Dawn Widens Worship

Dawn_review_20191003Marva J. Dawn.[1] 1999. “A Royal ‘Waste’ of Time: The Splendor of Worshipping God and Being Church for the World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the great disappointments in seminary arose when I took my only worship class and the professor insisted on studying the worship requirements outlined in the Book of Order (the denomination governance manual). It was like taking a class in oil painting only to be given a canvas outlined in a paint-by-numbers schema. Nothing quenches the spirit (1 Thes 5:19) quicker than a programmatic church.

Introduction

In her book, A Royal ‘Waste’ of Time, Marva Dawn writes:

“Surely one of the greatest problems of our times is that we have become so nonchalant about the Lord of the cosmos. Certainly, if we were more immersed in God’s splendor we would find ourselves thoroughly lost in wonder, love, and praise.” (7)

In theological terms, we have lost our sense of God’s transcendence and prefer a “buddy god” that we can hang with on Sunday morning and forget about the rest of the week—my paraphrase. Dawn goes on to say:

“My primary concern in various churches’ and denominations’ struggles over worship is that so many decisions are being based on criteria other than the most essential—namely that God be the Subject and Object, the Infinite Center, of our worship.” (8)

Having lost its center, Dawn observes:

“Church has been turned into a place, a building, a duty, an hour on Sunday mornings, rather than what we are as ‘those called out’ (ekklesia) by Christ into a way of being in the world to the glory of God for the sake of others.” (9)

When the church’s center is God, the musical forms, the liturgy, and the mode of dress simply recede in importance.

Background and Organization

Marva Dawn received her doctorate in Christian ethics at University of Notre Dame. At the time she wrote this book, she was a seminary professor and the author of numerous books. She has since retired. Dawn writes in six parts:

  1. For the World: Culture
  2. Worshiping God: The Splendor of Our Infinite Center
  3. Being Church: Building Community
  4. Being Church: Forming Character
  5. Being Church: Choices
  6. For the World: Challenges (vii-viii)

Each part begins with a sermon, accept for the introduction where the theme sermon follows the introduction. This sermonic focus loosens the integration of the book, giving it an eclectic form and feel.

Wasting Time

Dawn’s thematic sermon takes Colossians 3:12-17 as its text. A key phrase in this reading is: And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Col 3:15 ESV). Dawn applies this text seriously when she reminds us:

“And it [worship] is a royal waste of time because we have to die to ourselves and our egos, our purposes and accomplishments to live now in God’s kingdom.” (14)

For Dawn, wasting time in worship is, in other words, sacrificial, our way of participating in Christ’s crucifixion. This is much like the Apostle Peter’s observation: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet 2:24 ESV)

In my own view, I see worship as a way of participating in the divine rest in creation. We are where God intends us to be, something often hard to achieve in this life.

Assessment

Marva J. Dawn’s A Royal ‘Waste’ of Time left a lasting impression on me in seminary as I came to see worship differently. In worship, we come to praise and adore God that we might become acquainted with the image we were created to reflect. True worship is more than the musical selections and their performance. Seminary students and pastors are best positioned to understand her detailed examination of contemporary worship controversies.

Footnotes

[1] http://MarvaDawn.org/about_Marva

Dawn Widens Worshi

Also See:

Bonhoeffer Introduces Christian Ethics, Part 1 

Top 10 Book Reviews Over the Past 12 Months

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/ID_2019

 

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The Spiritual Discipline of Work. Monday Monologues, March 4, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I will share a sermon entitled: The Spiritual Discipline of Work. (Spanish)

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below:

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

The Spiritual Discipline of Work. Monday Monologues, March 4, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2019

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The Spiritual Discipline of Work

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Preached in Spanish at Luncheon for the Soul, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Herndon, VA. February 27, 2019


Introduction

Good morning. Welcome to Luncheon for the Soul. My name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. My wife, Maryam, and I live in Centreville, Virginia and we have three grown children. I am a Christian author and volunteer pastor.
 
