reading both passages, please consider

  • the reason the people were gathering. What was their intent?
  • the reason God intervened. What was God’s intent?
  • the result of God’s intervention. What happened next?

B. Read Ephesians 1:17-19. How would you anticipate/explain God’s “intervention” in your worship? What is the intent of the Holy Spirit?

C. What is your favorite proverb from the Bible? Read it aloud. How does the wisdom contained in that proverb simultaneously speak to your individual life and to the collective life, witness, and mission of the group as a whole?

D. The goal of this project is encapsulated in the delightful phrase “faithful and grateful worship.” What does that phrase say to you? In your own words, describe what the experience of “faithful and grateful worship of the triune God” would look like / sound like / feel like in your particular setting.

E.  What two adjectives would you use to describe the most recent worship gathering in your congregation? Discuss these as a group: are your adjectives (hence your experiences) similar or different from each other?

Within the Next Three Months

Ask people who worship regularly with your congregation for their answers to question E. Make sure you speak to a variety of people: young and old, long-term members and regular visitors, lead worshipers (worship team/choir, readers, pray-ers) and those who follow. Then compare their responses to each other and to the conversation you had among your worship leadership team. What are you learning?

To watch the large public service of celebration of the birth of the WCRC on June 20, 2010, see http://vimeo.com/13458569.

Look for Part 2: “Called and Forgiven People: Assembling in Jesus’ Name” in the next issue of RW.