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Hermeneutic of Worship Language
Understanding Communion with the Whole of God

 

Chapter 5       The Language of Whole Worship

sections:

 

Whole Ecclesiology for Whole Worship

Building Whole Communion

"Remember Me Whole"

Maturing with New Wine

Maturing in God's Family Love

The Hermeneutic of Nothing Less and No Substitutes

Chap.1

Chap.2

Chap.3

Chap.4

Chap.5

printable pdf of entire study

Table of Contents

Scripture Index

Bibliography

 

 

“The Lord our God has been gracious in…

giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes…

he has granted us new life to worship the whole of God.”

                                                                                   

Ezra 9:8-9, NIV

 

Therefore, since we are receiving the irreducible family of God

let us give thanks in relational language,

by which we offer to God acceptable worship

 

                                                                                                            Hebrews 12:28

 

 

In this final chapter of our study, what I hope emerges is a deeper understanding and appreciation for God and God’s wholeness, in order to deepen our ongoing communion with the whole of God and from this relational reality to transform our Communion practice. The whole of God now dwells in the hearts of his people (God’s relational whole) in the irreducible relational context behind the curtain and by the nonnegotiable relational process without the veil. Liturgy behind the curtain composes the new song of communion together to make our Communion celebrations whole-ly pleasing to our God.

Ezra’s above prayer in relational language to God is profound and relevant for liturgy behind the curtain today. In OT times, God’s relational context was signified by God’s sanctuary (or tabernacle, temple). Ezra has summed up the relational reality of God’s initiative of relational grace toward his people to establish them specifically in God’s sanctuary (“place of holiness,” d), where God’s presence dwelled. Ezra’s words “God gives light to our eyes” recall God’s definitive blessing (Num 6:24-26), in which God’s vulnerable Face shines on them to newly establish a change (siym) for relationships together in wholeness (šalôm); this relational outcome would include the hermeneutic means to vulnerably receive God’s self-disclosures for understanding and knowing God (cf. Ps 67:1-2).

For our own hermeneutical correction and maturity, it is important for us to recognize Ezra’s interpretive lens and what he focused on. The immediate situation of Ezra’s prayer was soon after the Jerusalem temple had been rebuilt, which was of great significance for the returning exiles for Israel’s identity that composed Second Temple Judaism. Ezra’s primary focus was on their covenant relationship with God, and only secondarily about the physical temple building. His prayer hereby reflected both Ezra’s sensitivity to the qualitative and awareness of the relational, specifically toward God. His language therefore used the word “sanctuary” to highlight God’s presence (d, Most Holy Place; also miqdāš, a place or thing consecrated to God, e.g. Ex 25:8; Dt 16:2,6,11), rather than the term for the physical temple (hēykāl, cf. Ezra 3:6,10,; 4:1; 2 Kgs 24:13). The sanctuary specifically referred to the place where God’s presence would dwell in the midst of his people; and only God could determine where the sanctuary would be built, and how his presence could be encountered (written in the law). God’s presence (pāneh, face, the front of, presence) is also signified in Scripture by his “Name” (e.g. Dt 12:11: 16:2,6,11; 1 Kgs 5:5) and “glory” (e.g. Ps 26:8; Ezek 10:1-4,18; 43:1-2), which Jesus whole-ly embodied (2 Cor 4:6). God’s presence dwelled in the sanctuary to be “among you” and “walk among you,” (Lev 26:12); yet, the people’s presence with this holy God always had to be mediated through the priests’ intercession with sacrifices. Moreover, only the high priest could enter the inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place, once a year to present the blood of sacrifices for Atonement before God’s most vulnerable presence there. Thus, for most of the people, their encounter with the whole and holy God was indirect at best.

In the NT, God’s relational context undergoes an unimaginable shift from sanctuary in the tabernacle or temple building to the hearts of God’s new creation family—that which distinguishes us—as the new “place” for the whole of God’s vulnerable presence in the Face of Christ to dwell (Jn 14:23; Eph 2:18-22; 2 Cor 6:16). And now that the Spirit has come to dwell in our hearts (Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13-14), the trinitarian relational process goes even deeper for us (Rom 8:14-16). Being who and whose we are as God’s people, what emerges even more clearly is our relational responsibility as the new covenant family of God. How much more deeply we can experience God Face to face because Jesus entered into the “most holy place” behind the curtain to make his sacrifice before the Father (Heb 9:11-15); and by this Jesus accomplished his conclusive relational work in the vulnerable involvement of love (not merely sacrifice) that tore the curtain open so that we can enter in. We are now able to join him both in his involvement and sacrifice of love ‘behind the curtain’ for intimate communion Face to face with the veil removed, and therefore to participate directly in his life in the new covenant. This participation in God’s life composes liturgy behind the curtain in the language of whole worship.

 

Whole Ecclesiology for Whole Worship

This undeniable theological reality yearns to be the experiential truth of the practice by Christ’s church: The temple has been reconfigured without the curtain, and reconstituted to be the dwelling of God in the hearts of his family (Jn 14:23; 17:26; Eph 2:21-22) for Face-to-face relationship together without the veil (2 Cor 3:18; 4:6). Worship of the whole of God can only take place in this new relational context (Jn 4:21-23); and this involves by its nature the communion of reciprocal Face-to-face-to-Face relationship together—that is, the vulnerable involvement of our whole person in compatible response to the whole of God’s vulnerable presence and intimate involvement composed by the face of Christ. This new relational process is inseparable from the new relational context of God’s temple in which/whom the whole of God dwells. This integral relational context and process composed by God’s Face are the irreducible and nonnegotiable terms necessary for communion together in order to compose our liturgy behind the curtain that both distinguishes and has significance to the whole of God.