Today’s theme is the spiritual discipline of work

Invocation

Let’s pray.

Holy father. Draw us to yourself this morning. Open our hearts; illumine our minds; and strengthen our hands in your service. In the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Scripture

Today’s scripture reading comes from Colossians 3:23-24. Hear the word of the Lord:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:23-24 ESV)

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Story

What was your favorite job and what activity was totally horrible?

In my work as an economist, many times I have said that about one in three years were good. Two years in three were bad because of changes in management or conflicts among managers in the middle of a project. When priorities change in the middle of a project, it is impossible for the project to be a success from the perspective of leadership. It does not matter that the work was extraordinarily good because the office was constantly stressed out and promotion was nearly impossible over many years.

For this reason, today’s scripture reading is particularly meaningful to me. We work for the Lord and not for men.

What was your favorite job y what activity was totally horrible?

Lesson

Every time there is pain or stress in our lives, we have a decision: are we going to turn to God and give it over to Him or are we going to turn into the pain and we feel sorry for ourselves? This second alternative is sometimes known as idolatry.

The gravity of the sin of idolatry is obvious because our faith, time, energy, and money point to the things that we really worship (Giglio 2003, 113). The center of these activities may be in our work—in or out of the church; in or out of the home. Work can many times be a source of stress, fear, and anxiety.

Jesus understands (2X). At one point, he described a scene of lilies and kings. Afterwards, he advised:

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”(Luke 12:29-31 ESV)

In other words, work is important, but the Kingdom of God is more important.

As God designed it, work has dignity. The Bible begins showing a God who works—he creates (Welchel 2012, 7). God’s only son worked with his hands as a carpenter. Thus, when we work with our hands work also has dignity. Remember that almost all of the disciples worked as fishermen—do you think that they return home smelling like lilies? One of the most radicals things that Jesus did was to eat and drink with working people (Mt 11:19).[1]

Paul’s attitude about work was significant for two reasons. First, our work for human bosses is also work for God (Col 3:23-24). Second, many times we work for brothers and sisters in Christ—the family of God. Would you want to disrespect your family? (Phlm 1:16 ESV)

One of the most influential writers of the church historically was a veteran who worked in a kitchen. He did not write very much, but he dedicated his work daily to God in prayer. Brother Lawrence (1982, 23) wrote:

“We should offer our work to Him before we begin and thank Him afterwards for the privilege of having done it for His sake.”

He simply applied the advice of Paul to “pray without ceasing”(1 Thess 5:17) and the spiritual giants of his day beat a path to his door.

One method for spotting prospective idolatry is to ask about your identity. When you are introduced to a new neighbor or maybe someone at a party, how does your spouse introduce you? Is it by your marital status, favorite sports team or profession?

What keeps you busy? (2X)

Prayer

Let’s close with a Word of prayer.

Loving father, we praise you for giving us useful work to do. We praise you for equipping us for work in your church. Thank you for giving us new eyes to see our work, our bosses, and our responsibilities. The harvest is ready. Prepare us to assist the laborers. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1]This citation comes from the parable of the brats, one of my favorites (Matt 11:16-19).

References

Giglio, Louie. 2003. The Air I Breathe.Colorado Springs: Multnomah Press.

Lawrence, Brother. 1982. The Practice of the Presence of God(Orig Pub 1691). New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.

Whelchel, Hugh. 2012. How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.

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The Spiritual Discipline of Work

May 001Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.  (Colossians 3:23-24 ESV)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Luncheon for the Soul, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Herndon, Virginia, September 17, 2014

Prayer

Merciful father. Beloved Son. Spirit of Truth.  Thank you for your presence among us this morning.  Thank you for the food that we have eaten and the hands that prepared us.  Open our hearts now to receive your word.  Silence any voice in our minds except yours.  Inspire the words spoken and illumine the words heard.  In the precious name of your son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Opening Words

Who do you work for, really? (2X)

As some of you know, I used to work in construction during the summer as a student years ago.  Of the many things that I did, a particular job in McLean, VA comes to mind when I think of those days.  It was probably 1974 when I worked all summer to earn enough money to buy my first car—a used 1967 Volkswagen Beetle.

