Hey all, hope you’re well.

I’ve read this book a few times and found myself perusing it again today when something caught my attention. This is an excerpt from N.T. Wright’s “For All God’s Worth”, talking about musical worship…

So where do we learn to stand in fear before this God? In our worship. Many movements in the modern church try to make the worship of God more accessible; often all they succeed in doing is to trivialize it. Of course there must be understanding, of a sort, if worship is not to degenerate into mumbo-jumbo. But when you are confronted by fire, the proper response is not rational analysis, or ‘will-the-people-in-the-pew-understand-it?’, or a lowest-common-denominator leveling of words or music, but falling on your face. And, without mincing any words, people are more likely to be confronted by the majesty and awesomeness of God when the music and drama used in worship was written and performed with that in mind.

This, to be sure, places an awesome responsibility on the musicians and liturgical organizers. Church music is meant to be a polished silver chalice, in which the strong wine of God’s love is given to the rest of us. It is meant to be a burnished brazier which allows the congregation to warm themselves at God’s fire. Woe betide, of course, the chalice or brazier that forgets what it is there for; but woe betide those who scoff at the polish or the burnishing because they cannot see what lies within…


7 thoughts on “A Polished Silver Chalice

  1. Sara 6 years ago

    I completely agree with what the author is saying in the exerpt. The analogy of church music being a polished silver chalice that contains the strong wine of God’s love is so powerful. It shows us that worship is not just supposed to be an action we carry out to please those around us, but it needs to come from the heart.
    Thank you for posting this, I was really encouraged by it.

  2. James Wallace 6 years ago

    Good thoughts for sure. I think the seeker-sensitive movement has really affected us in trying to ensure that both our music and message are “accessible”, and too often that means that it is watered down to the point that it does not present the life-changing, awe-inspiring, revelatory Gospel that God intended.

  3. Gary 6 years ago

    “This, to be sure, places an awesome responsibility on the musicians and liturgical organizers.”

    We all seem to get most of our theology (and heresy) from the songs we sing in church. Their memory is also more enduring than the sermon. What a HUGE responsibility for writer and worship leaders! I am sometimes amazed at how often musical talent trumps character when it comes to choosing a band or worship leader. There’s way more content on character in the Psalms than the one reference to playing skillfully (Ps 33:3).

    Seems to me 1Tim 3 should apply to worship leaders especially, given they do present the burnished brazier and silver chalice to the body of Christ.

    1. Elias Dummer 6 years ago

      Oh, agreed! At the same time, I also took from this that we can sometimes take the musical elements in our worship services and boil them down to the “lowest common denominator” in the name of being accessible. While not every note of more “traditional” pieces of church music might be easily singable – they are often beautifully musical, and since humans are pretty much wired to appreciate music, we’re moved.

      With that in mind, I appreciate when Wright says “And, without mincing any words, people are more likely to be confronted by the majesty and awesomeness of God when the music and drama used in worship was written and performed with that in mind.”

      By offering people a “lowest common denominator” art form, do we sell God short? Certainly God will move through the Holy Spirit as He always does, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a role to play.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      1. Gary 6 years ago

        here here! I agree.

        I recently saw Handel’s Messiah for the first time. I have little musical talent, and to see that was inspiring, elevating, humbling and quite frankly not all that accessible!

        I was great and awe-inspiring in the truest sense of the word. It is remarkable I had to go and see a secular choir sing it though…

        I guess that just proves your point even further, the church has lost some of its ability to awe. Similarly (myself included) we water our Lord himself down, failing to fall on our face…

  4. Robert 6 years ago

    Was leading worship this past Sunday and had an elderly gentleman come up during the brief greeting time we share after the worship and before the pastor’s message. He mentioned that the music was too loud and that we ‘lingered’ on some of the songs way too long. I fumbled to express what’s so beautifully said above that our purpose was to connect with God, one-on-one in intimate fellowship, to the point where no one was listening to my voice or our team. We wanted our congregation to truly meet with God during the worship time. He nodded politely but immediately after our conversation, he and his wife left. I pray that the Lord finds another way to connect with their hearts.

  5. C.J. 6 years ago

    There is certainly a pressure in the modern church to be accessible and “engaging”. This can mean easy to sing melodies and words that make sense the first time you see them. When I go to a Sigur ros concert there is a movement in the music that transcends the language barrier. When and how will the church make this transition? Beauty, art, and an overwhelming expression of surrender. I believe it will come soon, and I believe “The City Harmonic” will be one of the bands that helps us get there. Thanks guys. It is time for something new.

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