As the previous chapters in this study have illuminated—and it cannot be overstated—to have communion with God behind the curtain necessitates taking up our relational responsibility to engage in God’s intimate relational process with our compatible relational involvement from inner out, vulnerably, with nothing less and no substitutes for our whole person. This is not only an individual responsibility, but corporate responsibility as God’s covenant family. For our growth, the letter to the Hebrews reinforces how we need to take up our corporate relational response. The writer could very well be addressing us today as those worshipers who maintain our relational distance by remaining in front of the curtain. While we too often find ourselves in a secondary sanctuary embedded in practices and traditions engaged from outer in, we are urged to see their parallel to “external regulations” (i.e. from human contextualization, Heb 9:10), associated with the old physical temple to justify ourselves (“clear the conscience,” 9:9, NIV), or simply to feel acceptable before God. To remain worshiping in front of the curtain is to relationally disregard the new covenant by Jesus’ blood (9:11-27). Thus the writer of Hebrews urges us as worshipers to join in Jesus’ involvement and sacrifice, “the new and living way of Jesus’ whole person, not just his death on the cross” through the curtain (10:19-20), to “draw near to God who is vulnerably present with hearts vulnerably in relational trust, believing that his grace is sufficient [10:22]because he who promised can be counted on to keep his word” (10:23). These relational dynamics for worshipers are the reciprocal response of relational trust (faith) in who, what, and how God is. Faith as this relational trust in God signifies the depth of involvement with God (i.e. to be his “righteous ones,” 10:38a) for liturgy behind the curtain that God seeks. The blessed outcome of this communion together is what God promises as our “eternal inheritance” (9:15; 6:15; 10:36), which Jesus definitively disclosed means to know and understand the whole and holy God (Jn 17:3; cf. Jer 9:24). This relational process and outcome have become obscured either by theological fog or by practice no longer connected to this theological reality and its relational significance.

In corporate worship, when we “shrink back”—that is, keep relationally distant in front of the curtain (knowingly or unknowingly)—God cannot enjoy communion with us, he cannot count on us to be his righteous ones, and accordingly “I will not be pleased with you (Heb 10:38b). These words are all relational messages from the heart of God.  The transcendent holy God wants us to know and understand him—the relational reality of which needs to transform our worship language! Our relational responsibility, which needs to express itself in corporate worship, is faith as relational trust with our whole person from inner out: “let us intimately engage God with a vulnerable heart in full assurance of faith (Heb 10:22). Faith expressing itself in the depth of involvement of family love is the only thing that has relational significance to the whole of God and ourselves (cf. Gal 5:6) to compose whole worship. This is our integral relational responsibility to be sufficient ecclesiologically to compose liturgy behind the curtain for communion with the transcendent holy God, to participate in God’s relational whole on his terms—that is, whole ecclesiology for whole worship to speak to and for God.

Now that the Spirit has relationally replaced Jesus to be with us in our hearts forever (2 Cor 1:22), the Spirit is vulnerably present and intimately involved for ongoing reciprocal relationship together. Jesus has made it clear that as long as we are relationally involved with him just as he is with us, the whole of God will dwell in us to compose us as family (Jn 14:15,23; 15:9-10). In reciprocal relationship together, the Spirit connects each of our hearts with the Father’s heart (Rom 8:14-16, 26-27; Gal 4:6-7), and further composes us together in family love. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul prays deeply to the Father on behalf of the church’s corporate reciprocal involvement with the Spirit for their maturity in intimate communion (Eph 1:17-18; 3:16-19). He prays “that the whole of God may dwell in your [pl.] hearts for the intimate communion to relationally know and understand God’s heart and participate in God’s relational whole” (3:19). In order to grow as family together (“receive the kingdom of God,” Heb 12:28; “inherit the kingdom of God,” Gal 5:21) we need to ongoingly reject defining ourselves and treating others from outer in, and ongoingly engage in reciprocal relationship with the Spirit (“keep in step with the Spirit,” Gal 5:26, NIV, cf. 1 Cor 2:12). Only in reciprocal relationship with the Spirit, we can corporately embody the whole of God as the new creation family (whole ecclesiology) to distinguish God “so that the world in the world may know …may believe ….” (Jn 17:20-23). God’s relational imperatives are for our ongoing reciprocal relational involvement with the Spirit as Jesus’ relational replacement, who deeply connects our hearts with the Father to compose us together as his very own family—“the Spirit of adoption, and by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom 8:15). Thereby our worship is made whole conjointly in our theology and function.

            In this relational primacy, God’s thematic relational actions have always gone toward establishing an uncommon family (signified by “house,” e.g. Num 12:7; Ps 23:6), among whom his presence (signified by Face, Name, glory, embodied Word, ‘where I am’) could dwell for communion together and to build his new creation family, that is, God’s relational whole. Just as the Trinity cannot be reduced to a single person, or three separate persons, and still be the Trinity, God’s relational whole is also irreducible to fragments of persons or relationships and still be God’s new creation family. Accordingly, it is insufficient that our worship is focused only on Christ (ignoring or paying little attention to the Father and the Spirit) as an individual in an overly christocentric focus. If we are to mature from a diet of “milk,” then we need to digest the “solid food” of the whole of God (Heb 5:12-14). Moreover, it is insufficient to worship merely as an individual because God’s relational whole is the new temple composed of his people together, in relational likeness of the Trinity. Therefore, God’s relational whole can neither be constituted by an individual, nor by a gathering of disparate individuals. This involves the necessary composition of whole ecclesiology for whole worship.

Of further importance, God’s relational whole is irreducible to outer-in efforts at unity in ontological simulation. In many worship services today, claims and sincere efforts are made, yet in referential language, about being Christ’s body, about unity as God’s people both as a local church body and with the global church. We thus speak (even boast) about who we corporately are (at least theologically), but often do not engage in relationships from inner out as God’s new creation family, resulting in ontological simulation that leaves us fragmentary (e.g. as we continue to make false distinctions based on outer-in criteria as discussed in chap. 2). The composition of God’s relational whole is transformed only by equalized and intimate relationships from inner out together intimately as “one” (Jn 17:21-23) in relational likeness of the Trinity (Jn 17:21,26); otherwise the old temple remains standing without the new disclosed (Heb 9:8). God’s relational whole as ‘one’ with the whole and holy God is the relational outcome of Christ’s gospel, the best news for the human relational condition, for our deep human need to relationally belong (both individually and corporately together) to our creator, transcendent God and intimate Father. For the most part, the relational reality (and experiential truth) is that the church has yet to embody the theological truth and reality of its qualitative image and relational likeness of the whole of God, the Trinity. For this reason, we desperately need transformation of our hermeneutic means (aisthesis, for maturity, Heb 5:14) from inner out by God’s relational grace; this irreplaceable transformation would establish us firmly with the whole of God Face to face and as God’s relational whole together face-to-Face-to-face.

