Rainer Maria Rilke and Worship

We must not portray you in king’s robes,

you drifting mist that brought forth the morning.


Once again from the old paintboxes

we take the same gold for scepter and crown

that has disguised you through the ages.


Piously we produce our images of you

till they stand around you like a thousand walls.

And when our hearts would simply open,

our fervent hands hide you.

-Rainer Maria Rilke


The words of the late 19th century German poet seem to grasp at the tension of leading worship.  Kings robes, gold, production, lighting, video loops, graphic packages, click-tracks, and wireless mics…when are we too eager to imprint our own cultural ideas of power and majesty as a substitute for God’s? When are we all to happy to lead people to our own creations in a misplaced attempt to lead them to our Creator? Do we give people time in worship to simply pause, breathe, and open their hearts…a moment to ‘be still, and know that I am God’?



  1. yes, brother. yes. One of my favorite pieces, ever. And your questions are the right ones. Sometimes, our fervent hands do indeed help reveal some aspect of the holy mystery to people. Too often, though, it’s this.


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