Does God Get any Good Verbs?!?

This is Part 2 of the “Who is Worship About?” series.  Catch up on Part 1 here.

Have you ever been around someone who always talks about themselves all the time.  It’s annoying, isn’t it?  You never want to be “that guy” at a party or on a date.

I was thinking about that this morning as I scraped the frost off my car window and drove past semi-frozen fields.  As I was driving, I kept thinking that I wanted to revisit the question,

“Who is worship about?”

As I said before, we might not admit that we think worship is about us, but do we sing more about what we do than about what God is doing?  Is it possible that we are like “that guy” at the party who always talks about themselves?

I think my prof from the Institute of Worship Studies, Lester Ruth, can helps us with a few of those questions.  (If you’re “that guy”, I’m not sure Lester can help you!)  He is working to evaluate the verbs in worship choruses and hymns.  He always asks “Does God gets any good verbs?!?”  That might sound a little strange, but the reason he talks about verbs is that he wants to know who is doing the action in worship.  For example,

The most frequent human verbs in hymns are “sin” and “see”.

What does that tell you?  

It tells me hymns tend to emphasize that we are sinners and we can’t see or we need to see.  Think of the lyrics from Amazing Grace…

I once was lost, but now am found.

Was blind, but now I see.

The most frequent human verbs in worship choruses are “sing” and “praise”.

What does that tell you?  

It tells me that we mostly sing about our own response to God.  We singing about singing and we praise God with our praise.  (Hmmmmm….I’m starting to feel like “that guy”…)

What is interesting is that God’s actions are consistent in hymns and worship choruses since the Civil War!

What does that tell you?

It tells me our God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  We still sing that our God  “saves, loves, makes, comes, gives, takes and died”.

However, there are some new God actions in the most-used worship choruses today that are not found in older hymns.  They are “embrace,” “have,” “lay,” and “stand.”

What does that tell you?  

It tells me we are now using language that is more relational when it comes to God.  That isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it can lead us to value what God does for us personally instead of seeing the bigger picture.  We have a tendency to forget the story isn’t just about us.  God comes to die, save, love and make his whole world.  That’s always been the point of the Bible since the beginning.  We get to be apart of that, but it’s good to remember:  Worship is not just about me.

Worship is about God, His story and His glory.

 

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