            Whole theology and practice of God’s new creation family—in the ecclesiology to be whole—is in contrast to and in conflict with reductionism, which means always being challenged by what  prevails from human contextualization. Being God’s relational whole is to be ongoingly defined and determined by our participation in God’s life (‘in Christ’)—that is, defined and determined “from above” (Jn 3:3,7), or ‘top-down’. And our theological anthropology (ontology and function) can be whole only from inner out. Top-down and inner out are always challenged by human contextualization, which is human shaping from outer in constructed from ‘bottom-up’ (cf. Gen 11:1-9). Even from early in the history of the church, these issues presented major struggles that the churches apparently were not readily aware of. Therefore, in further expressions of his family love, Jesus spoke to these very dynamics—thus composing his ecclesiology to be whole—in his address to his churches in his post-ascension discourse  in Revelation (Rev 2-3). In relational language, Jesus challenged several churches’ fragmented/reduced practices engaged from outer in, and their function from bottom up (human contextualization). For ecclesiology to be whole, the church cannot function, for example, as did the churches at Ephesus, Sardis, and Laodicea.[1] These three churches could be easily recognizable among our churches today.

            First, the church at Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7) was hard working and dedicated to doctrinal purity (orthodoxy), but they operated under referential language. Jesus strongly rebuked them (“I hold this against you”) for their failure to ongoingly function in the primacy of relationship for making relational connection with him and each other (“you have forsaken your first love”). Without their relational involvement with the whole of God as God’s relational whole on God’s relational terms, this church could not distinguish itself as God’s new creation family. Unless they returned to God’s relational primacy—which inseparably included all their relationships together—they would lose their relational significance to Jesus (v.6).

            The second church was at Sardis (3:1-6). This church had a notable reputation for “being alive” (v.1) based on their active involvement in ministry and service. Yet, to Jesus their work was not whole, “complete.” This church was defined and determined from outer in by a reduced theological anthropology (ontology and function) by what they did (ministries and service) and had (high reputation, or “name”), and therefore lacked qualitative and relational significance to God (“you are dead,” v.1; compare the contrast in Rom 6:11). Although undoubtedly self-affirming, their practice and reputation could not distinguish them from inner out as God’s relational whole.

            The church at Laodicea is the third example of a church needing correction from Jesus (3:14-22). This church defined itself by what they had, great wealth (“I am rich,” v.17), and did in eye medicine and textiles (“blind and naked”). Their relational involvement with God was shallow (“neither cold nor hot…but lukewarm,” v.16), and therefore distasteful (“about to spit you out of my mouth”). Because they defined themselves from outer in, this reflected their failure to account for their sin of reductionism and need to be made whole from inner out (“I need nothing,” v.17).

            Each of these churches has a modern counterpart: doctrinally-correct churches (Ephesus), mega-churches (Sardis), consumer churches (Laodicea). Therefore, Jesus’ relational words to these churches need to be listened to, received and responded to by churches today. In his discourse, he makes unmistakably clear that we, his worshipers individually and corporately have vital relational responsibility to account for, the significance of “let anyone who understands my relational language respond accordingly” (2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). For Jesus, his new creation family requires nothing less and no substitutes but for ecclesiology to be whole. Thus, he stands at the door of our heart knocking in pursuit (3:20); he does not break the door down in unilateral relationship, but awaits our compatible, reciprocal response to open our hearts in vulnerable likeness. This is deeply affirming to us—can you ‘hear’ his heart?

            Whole ecclesiology is the indispensable hermeneutic leading to the understanding required to compose whole worship. Conversely, whole worship cannot be experienced apart from the distinguished understanding of God emerging from the communion of whole ecclesiology.

 

Building Whole Communion

The primary work of the church that composes language of whole worship is our compatible relational response together in the trinitarian process of family love (cf. Rev 2:4). To engage in this liturgy together involves this primacy of relationship by “faith relationally working through love,” thereby rendering any other defining distinctions without significance (“counts for anything,” Gal 5:6). This relational process of family love unfolds with the understanding that faith as relational work is relational trust in the whole of God (Eph 3:12), specifically now in reciprocal relationship with the Spirit (Eph 1:17; 3:16-17). To engage in this reciprocal involvement with the Spirit is to participate in the triune God’s life as God’s relational whole—that is, as the new creation family in whose joined-together hearts the whole of God’s presence dwells (Eph 2:21-22, cf. 3:20-21). Our vulnerable involvement in family love (agapē) has two inseparably conjoined functional dimensions: (1) to corporately worship God (Eph 5:18b-20), and (2) to build each other up as the new creation family (Eph 4:12b-16). These dimensions are inseparable and irreducible because we cannot rightly (i.e. with any relational significance to God) worship God without family love for each other (cf. Jn 13:34-35; 1 Jn 2:9; 3:10; 4:21). And we cannot love each other without first having been loved deeply ourselves by God who in his relational grace is vulnerably presence and intimately involvement (Eph 5:1-2; 1 Jn 4:7-11,19).

            Whole ecclesiology for whole worship—as Paul made definitive in Ephesians in conflict with reductionism[2]—means that those who plan and lead worship need to ensure that, above everything and everyone else, the whole of God is the One we come together to worship. Anyone less or any substitute is a subtle shift in focus, for example, to the worship leaders, musicians, singers, preachers, other performers, or special guests. God has loved us first (from the beginning, Dt 7:7-9), whereby God, in reciprocal relational terms, expects to be our first love (cf. Ex 20:3; Rev 2:4).This hermeneutic must determine the dynamic flow of our worship. The whole of God inseparably—the Father who has adopted us, the Son in whom we are composed as family, and the Spirit now vulnerably present and involved for reciprocal relationship together to complete the relational process of family love—deserves (indeed, is due) our affirmation, appreciation, and adoration for who, what, and how the whole and holy God is. This relational response cannot be reduced to quid pro quo in an exchange process—nothing less and no substitutes but the reciprocal relational process of love. The Psalms beautifully illuminate this covenant relational framework that first praises and blesses God for who, what and how God is (e.g. the function of doxologies, cf. Rom 11:33-36), and then integrally acknowledges and thanks the whole of God for the depth of his relational involvement with us. For example, Psalms 135:19-21 through 136:1-9 has this relational flow.

In Psalm 135, the ancient liturgist begins the communal call to worship (vv.1-2) with the imperative hallelu Yah, “praise the Lord.” God’s transcendence, faithful involvement are recounted; and God is conclusively distinguished from idols made by humans. Then God’s people bless the Lord. Five times the poet invokes “bārak” meaning “praise” or “bless” (vv.19-21), in the reciprocal relational response to God’s blessing in his vulnerable presence and intimate involvement, as God promised in his definitive blessing (Num 6:24-26). This is why we also need to yādāh, “give thanks” (Ps 136:1-9). dah also means to speak out, sing, and includes confessing our sins—all of which compose our compatible reciprocal relational response to the God who is present and involved (“his steadfast love endures forever,” Ps 136). Moreover, God created the universe, and then didn’t leave it (as in deism), but “by his understanding” (v.5, NIV) he is whole-ly involved in his creation made whole in his likeness. And God is intimately involved with us in very person-specific ways because he deeply knows us (“he who remembered us in our low estate,” v. 23; cf. Mt 6:8,28-30). Bārak and dāh integrally and irreducibly compose our compatible reciprocal relational response to God for his presence and involvement (in creative, communicative and salvific action) for the primary purpose of covenant relationship together. Bārak without dah keeps God transcendent by reducing the Trinity without the embodied Christ and relationally present Spirit; dah without bārak makes the focus more about us in a subtle shift to results of God’s actions. This fragmentary language is disembodied and/or de-relationalized from God the Subject in relationship.

