05 January 2008

Two

I am continuing my observance of the Twelve Days of Christmas, which end tomorrow with the Feast of the Epiphany. (Yes, my Christmas tree is still up. It will come down tomorrow evening.)

Question 107: Which is the second commandment?

Answer: The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Question 108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature: Whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.

Question 110: What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it?

Answer: The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God's sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship, as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations. (Here)

In response to this commandment, my denomination excludes as elements of worship anything not either expressly commanded or logically deduced from what is expressly commanded. So, while some churches have seen fit to forego the sermon in favor of some relevant dramatic presentation we have not done. It seems to us manifestly clear that the preaching of the Word is a necessary component of Christian worship.

Of course, those who have seen fit to do away with the sermon (I offer that as only one example) have done so from a desire to be "relevant". People don't want to sit for sermons; they're boring. But people can get excited about drama (in the technical sense of the word, of course), so let's give them what will get them to show up.

Now, if worship is something done for people, this may make some sense. But if worship is something offered up to God -- a sacrifice of thanks and praise -- then it seems highly reasonable that He Who is to receive it is authorized to tell His people what He wants them to offer.

Worship, like "image-makeing", is a creative act. As a creative act it can be a way of serving the creature rather than the Creator. In other words, worship is not holy just because we get together on Sunday and do it, and call it worship. And what we do in worship may not be for us to decide. We may not have, as creatures, the authority to determine what elements are contained in proper worship.

Is my worship a form of idolatry?


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James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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