This job comes to mind because I met so many very colorful people and learned lessons that stuck with me.  I used to say that this job convinced me that I wanted to finish college and never again work construction.

Unlike today when there are many Hispanics in construction work, back then most people working around McLean, VA in those days were from West Virginia.  Many had police records.  In my workgroup—all day workers—there were two African Americans—one was quiet and the other was noisy.  The quiet one was arrested for robbing a bank at gunpoint; The noisy one used to chase me around with a razor.

My boss was not much better.  He thought it was funny to instigate fights among the men.  He went back to West Virginia one weekend and was arrested for getting drunk and shooting up someone’s trailer.  Normally after payday, he would hang around, drink, and play cards until any workers present lost their entire paycheck.  My boss was not much better.

In the middle of all this stuff, I got rather depressed. One morning I could not take it any longer.  I skipped work and spent the day in the museum of art downtown.  The next day my boss let me go.  But first, he gave me some advice—at the next job site you go to, bring along your tools, and tell them that you are a carpenter’s helper.  Later that morning, I did that on another job site and received not only a job but also a higher salary.

Who do you work for, really? (2X)

Scripture

Our scripture passage today is taken from Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse, an agricultural town about 110 miles east of Ephesus in what is now modern Turkey (Garland 1998, 17-33).  Commentators believe that Paul wrote this letter from Rome where he was under house arrest.  Paul writes this letter having heard that the church was faithful (vv 1:3-4), but has also been under pressure from false teachers, probably teachers trying to convince them to return to Judaism (vv 2:8-19).   In response to this pressure, Paul writes to them about the sufficiency of Christ for salvation and for life (vv 1:17-20; 2:6-7).

In chapter 3 where our passage is then focuses on the sufficiency of Christ.  Paul writes: Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2 ESV).  He then proceeds to explain how to do this in practice.

The immediate context of our verses is a section referred to by scholars as the household codes where Paul gives advice to husbands, wives, parents, children, and slaves—every member of an ancient household (vv 3:18-22).  Our verses then provide the general principle or summary statement of Paul’s teaching:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ (vv 3:23-24).

In some sense, our attitude in our work summaries Paul’s letter and a key focus of our lives in Christ.

Who do you work for, really? (2X)

Spiritual Discipline

The gravity of idolatrous sin is obvious. If our loyalty, time, energy, and money point to what we really worship (Giglio 2003, 113), then the heart of idolatrous activity has to be our work—inside or outside the church; inside or outside the home. Work is often also a source of stress, fear, and anxiety.

Jesus understands. At one point, he presented a word picture of lilies and kings. Then, he advised: “do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried . . . Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:27–31) In other words, work is important; the kingdom of God is more important.

Work, as designed by God, is endowed with dignity. The Bible opens with God working—he creates (Welchel 2012, 7). God’s only son did manual labor! If Christ worked first with his hands as a carpenter, then working with our hands also has honor. Most of the disciples worked as fishermen—do you think they came home smelling like lilies? One of Jesus’ most radical acts was table ministry—he ate and drank with people who worked for a living (Matt 11:19).

The Apostle Paul’s attitude concerning work is significant in three ways. First, our work for human supervisors is also work for God! (Colossians 3:23–24). Second, many of the people that we work with and for are brothers and sisters—family—in Christ. How can anyone disrespect family? (Phlm 1:16). Impossible! Unthinkable! Third, Paul himself supported himself with manual labor as a tentmaker (Acts 18:2-3).