The integrated worship language of bārak-dah  must by its nature compose our compatible reciprocal relational response for the covenant relationship to be whole, which is further composed in relationship together by the ecclesiology of the whole. Bārak-dah also helps us grow in affirming the primacy of God’s life in whole (not in fragments) into whose whole (not parts of) our life is integrated. We participate in God’s whole life, and not the other way around whereby God revolves around our lives; the latter emerges from a fragmented God more easily rendered to our shaping. The former is how we need to grow in our thanksgiving, so that when we thank God for how he has loved us individually, loved us collectively, and loved us as his family, the whole of God will receive all our praise and thanks that sound consonant in his ear and delight his heart.

In fact, ancient Hebrew and Greek made no distinction between praise and thanksgiving. Another word that is often translated as “give thanks” is dāh (e.g. Ps 100). dāh connotes both praise and thanks, and together with dah both reflect a more relational language framework than our “thanks.” In our modern age, we interpret giving thanks to God based on something he has done, focused more on the gift or action than on his person. This hermeneutic is neither surprising nor unexpected in a prevailing exchange system where the person is secondary. Also, thanking in our modern sense can also shift more of the focus on us—that is, on the recipient more than the giver—which is expressed in so many of our worship songs. It is edifying, then, if not confronting, for us that thanksgiving is included within praise of who, what and how God is—integrally composing whole worship language. Relationally this is parallel to Psalm 34:2: “My soul [nepeš, soul, innermost being] makes its boast in the LORD” (cf. Ps 44:6-8; Jer 9:23-24; 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17). The word for “boast,” hālal, means also to celebrate and denotes rejoicing and praising God, and is the word in the imperative hallelujah, “give glory to God.” “Boast” is given its definitive basis most clearly in Jeremiah:

“Thus says the LORD: “Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the capable boast in their abilities, do not let the privileged boast in their resources; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the LORD” (Jer 9:23-24).

This is not the shallow boast of cognitive information about God but the deepest boast of knowing and understanding God in the innermost. This boast is to ‘sing’ as God’s very own family who are qualitatively tāmiym (be whole and who function in the primacy of relationship with sĕdāqâh (righteousness)—made new from inner out because God loved us first (“first” as both in primacy and in the order of action), therefore reciprocally singing the new song in response to the whole of God.

The second dimension of family love to compose whole ecclesiology and language necessary for whole communion (inseparable from corporately worshiping God) is loving each other by building each other up together as God’s family (Jn 13:34; Eph 4:12b-16). Participating in God’s life in whole worship means for all to participate as a full members of God’s family together (Eph 2:19; 4:16; 1 Cor 12, 1 Pet 2:9), to see and be involved with each other as sisters and brothers (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:4-5), the firstborn among whom is Jesus (first in significance, Rom 8:29). This is how we need to understand submission to God as our first love, by giving primacy to his relational terms of our whole person from inner out in communion together face to Face and also to each other face to face to Face (cf. Jn 13:34-35). Whole ecclesiology engages the primacy of family love in our new creation family relationships, Face-to-face-to-face, and composes whole language of communion together for whole worship; from this determining basis, Communion then can be transformed to composition in whole language.

Corporate worship emerges whole only when we are engaged in the primacy of the new creation family. Hereby, all other secondary concerns (e.g. service, including ministry) are integrated into what is primary to God. The secondary aspects of church practice, though not unimportant, can no longer be allowed to become substitutes for the vulnerability and depth of relational involvement in family love with each other just as God has vulnerably loved us—not at a distance in transcendence or de-relationalized in mere sacrifice. Giving primacy to relationships is neither convenient nor efficient, especially if our ecclesiology lens is shaped by business models, which emphasize efficiency and results, not to mention their stratifying relationships. Yet, to maintain relational distance in any part of God’s family (i.e. to stay in front of the curtain without the veil removed) is to partake of Jesus’ table fellowship “in an unworthy manner” (1 Cor 11:27). Our language of Communion needs to celebrate being sisters and brothers who have been equalized together by relational grace in the communion of family in likeness of God, so that no outer-in distinctions are allowed to create or maintain divisions (as in Col 3:10-11). And equalized relationships are also inseparably intimate relationships together, thus barring all relational stratification or distance. In likeness of the Trinity, there are no equalized relationships without intimacy, and no intimacy without being equalized. There certainly are still functional differences, such as church and worship leaders, teachers, deacons, and so forth, which define secondary roles that cannot determine the primacy of relationship together—as constituted in the Trinity (Eph 1:22-23; 3:19; 4:13; Col 1:19; 2:9-10). When the secondary becomes primary, however, these unique functions need to be redeemed from inner out and submitted to God’s relational primacy for the building up of the God’s new creation family (Eph 4:11-13; 5:21). Those in positions of leadership especially need to embody equalized and intimate relationships (by inner out change of metamorphoō, not outer in change of metaschematizō) characterized by their whole person vulnerably involved in relationship with the whole of God—nothing less and no substitutes—and thus also with the rest of the family. It is on this basis of being whole that Paul defined the function of church leadership to build God’s family “to full maturity, to the measure of the pleroma of Christ” (fullness, complete, whole, Eph 4:13).

Mary demonstrated this leadership in whole worship as she vulnerably functioned as a whole equalized person in intimate communion with Jesus; and Jesus distinctly points all the rest of us who claim the gospel to her example as new wine in a new wineskin (Lk 5:38 with Mk 14:9). Yet, Jesus also knows that some of us will resist in choosing new wine (Lk 5:39), which is reflected in our theology, our hermeneutic, our language and its practices.

