Join our mailing list

Jubilee: Reflections

This was a handout at one of two plenary sampler sessions that introduced several of the leaders at the Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts on Friday, January 14, 2000.

Jubilee: Reflections

Righteousness * Hospitality * Integrity * Grace * Celebration * Unity * Justice

This was a handout at one of two plenary sampler sessions that introduced several of the leaders at the Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts on Friday, January 14, 2000.

Conference Opening: John D. Witvliet, Director, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Plenary Sampler I: Jubilee: Reflections on Worship’s Meaning and Purpose

  1. John Witvliet: "All of our discussions of the style and mechanics of worship must be anchored in a deeply biblical and richly gospel-centered understanding of what worship is. We might be tempted at a worship conference to focus exclusively on the style and mechanics of worship. And these are important! But a larger challenge is to link how we approach the week-in, week-out task of planning and leading worship with our theological understanding of worship. Do our planning and leading habits, mechanics, and techniques enable people to experience worship in the deepest, most profound, most Christ-centered way? Does our work form our congregations in a deeply biblical faith? We need a high-octane theology of worship-and one that is not simply articulated in writing, but enacted in our worship and lived out in our lives."
  2. Philip Butin: "We worship in the context of divine grace. It is God who is at work in our worship. We can rest knowing that the success of a service depends on God, not exclusively on our own effort. We don’t worship in order to gain God’s favor. We worship because of God’s prior favor to us, because of God’s invitation of us. This has redeeming implications for thinking about aesthetics, the motivation of worship leaders, and the content of each worship service."
    ". . . the initiatory ‘downward’ movement of Christian worship begins in the Father's gracious and free revelation of the divine nature to the church through the Son, by means of the Spirit. In more concrete terms, this takes place in the proclamation of the Word according to scripture, by the empowerment and illumination of the Spirit . . . the ‘upward’ movement of human response in worship-focused around prayer and the celebration of the sacraments . . . is also fundamentally motivated by God. Human response-the ‘sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving’-arises from the faith that has its source in the indwelling Holy Spirit. In that Spirit, prayer, devotion, and obedience are offered to God the Father, who is the proper object of worship, through the Son Jesus Christ, who being fully divine and fully human is the mediator of the church's worship." (Philip Butin, Revelation, Redemption, and Response: Calvin’s Trinitarian Understanding of the Divine-Human Relationship, Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 102). For more on this, see James Torrance, Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace (InterVarsity Press, 1996).
  3. Melva Costen: "Worship and justice are inextricably interlinked. What happens on Sunday morning and during the rest of week can not be separated. Jubilee happens, finally, when our witness and worship are one."
    "Paul is quite clear in his reminder in Romans 12 that worship extends beyond the bounds of the assembly into acts of service in the world. . . . there is more to worship than merely performing rituals . . . Walls separating the sacred and the secular, which were torn down by Jesus, are raised by human hands when worshipers separate the ritual waters of baptism from the table fellowship acts of service in the world . . . In true and authentic worship of God there is a dialectical relationship rather than a dichotomy between faith and practice, justice and ritual action, theological talk and doxological living, and sanctification and human liberation" (Melva Costen, African American Worship, Abingdon Press, 1993, p. 126).
  4. Craig Barnes: "The worship service features two sides of a sacred conversation. Those who lead in worship need to help people recognize themselves in the presence of God. They must also speak God’s words to the people so that they will know they are on holy ground. That is the experience people are longing for in worship. But before such a sacred conversation happens in worship, it must happen for those who lead in worship in their own soul."
  5. Horace Boyer leads us in "Praise Him! Jesus Blessed Savior"
    "Congregational singing is the means by which diverse individuals and groups worship the Savior as one committed union, and can provide expression for their deepest yearnings." (Horace Boyer, Introduction to Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African American Hymnal, Church Hymnal Corporation, 1993)

Plenary Sampler II: Jubilee: Practical Ideas for Worship that are Hospitable, Celebrative, Filled with Integrity, Justice, and Righteousness

    1. Lester Ruth: "Central to the biblical Jubilee is the notion of restoration. That is exactly what Christ has done for us with respect to worship. Robbed of our dignity by sin, having had our God-given vocation clouded, we are restored by Christ to be a royal priesthood offering praise and thanksgiving to God and proclaiming the Gospel to the world. When we gather for worship, it is as if Christ has brought us back to our homeland and returned to us the ministry for which we were made. How is it that worship can also be the means for experiencing this restoration? How is worship both an end in itself and a means of our redemption by Christ? Consider one hopeful sign in many congregations today-a radically new (and very old) model for relating worship and evangelism that invites people on a year-long journey of faith that includes special worship services, sacramental celebrations, individual mentoring, and small group formation."

For more on this, see, consult Daniel Benedict, Come to the Waters: Baptism and Our Ministry of Welcoming Seekers and Making Disciples (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1996), and attend the upcoming conference "Welcoming New Christians" (conference was held on May 24-26, 2000, at Calvin College, sponsored by the PCUSA, ELCA, RCA, and hosted by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship).

    1. John Ferguson: "In communal song, we discipline ourselves to sing together. Christian worship is a first-person plural enterprise. In today’s culture such song is a remarkable, novel thing. Today the individual is supreme. In a culture of self-gratification, perpetual entertainment, the notion of singing together to each other in any corporate way is a radical one indeed. The duty and delight of the leader of congregational song is to energize all gathered in this transforming activity. We must be hospitable leaders of the congregation’s song."

For more on this, see David Cherwien, Let the People Sing! A Keyboardist’s Creative and Practical Guide to Engaging God’s People in Meaningful Song (Concordia, 1997), and Robert Buckley Farley, Leading the Church’s Song (Augsburg, 1998).

  1. Marty Haugen: "At the turn of the millennium, we need a ‘new millennium view of the music minister.’ The leader of the church’s song is much more than a musical technician or performer. What the church needs are pastoral people who will serve as ‘leaders of the people’s (sung) prayer’; we need musicians who are pastors. This has implications for the musical forms we use in worship, for the instruments and instrumentations we use to enable the people’s song, for the use of space and the placement of people in the worship space, and for what kind of spiritual formation is necessary for those who lead the people’s song."
  2. Michael Denham: "Jubilee is a release and restoration that only happens when we encounter our Lord. It doesn't happen on our own. Every worship service has the opportunity to present a picture of who God is and what God has done from a particular slant or perspective. Soloists, choir, and other musicians can effectively join the preacher in painting this picture, so that worship as a whole focuses an eternal, transcendent, biblical perspective. We need to develop habits in our weekly worship planning that ensure that we are painting a scriptural picture of who God is and what God is doing. Worship planning begins with careful attention to scripture."
  3. Cindy Holtrop: "Christian worship is a communal activity, in which we are called to model the virtue of hospitality to each other and to the stranger and the seeker. The Christian community must first know the root of its hospitality. While hospitality in the service industry is driven by profit-motives and return customers, Christian hospitality is tethered to God’s gracious gift of embracing us and calling us ‘family.’ Just as Israel’s hospitality to strangers was motivated by her memory of God delivering her from bondage in Egypt, our hospitality is nourished and fed by God’s releasing us from alienation to him. Because we are no longer strangers to God, we are no longer strangers to each other. Our grace-filled relationship with God, with other believers, and to guests must be modeled and practiced in worship, our body life, and perhaps, more challengingly, in our conversations about worship.

    For more on this, see Christine Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).