The Message Bible Creator’s Thoughts on Worship


I’m finishing up Eugene Peterson’s Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work and wanted to share a passage about worship from the final chapter of the book.  As always, Peterson has the ability to be a prophetic voice for the church – calling us back again and again to who we are made to be, and to who we are made to worship.

From Eugene Peterson’s Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work:

The phrase “let’s have a worship experience” is Baalism’s substitute for “let us worship God.”  The difference is between cultivating something that makes sense to an individual and acting in response to what makes sense to God.  In a “worship experience,” a person sees something that excites interest and tries to put religious wrappings around it.  A person experiences something in the realm of dependency, anxiety, love, and a connection is made with the ultimate.  Worship is a movement from what a person sees, or experiences, or hears, to prayer or celebration or discussion in a religious atmosphere.  Subjectivity is encouraged.

But neither Bible nor church uses the word “worship” as a description of experience.  Pastors hear this adjectival usage in sentences like, “I can have a worship experience with God on the golf course.” That means, “I have religious feelings reminding me of good things, awesome things, beautiful things nearly any place.” Which is true enough.  The only thing wrong with the statement is its ignorance, thinking that such experiences make up what the church calls “worship.” The biblical usage is very different.  It talks of worship as a response to God’s word in the context of the community of God’s people.  Worship is neither subjective only nor private only.  It is not what I feel when I am by myself; it is how I act towards God in responsible relation with God’s people.  Worship, in the biblical sources and in liturgical history, is not something a person experiences, it is something we do, regardless of how we feel about it, or whether we feel anything about it at all.

p. 183



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