In prevailing terms, it is an uncomfortable process, this ongoing process to be whole by being equalized and growing in intimate relationships in Jesus’ new relational order (Heb 9:10, NIV). It is certainly more comfortable to maintain the status quo of more shallow, stratified and distant relationships in churches and academy, and worship engaged on the basis of roles that characterizes so much church and worship leadership today. Additionally, as mentioned in chapter two, to be made whole in equalized and intimate relationship means letting go of the benefits we receive in the old relational order of the comparative process. Consider these examples: for clergy, this means letting go of being treated as more important than the laity (which the laity also needs to let go of); for the preacher or teacher, this means letting go of any self-serving efforts in a comparative process (e.g. seeking affirmation from others), otherwise they will not be vulnerable with God to be able to speak to and for God; for worship leaders, this means letting go of being front and center of attention in corporate worship; for the worshipers in the pews/chairs, this means letting go of the comfort of anonymity, passivity as an audience, and dependence on the worship team to mediate relational connection with the Lord. These are ways, including the related hermeneutic, that church and worship leaders need to take responsibility to help the new creation family of worshipers emerge and flow as the new wine.

In worship planning, and especially in Communion, therefore, we need to express love for each other by mutually helping each other in the redemptive change we all need—the inseparable change of both dying to the sin of reductionism and openly emerging whole from inner out as the new wine. This is the thrust of the writer of Hebrews: “Actively pursue wholeness among yourselves in uncommon relationships without which you cannot speak to and for God to distinguish him for others to perceive. Take care that no one lacks [hystereō, to lack, be in need, destitute, fall short] relational grace so that reductionism does not take root and grow” (Heb 12:14-15). Church and worship leadership need to take the lead in submission to the Spirit in compatible reciprocal relationship together to address these vital matters that affect all of us (Eph 5:18b-21).

God’s church needs a new song to distinguish the whole and holy God in God’s full glory that is composed of his qualitative being as heart, his distinguished relational nature, and his vulnerable and unfailing involvement with us—now fully dwelling in us as his new temple. For this utmost relational purpose, our old language of Communion needs to be transformed and made whole-ly new in the relational language of God. Before this liturgy of new wine can emerge and flow completely, we need to address some entrenched and perhaps beloved old language of Communion. This will likely increase our tension, as it did for those at Jesus’ first new wine table fellowship (Lk 5:33).

“Remember Me Whole”

As this study has unfolded, what emerges as a key for the church to mature in “acceptable worship” (Heb 12:28) is the redemptive change of any Communion practice composed “in an unworthy manner” (1 Cor 11:27). For the most part, prevailing Communion (or the Eucharist) practices are patterned with a focus on only a few of Jesus’ words (important as they are), namely, the so-called words of institution “in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:23-25). The consequence is that we celebrate a disembodied Object and de-relationalized Subject in Communion—that is, remembering a fragmented person in narrowed-down referential terms. In the following interaction between Jesus and some disciples, John’s Gospel exposes referentialization of Jesus’ words, and in that exposure John provides us sufficient basis to challenge today’s referentialized and thus de-relationalized Communion practices.

Even before Jesus’ last and pivotal table fellowship, some of his disciples came to their own conclusions about what Jesus meant when he linked his flesh with bread to eat, and his blood with drink (Jn 6: 26-68). These were disciples who stopped following Jesus (v.66) based on having interpreted Jesus’ words through their narrowed lens of referential language. These disciples’ lens focused on only a few of Jesus’ words apart from (1) the integrity of his person presented, (2) the quality and relational content of his communication, and (3) the depth level of his relational involvement. By referentializing his words, they detached Jesus’ words from his whole person, thereby fragmenting Jesus’ whole person. Thus, while Jesus was initially openly disclosing his intimate relationship with his Father, they paid attention to only a few words (a selective bias), and they ended up with no more than the absurd conclusion that Jesus was discussing cannibalism (6:52). This is how they disembodied and de-relationalized Jesus’ discourse on eating his body and drinking his blood, which in relational terms was only about engaging in intimate relationship together (cf. vv.29,40,54-57).

They not only failed to hear Jesus’ relational language and disclosures about the Father, but asserted their fragmented interpretation in referential language (6:60). Yet, such conclusions should never be surprising given the selective bias of their hermeneutic. Such interpretive lenses, used by many of Jesus’ disciples (past and present), referentialize his relational language, and thus fail to hear all that Jesus was vulnerably disclosing as necessary for communion with the whole of God. John’s Gospel exposes this hermeneutic issue in this interaction and throughout his Gospel (cf. Nicodemus’ narrow hermeneutic, as previously mentioned, Jn 3:4).

The critical issue in saying that Communion is disembodied and de-relationalized is not about whether the bread and cup become Christ’s body and blood (as in transubstantiation);[3] nor is it about linking Communion with a sit-down meal shared together, which was the earliest church practice of the Eucharist patterned on Jesus’ table fellowships. Rather, disembodied and de-relationalized Communion gives primacy to fragments of a few of Jesus’ words (e.g. “do this in remembrance of me”) or some secondary aspect (e.g. referential information in the prayer preceding Communion, known in church tradition as the ‘Great Prayer of Thanksgiving’) of the Communion practice apart from the relational reality of the intimate communion of shared life together as the new creation family. However, if our language composes liturgy behind the curtain, we necessarily encounter the whole of God made vulnerable to us through Jesus’ whole person (Heb 10:19-22). For the reality of this encounter to have relational significance, our Communion must go beyond the elements of the past in remembrance (anamnēsis) of his sacrifice that secures the future, as in “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:27). Our Communion must be composed by the face of Jesus (not merely ‘”body” and “blood” in ongoing communion with the whole of God (and God’s glory, 2 Cor 4:6) in the new covenant composing God’s new creation family. The Face of God made vulnerable by Jesus cannot be reduced to the cross or remain on the cross but must be engaged face to Face in order to have reciprocal relational connection compatible to and congruent with the whole of God’s relational response to us.

How Jesus is remembered has deep theological and relational implications. Anything less of the Face of God and in our face-to-Face response keeps God behind the curtain and maintains our response in front of the curtain, both of which signify worship in the old temple (Heb 9:8). The extent of our listening to Jesus’ words in relational language will be the determining issue, both in understanding the whole of God theologically and for the connection needed in communion together relationally. As Jesus’ made conclusive: “Pay attention to all my words you hear; the hermeneutic you use will be the Jesus you remember” (Mk 4:24).

