The Big Picture

One of the many wonderful things that I loved about Dr. Robert Webber was his gift of painting the big picture with words.  He used some words that were fairly new to my ears, but I eventually caught on to the meaning of metanarrative and perichoresis and numinous and found the study and contemplation of those ideas to be enriching to my spirit, my worship, and my leadership.  Toward the end of his earthly life he seemed to pick up his already frantic pace of getting out the word that worship is about God’s story, and that our gatherings need to always center in His revelation, rehearsing (re-telling) that story.  I am on an email list that receives a “Webber Quote of the Week.”  The email just contains a quote from Bob selected from one of his many book writings.  Many if not most of these quotes come back to this theme of God’s story.  I wanted to share the one for this week as it serves to put the church’s mission, theology, worship, and spirituality in a proper perspective within the big picture.  Here is the quote:

God’s narrative is the one true story of the world. The churchs mission is to be a witness to Gods narrative of the world (missio Dei). Theology is the churchs corporate reflection on Gods narrative. Worship sings, proclaims and enacts Gods narrative to the glory of God. Individual spirituality is the personal embodiment of Gods narrative in all of life. Collective spirituality is the churchs embodied life in the world.

Robert E. Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for
the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals
(Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 2008), 124.

It is so easy to get mired down in the details of one day, much less the responsibilities of our weeks, months, years, and life.  I can get overwhelmed just with answering the multitude of emails I receive in a day.  In relation to weekly worship planning and leadership there are lots and lots of details.  Planning done well involves biblical research and study, music assessment, people enlistment, rehearsal scheduling, printed and/or projected guide preparations, and the list goes on.  Sometimes being yanked down into this mire of details can cause us to lose sight of the big picture of what (and Who) this is all for and about.  One of the reasons I think this happens is that we may lose sight of God’s participation in worship.  What is sad is that our preparation, which should be one thing that draws us toward understanding of God’s participation, may actually be one of the things keeping us from the recognition of such.

One of the miraculous aspects of Christian faith and worship is that when we gather to worship, God serves us.  That may be a little disturbing to you.  I said it that way for a reason.  I hope it does disturb, or at the very least challenges your thinking.  Far too often we think of our worship as us serving God.  In that regard we are like Peter when the Lord told him that he (Jesus) was going to wash Peter’s feet, and Peter wanted no part of it at first. (Jn 13)  We wear ourselves out trying to make sure our plan is good enough to be called worship.  We have no such capacity.  We remain completely needful of our Savior.  We pretend that we will somehow feel so “in love” with God that our worship will be worthy.  As worship leaders the danger is that we will join this useless endeavor.  We may use romantic musical fare to try and drum that “I’m in love with God” feeling and call it worship, and worse yet, to allow or encourage our people to do so.  Michael Horton’s strong words speak to our attempts at covering up our needy condition as church.  He says, “Our fig leaves may have become more sophisticated (and expensive), but they are no more successful in covering our nakedness in God’s presence than the homespoun wardrobe of our first parents.  Not only our sins but “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Is 64:6) (from Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church)

Brothers and sisters, I invite you to rediscover the big picture of God’s narration of the world (as Bob Webber put it).  See His work in creation, choosing and delivering a people, sending Savior, paying ultimate price, overcoming death, ascending to rightful place, sending Spirit, drawing us to Himself, calling us to join in ministry of reconciliation, and coming again to bring us home for eternal worship.  And don’t stop at just rediscovering it, sing it and proclaim it!  As you are planning and preparing for worship, step back and consider what God has given us.  Understand that your calling is not a chore you must achieve, it is a gift to the Lord’s Church in which He is participating:

10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  (Eph 4:10-16)

From within the metanarrative,


Explore posts in the same categories: Singing Worship, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts

2 Comments on “The Big Picture”

  1. Karla Worley Says:

    Understanding we are part of the Big Story changes everything! When I teach people how to study the Bible, I love the session when we talk about the metanarrative – when they learn that the Holy Spirit is the narrator of the story, that the protagonist is God, the antagonist Satan, and we are written into God’s story. A light bulb goes off over their heads. Suddenly the story makes sense. It’s not all about me? It’s bigger than me? What a relief! Or what a shock! Either way, perspective. We should always come away from engaging in God’s story – in study, in prayer, in living, in worship – with perspective!

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