One of the church’s most important spiritual writers was a disabled veteran who worked in a kitchen. He hardly wrote anything at all. But he committed his work during the day to God in prayer. Brother Lawrence (1982, 23) wrote: “We should offer our work to Him before we begin and thank Him afterwards for the privilege of having done it for His sake.” He simply applied Paul’s advice: “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalian 5:17) And, the spiritual giants of his day beat a path to his door.

One measure of the idolatrous potential of work is to ask about identity. When you meet a new neighbor or someone at a party, how does your spouse identify you? Is it by your marital relationship, by your favorite sport’s team, or by your profession?

As Christians, our identity is in Christ.  Work has dignity because we worship a God who demonstrated the dignity of work in creation and everything that can thereafter.

Who do you work for, really? (2X) As Christians, we know how to answer this question.

Prayer

Loving Father. We praise you for giving us useful things to do. We praise for equipping us for work in your church. Thank you for giving us new eyes to see our work, our supervisors, and our primary responsibilities. The harvest is ready; prepare us to join the laborers. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

REFERENCES

Garland, David E.  1998. The NIV Application Commentary:  Colossians/Philemon.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

Giglio, Louie. 2003. The Air I Breathe. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Press.

Lawrence, Brother. 1982. The Practice of the Presence of God (Orig Pub 1691). New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.

Whelchel, Hugh. 2012. How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press.

 

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White: The Second Fall and the Christian Call

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

James Emery White.  2004.  Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day.  Downers Grove.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Walking through the bookstore at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary [1] in Charlotte, NC a book by James Emery White caught my eye. The title was: Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day. Being a serious guy, I bought a copy.

White begins with a proposition: mankind has suffered not one but two falls. The first fall occurred when God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. A second fall occurred when modern society turned its back on all notions of transcendence, including God (18). The mantra of the naturalist has become the watchword of the age: nature is all that there is. If it cannot be empirically verified, it does not exist (47). By the processes of secularization, privatization, and pluralization, White argues that we have come to a time when Christianity is treated as a preference fit for private discussion only within the walls of one’s own house.

White’s book is organized into 7 chapters:

  1. The Second Fall,
  2. The World that Lives in Us,
  3. The City of Dreadful Delight,
  4. Deeping Our Souls,
  5. Developing Our Minds,
  6. Answering the Call, and
  7. Aligning with the Church.

He apologizes up front for writing a mile wide and an inch deep (15). He need not have apologized: the hardest part of problem solving is arriving at a clear definition of the problem. For White, spiritual anemia (78) is the pressing problem of our age. We are lukewarm in our faith, in part, because we do not know what we believe. To deal with this problem, White commends the spiritual disciples of prayer, study, and worship.

Of these, the most interesting is worship because he views each Christian as called to treat his vocation as an act of worship. White writes: The Reformation idea of vocation follows from the monastic vision. Luther, himself a monk, was clearly familiar with the monastic conviction that all tasks needed to be offered as worship of the living God (116). This view flies in the face of society’s picture of worship as a Sunday morning activity confined within the walls of a church. Rather than being religious entertainment, worship defines who we are.  Here is our identity in Christ.

Christ calls us to ask a question of every moment of every day: to what purpose has God called me to this particular time and place? In the words of the Apostle Paul: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23). If we answer this call, every moment of every day has purpose. If God is present in our lives, we can perform a ministry of presence in the lives of those around us.

A writer’s packaging matters. Even if a writer rambles a bit, my rule of thumb is that a book is worth the time if I find myself quoting from the book and applying its lessons in my life. Two passages from Serious Times come to mind.

In the first passage, White cites a story by Walter Truett Anderson (57) that is helpful in highlighting the distinctions among modernists, postmodernists, and deconstructionists—three important worldviews today.

Three umpires have a beer at the end of the day. The first one says: there are balls and strikes and I call them the way they are. The second one says: there are balls and strikes and I call them the way I see them. The third one says there are balls and strikes and they are not anything until I call them. The first umpire is a modernist who believes in (unconditioned) objective reality. The second umpire is a postmodernist who believe that reality is conditioned on our perspective of it. The third umpire is a deconstructionist that believes that reality is conditioned on who is in charge.