Our common practice of ‘remembrance’ reduces Christ (unintentionally), but we can engage the relational work to “remember me whole.” Anamnēsis, translated as ‘remembrance’, also denotes commemoration or celebration. Therefore, to partake in Communion that is restored to its full dynamic relational significance is to “do this in celebration with me,” in the same significance as celebrating with “the bridegroom” at the new wine table fellowship (Mt 9:15). And this celebration is embodied vulnerably in the present without the veil (no constraint or relational distance), as we make the choice to take our place at the family table (set with the bread and cup) as adopted daughters and sons; that is, as those unreduced persons who securely belong in the new creation family, no longer relational orphans (Rom 8:29; Eph 1:4-14), and for which the Spirit is present for reciprocal relationship together to connect our hearts with the Father’s heart (Rom 8:15-16, 26-27; Gal 4:6). We need to change our hermeneutic, language and thinking: “Remember me whole” in order to celebrate the relational reality and experiential truth of who and what the whole of God is and how the whole of God has acted to bring us together (Col 2:9-10); we celebrate the vulnerable Face of the whole of God now dwelling with us in our hearts by the Spirit as family together in wholeness, congruent with Jesus’ prayer (Jn 17:20-26); we celebrate together with our compatible reciprocal response of our (individual and corporate) vulnerable face(s) in God’s qualitative image and relational likeness (2 Cor 3:18; Eph 4:23-24); we celebrate his relational response of grace that removed the relational barriers and ongoingly enables us to grow further and deeper together with God as his very own beloved daughters and sons (Eph 2:13-22); and we celebrate being sisters and brothers in equalized and intimate relationships together (Col 3:10-11).

To celebrate Communion like this is the new wine emerging and flowing completely, not constrained in theology as referential knowledge, but with vulnerable hearts in how we come together to share in Jesus’ table fellowship, along with Mary, Levi, the former prostitute and Zacchaeus. This distinguished involvement is the relational work of God’s new creation family making the primary primary—indeed, to transpose referential, diminished and minimalized Communion into Jesus’ new song in whole Communion with relational connection without the veil. For example, to counter the individualistic practice of partaking in Communion, we need ways to have persons physically come together (e.g. gather around the altar table); we need help to make connection with each other (eye contact at the very least), to pass each other the bread, or to say a word of affirmation to each other, thus to actually share together to embody the significance of communion in Communion. We need Jesus’ new song to replace the old fragmented Communion dirge (e.g. everyone inward and looking down), the specific notes and lyrics for which need to be composed with the Spirit. This is not about innovation as an end in itself, but transformation of our ecclesiology to be whole for transformation of Communion together to compose whole worship.

I suggested in a previous chapter that we drop the phrase ‘words of institution’ and instead call Jesus’ words ‘formative family words’ to shift our thinking from fragments to Jesus’ ongoing relational work with the Spirit to make us whole together in likeness of the Trinity (as in Jesus’ formative family prayer, Jn 17). It also would be helpful to replace “remembrance” with “celebration” to shift our focus from the past and inadvertently ignore the Spirit’s presence as Jesus’ relational replacement for communion ‘here and now’. “Celebration” also reminds us that the choice is ours to make to enter boldly and confidently behind the curtain face-to-Face-to-face here and now in the Spirit. There are many other ways we have fragmented Communion which specifically need to be transformed as we submit ourselves to Jesus’ relational imperative to change and grow in God’s primacy for relationship—in other words, to “remember me whole” indeed.

Jesus’ relational language integral to building whole Communion composes the lens to be able to recognize and transform outer-in practices, such as reciting words without the relational involvement of hearts (Mt 15:8-9; Mk 7:6-8). We also become attuned to overemphasis on individual persons that fragments the whole (e.g. overly christocentric focus, or making Communion only about “Jesus and me”). We begin to have a distaste for the primacy of secondary matter, or other influences from human contextualization that reduce any part of God’s relational whole. And we feel the pain with God when God cannot count on his family to make relational connection together. These are areas for further relational work that need to be taken up by worship thinkers, leaders and planners with the purpose of building up God’s relational whole. They also need to ensure that all aspects of worship have relational clarity, that is, that God is the One we are worshiping—for example, our songs focus on God and we sing directly to God, both expressed in the second-person as Subject involved in relationship together. And while worship leaders cannot ensure the vulnerable involvement of each worshiper, they need to lead with their own vulnerability for communion together both behind the curtain and without any veil. Worship planners also are responsible to provide the opportunities for worshipers (individually and corporately) to praise, bless, give thanks directly to God without their mediation, and participate in Communion together with their whole person, nothing less and no substitutes.

Although the outward forms of Communion vary widely across the church spectrum—from high liturgical churches, in which templates of structured patterns are followed, to low or Free church practices—the vital issue to God is the qualitative depth of relational involvement during Communion of the worshipers from inner out. Communion without the primacy of the ecclesiology of worship is an institutional practice without significance both to God and his family. The church in worship without the primacy of communion in relationship together is an institution without significance both to distinguish the whole of God and to be distinguished as God’s whole. Whole ecclesiology for whole worship is irreducible to the whole of God and thereby is nonnegotiable for God’s whole.

Therefore, the primacy God gives to relational connection is our hermeneutic lens to deconstruct any Communion practices that reduce God’s relational whole. Any deconstruction, no doubt, raises tension about the place of church tradition. Essentially, to remember the whole of Jesus is to listen to all his words, notably about tradition among God’s people (Mk 7:7-8) and his unavoidable critiques of church practice (Rev 2-3)—remembering the primacy of his words that construct whole ecclesiology for whole worship. Primarily, then, ‘remember Jesus whole’, namely at his table fellowships composing this distinguished communion together, must be our hermeneutic lens for composing beautifully (i.e. whole-ly) our language for building whole Communion into maturity with new wine.

 

Maturing with New Wine

            The journey of God’s people to wholeness is certainly confounded functionally by hermeneutical ambiguity, which results from the uncontested epistemological illusion and ontological simulation composed by reductionism. The new will not emerge whole from current conditions but only from redemptive change. Yet, it is exciting to anticipate the emergence of God’s new creation family in whole ecclesiology, vulnerably engaged for whole worship as an uncommon ‘distinguished family time’ in contrast to a common gathering. How the whole of God’s vulnerable heart has longed for us to respond reciprocally in God’s relational likeness, as a compatibly vulnerable people composed of hearts joined together in family love (as Jesus prayed, Jn 17:23)! Family love, engaged face to face jointly in equalized and intimate relationships, will be the evidence of our maturity (as Paul made definitive for the church, Eph 4:13-16). And this new wine will be unmistakable in distinction to the common’s hold on so much of our worship with old wine (thinking perhaps “the old is good, enough or even better,” Lk 5:39). It is vital for our maturing (teleioō, to make complete, qualitatively whole from inner out, not merely holistic from outer-in; from teleios in Eph 4:13) to understand that maturity involves the vulnerableness of a child-person in order to go deeper into the understanding of communion with the whole of God. That is, maturing signifies being made whole in the primacy of intimate communion with Jesus’ vulnerable face, the Face that makes us whole. The Face in whole constitutes us whole (plērōma, fullness, complete, Col 2:9-10, cf. 2 Cor 4:6), which is the only maturity defined by Paul for whole ecclesiology (Eph 1:23; 4:13, cf. Col 1:28).

