The Worship Quote of the Week for (09/06/2005):

Sharing and Bearing the Pain
Katrina’s destructive force has, once again, caused the world to ask important theological questions: “Is there a God? If so, what is he like? How is he involved in all of the wreckage and suffering? How can we worship a God like that?” I find help in today’s WORSHIP QUOTE, another from N. T. Wright’s short book on Christian worship, FOR ALL GOD’S WORTH.

Worship is nothing more nor less than love on its knees before the beloved; just as mission is love on its feet to serve the beloved . . ..

But this is only true if it’s the true God you’re worshipping. I was talking to somebody not long ago who said, “You know, I used to believe in God; but then, as I grew up, I found it harder and harder to think of this old man up there in the sky, so far removed from all the pain and suffering down here in the world.” And I said to him, “I don’t believe in that god either! The God I believe in is the god I see in the middle of the pain and the suffering down here in the world. Without Jesus, the crucified Jesus, sharing and bearing the pain and sin and suffering of the world, I don’t actually know who on earth or in heaven God might be at all.” You see, if you envisage a god up there in the sky, detached from the reality of the world, any worship you offer will simply be a distant acknowledgement of majesty, like the ploughboy doffing his cap as the great nobleman rides by ignoring him. And if you go the other route, as my friend was inclined to, and say that therefore the word “god” can only refer to the impulse of goodness inside ourselves, then you’ll find it pretty hard to sustain any real sense of worship at all. All you’re left with is the ploughboy imagining himself to be a nobleman. But if Jesus is to be the lens through which you glimpse the beauty of God, you will discover what it means to worship, because you will discover what it means to be loved.

Put it this way: if your idea of God, if your idea of the salvation offered in Christ, is vague or remote, your idea of worship will be fuzzy and ill-formed. The closer you get to the truth, the clearer becomes the beauty, and the more you will find worship welling up within you. That’s why theology and worship belong together. The one isn’t just a head-trip; the other isn’t just emotion.

— N. T. Wright, FOR ALL GOD’S WORTH: TRUE WORSHIP AND THE CALLING OF THE CHURCH. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997, pp. 9-10. ISBN 0-8028-4319-0

[If you look at the WORSHIP QUOTE index (, you’ll find many that deal with this same idea: the proper worship of God requires a proper knowledge of God. That is a worthy theme.]

Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

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