This story sticks in my mind because I can put faces to each of these umpires.

The second passage is his highlighting of the broken glass theory of criminologists James O. Wilson and George Kelling (158) [2]. The idea is that crime is contagious. It starts with a broken window and spreads to an entire community. Cleaning up trash, graffiti, and broken windows and minor violations of law, New York City substantially reduced crime in the 1980s. For those of us who grew up scared to walk the streets of New York, this reduction in crime was a big deal. After reading White’s account I suddenly found ammunition to argue for cleaner kid’s rooms in my household and greater attention to detail in the office downtown. The broken glass theory has a familiar ring: I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy (Leviticus 11:45). Small stuff matters.

I enjoyed Serious Times immensely and have already gifted half a dozen friends and colleagues with copies. Perhaps, you will too.

[1] www.GordonConwell.edu

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory.

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Whelchel Sees Call in Work, not just Ministry

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Hugh Whelchel.  2012.  How Then Should We Work?  Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work. Bloomington:  WestBow Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Mental habits are hard to break.  One particularly insidious habit is to worship the “god of the gaps” (gog) rather than the sovereign, Triune God.

Gog worship shows up in several ways.  One is the gog worshiped only between 11 and 12 a.m. on Sunday mornings.  Another gog appears like insurance—a kind of Aflac god who handles all the problems that we cannot.  Still another gog is observed only indirectly (a shadow gog)—whenever anyone expresses a concept of God that is too large (or too inconvenient)—that person is labeled a fanatic or fundamentalist.  Gog worshipers are easy to make fun of until one shows up in the mirror:  Gog worship is the default setting of the postmodern world–even for an economist turned pastor like myself.

In his book, How Then Should We Work, Hugh Whelchel reminds us that God created the heavens and the earth—everything. Everything is not a spiritual concept; everything includes everything.  All that we do—whether inside or outside the church; whether inside or outside the home—should be done in the name of Christ (Colossians 3:17).  God is as a powerful worker—he creates; he created everything (7).

Whelchel states his purpose as:  to explore the Biblical intersection of faith and work, attempting to understand the difference between work, calling, and vocation and how they should be Biblically applied in our daily lives(5).  His book is organized in 6 chapters which focus on carefully defining the concept of call. These chapters are preceded by a forward, preface, and acknowledgments and are followed by a biography of the author, notes, and suggested readings.

In the important area of defining call, Whelchel (75-77) cites 5 calls. He distinguishes the first call, the call to faith in Christ, as primary and cites 4 secondary calls—the call to family, church, community, and vocation.

Whelchel’s (56) concept of Biblical work focuses on 5 concepts, which are:

  1. The Four-Chapter Gospel (creation, fall, redemption, and restoration).
  2. The Cultural Mandate (The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15 ESV)).
  3. The Kingdom of God (being salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-14)).
  4. Common Grace (seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV).
  5. The Biblical Meaning of Success (as seen in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:1-13).

Whelchel’s observed in the Parable of the Talents that the reward was the same for the 5-talent or 2-talent servants—we need only worry how to use our talents, not obsess over how many talents we are given.

In his final chapter, Whechel asks:  how do we integrate our work and our faith in a way that is pleasing to God? The first of his 9 responses to this question is the most telling:  we must rediscover that our primary vocation is the call to follow Jesus (117).

Whelchel holds a master of divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary; he is a former technology worker; and currently serves as executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics (www.TIFWE.org) located in McLean, VA.  As he claims, Whechel’s book is: a Biblical primer on integrating our faith and work (xxviii). He reviews the literature on vocational calling at great length and why we should care. Missing here perhaps is a link that applies these insights in the era of gog.  Still, I found my own faith journey reflected in page after page.  Perhaps you will too.

Whelchel Sees Call in Work, not just Ministry

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