            The OT counterpart to teleios (n.) is tāmiym, which we have identified as the qualitative function of our whole person from inner out, inseparably functioning with ṣĕdāqâh (nothing less and no substitutes composing righteousness). In Psalm 18, the poet David expresses from his own relationship with the whole and holy God that the tāmiym of God (v.30) composes our tāmiym (v.32). As we have seen throughout this study, God’s whole terms require the vulnerable involvement of our hearts in compatible response to the vulnerable heart of God (cf. Ps 15:1-2). However, both teleios and tāmiym (and their various forms) are also translated into English as “perfect” and its related words, presenting another difficulty in translation, to be discussed shortly.

In God’s relational context and intimate relational process, one outcome of maturing is deeper understanding about our theological anthropology. Maturity/perfection in the biblical sense is never about outer-in change (metaschematizō) as we commonly think (functionally if not theologically) about maturity and perfection from human contextualization, but only about inner-out redemptive change of metamorphoō. That is, teleioō only means being redemptively restored to whole ontology and function from inner out (not perfect or blameless without sin), and only in communion together with Jesus’ whole person face to Face, behind the curtain, heart to heart—yet not only as individuals, but in the corporate relationships necessary to compose God’s relational whole. Tāmiym and teleios converge with šālȏm (peace as wholeness) to compose conclusively the relational outcome of the whole of God’s relational response of grace to make whole human persons together as God’s whole (Num 6:24-26; Jn 14:27; Eph 2:14-17; Col 3:15). We cannot reduce the outcome of this distinguished relational process to some epistemological illusion or ontological simulation of perfection (individually and corporately), that is, without reducing the whole of God and God’s response and fragmenting its results for the gospel and all who claim and give thanks for it.

As we have previously discussed, redemptive change (metamorphoō) requires leaving behind the ‘old’ so that the new wine can emerge and flow. For the new wine to be thus released, we need to deconstruct our outer-in efforts at maturity (and ‘die to’ the self-determination underlying those efforts), the indicators of which are shaped by our human contexts—notably reducing our theological anthropology. Many of our notions about maturity are normative and sometimes necessary as we grow up, for example, having certain character virtues and acquiring skills necessary to function as responsible adults and to get along with others in our private and public lives. Teleios, however, is not defined by these indicators, nor does maturity as wholeness come with the advancement of age and life experiences (quantitative bios), or even certain changed behaviors (though these may be important). Teleios can never be constrained to having “arrived” at a certain place in one’s life in a comparative process based on outer-in criteria from human contextualization; this is the false assumption of ‘the wise and learned’ and temple leaders discussed earlier, not to mention the critical boast of “the wise” (Jer 9:23-24). The new wine can neither emerge nor flow by practicing an outer-in approach to maturity as God’s daughters and sons.

Because we bring this outer-in view of maturity to our discipleship, our ecclesiology, and thus our worship, we falsely believe that we become mature based on refining what we do or have. This outer-in view in the last couple of decades has increasingly included getting more training and accumulating more referential knowledge to better serve God—consider the alternative presented in the primordial garden (Gen 3:5) and to Jesus (Lk 4:6)—for example, to better lead worship, preach, lead churches and teach in the academy with greater authority. In general, besides church leadership, the persons who are considered to be mature disciples are those who participate the most in ministry, mission, and service. The relational consequence of this so-called maturity from such distinctions (and its comparative-competitive nature) for the church is fragmentation and relational distance (not to mention burn-out and perhaps bitterness). This fragmentation is what Paul strongly confronted in the churches at Corinth (1 Cor 1:10; 2:1,6), and its related false distinction-making at Galatia (Gal 3:28; 5:7; 6:15) and Colosse (Col 3:11) ; and this fragmenting process is what prevails in many of our churches (e.g. the clergy-laity relational divide).

A further hermeneutic impasse arises from the English translation of both teleios and tāmiym as “perfection” and “perfect” (adj.) because they connote in our modern vernacular a quantitative superlative status that has no flaws or blemishes in a comparative process (e.g. Heb 10:1,14; Ps 18:30,32). These notions of “perfect” feed right into our susceptibility to reductionism. When, for example, Jesus tells us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Mt 5:48), we perceive God in superlative adjectives, then try to measure up to that unattainable standard in a comparative process. We fear making mistakes or looking foolish, and therefore minimize taking risks for fear of failure. Some of us thus function as perfectionists and demand the same outer-in “perfection” from others, which embeds us all in secondary matter. Anyone leading worship who embraces this view of maturity and perfection will be susceptible to these self-concerns (e.g. much prompting of the congregants emerges from this), to fall into using referential language (e.g. for embellishment), and perform in front of the curtain while God is on the other side, even with the desire to give God acceptable worship. Moreover, whenever worship and church leaders function in outer-in “perfection” (hypokrisis, the wearing of masks in playing a role, Lk 12:1), this teaches the rest of the congregation to do the same. This influence to function from outer in is the significance of Jesus’ warning against the yeast of the Pharisees, and what Paul rebuked Peter for (Gal 2:11-14), and also warned the churches about (Gal 5:9; 1 Cor 5:6-8). A little yeast of  hypokrisis affects the entire dough; so it is that outer-in function of church and worship leaders permeates the entire church, to reduce the whole.

Teleios as maturity and ‘perfection’ are to God only the inner-out relational function in wholeness, and only by the redemptive work of God’s relational grace—grace as the only basis to establish us with God and as the ongoing base for our function to be whole from inner out in relationships together as new wine. As such, then, maturity indicates our theological anthropology (ontology and function) made qualitatively and relationally whole, conjoining (1) the person from inner out in the qualitative image of the whole of God and (2) such persons vulnerably involved in God’s relational context and intimate relational process of family love, in new relationships that are both equalized and intimate, in relational likeness of the whole of God, the Trinity. In God’s qualitative image and relational likeness, maturity functions in God’s daughters and sons as those transformed to the new wine of communion together for whole ecclesiology—with nothing less and no substitutes for who they are as persons and whose they are as God’s family. These are the relational dynamics necessary to mature our worship, to distinguish our communion for whole Communion, the blessed outcome of which is to know and understand our whole and holy God’s heart in face-to-Face-to-face reciprocal relationship together.

Maturing in new wine brings us back to the vulnerableness of a child-person. In chapter four we noted the irony that persons who are mature (teleios)—that is, those who have the hermeneutic means (aisthētērion, Heb 5:14) to hear and respond to Jesus’ relational language—are only those who function with the vulnerability of a child-person (Lk 10:21; Mt 18:3). Those persons who are mature thereby ongoingly participate in communion together Face to face and relationally know and understand the whole of God (Jer 9:24). The integrity of the person we present to each other, the integrity and quality of our communication for relational connection, and the depth of our relational involvement with each other in family love—corporately in the image and likeness of the Trinity—compose vulnerable maturity of teleios. This is why Jesus makes it a relational imperative to change and become a child-person.

Maturing in God’s Family Love

The depth of this intimate involvement in family love is the function signified in Jesus’ relational language in the Sermon on the Mount: “be vulnerably involved in family love as your Father is vulnerably involved, including with you” (Mt 5:48). And family love involves making ourselves vulnerable to each other, whereby we become aware of each other in specific ways, involved in the depth of our hearts—that is, growing in both sensitivity to the qualitative and awareness of the relational. Vulnerableness with each other necessitates listening well, responding to the other person as needed, and reciprocally sharing ourselves openly, even with critique (cf. Col 3:16). Relational language is an irreplaceable dimension in these relational connections of family love, which Paul illuminated beyond a list of virtues in order to mature in whole ecclesiology (e.g. Eph 4:25-32; Col 3:8-9). We must remove language (both spoken and through our nonverbal actions) that creates relational barriers (e.g. false presentations, hiding one’s whole person), and let family love compose our relational language to build each other up together (Eph 4:15; Eph 5:18b-20; Col 3:12-17). In and for family love, Paul urges the church in corporate life, notably in worship: “with your whole person be relationally involved with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18b), and extend family love to each other to compose whole ecclesiology for whole worship:

“Speak only in relational language that communicates whole-ly from inner out in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:19-20; cf. Col 3:15-17).

Here Paul illuminates a vital issue about music as the unique inner-out idiom of relational language for worship. It is first important for us to understand that Paul is able to speak for God in God’s relational language because Paul himself has been made mature in wholeness from inner out by God’s relational grace (2 Cor 12:9). As a mature child-person, Paul uses his hermeneutical means (aisthētērion, Heb 5:14) in reciprocal relationship with the Spirit, who has transformed Paul’s interpretive framework and lens (phronēma and phroneō, Rom 8:5-6). On this basis, Paul urges the churches to build each other up in family love for which music plays a vital part. Yet, there is an important distinction that Paul makes about music that we need to fully understand in order for our worship to mature.

Music has two inseparable and irreducible dimensions—its qualitative nature and its unique relational function to connect hearts in communion together. Music’s qualitative nature is its universal ability to touch and stir the depths of our hearts, thereby to orient our own qualitative nature toward the transcendent God. However, the qualitative nature of music alone does not make heart-to-heart connection. In this way, music’s qualitative nature functions in ways similar to the beauty of creation, visual arts, poetry, and icons in Orthodox worship and devotions. These are all qualitative ‘signs’ that stir our hearts and point us to God. For relational connection to be made, music’s other dimension, its unique relational function, is needed for music to serve its whole function in worship. This is because the God of heart who is relational and vulnerably present for reciprocal relationship together has created us with music for intimate communion together.[4]

Paul deeply understood that these two dimensions of music are integrally conjoined for music’s qualitative-relational function for communion together. What is more, these two dimensions are inseparable for music to be whole from inner out and must not be fragmented. That is, if we engage in music only for its qualitative nature (i.e. for affect, as in musical performances in worship, for background music, or mere entertainment), we as listeners are rendered (i.e. reduced to) a passive audience, though perhaps a deeply moved audience. In this case, music becomes fragmented and an end in itself, with the result that the focus of attention in worship shifts to the musicians, singers, or choir and the affect they produce. Conversely, if music is engaged only for its relational function separated from its qualitative nature by primacy given to the quantitative elements (e.g. technique, volume), and thereby without the qualitative involvement of our hearts, then any relational connection will only be shallow, in ontological simulation of communion.

Paul’s words integrate the qualitative-relational dimensions of music because he deeply understood music in its integral function as relational language, the necessary means to communion for whole ecclesiology. Furthermore, he understood whole theological anthropology and why we need to corporately sing and make melody in our hearts to the whole of God as the basis for our psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Music is irreplaceable in God’s relational language when expressed whole-ly from inner out (i.e. beautifully) from the hearts of God’s new creation family. In other words, nothing less than whole ecclesiology in whole worship is sufficient to distinguish the church as God’s new creation family.

For our worship to become mature, then, we need to redeem any use of music that is fragmented. This redemption of music is contingent on the inner-out maturing of all the worshipers—worship leaders, musicians, singers and all the persons in the pews. To be sure, our maturing of worship and as worshipers is only from inner out (metamorphoō), never from outer in (metaschematizō). Any outer-in efforts on our part to change our worship, even with sincere intentions, reflect being immature (i.e. not qualitatively whole) in reduced theological anthropology, without the hermeneutical means of the mature (Heb 5:14). This was the issue Paul addressed in the Corinthian church, whose reductionism caused fragmentation in their relationships (1 Cor 1:10-13). Paul called them out for remaining immature, signified by infants still needing milk (3:1-2; 14:20; cf. Eph 4:14; Heb 5:12-13). In the same way, any outer-in efforts we make to mature our worship only serve to maintain an immature worship, reflecting also an immature ecclesiology and pneumatology (Eph 5:18b).

A further shift that the relationally mature engage—from outer in to inner out—is to grow beyond involvement with God only on a situational basis to the depth of ongoing relational involvement with the Spirit. Situational involvement goes from situation to situation without deepening in communion and knowing and understanding God, though one may gain something from each experience (cf. 2 Tim 3:7). This level of involvement with God is seen in worshipers who depend on getting “refueled” Sunday to Sunday, going over the same immature diet of milk (Heb 5:12-13, 6:1) because they do not partake of solid food consisting of ongoing relational involvement that God can count on to be nothing less and no substitutes (i.e. in righteousness, dikaiosynē, v.13, the Greek counterpart to ṣĕdāqâh). Not only the worshipers in the pews/chairs, but preachers, who sermon after sermon preach the basics of Christian faith (e.g. Heb 6:1), unknowingly reinforce this limited involvement; they too are inadvertently immature, in contrary function to be whole and thus unable to help the maturing of the church to be whole as Christ composed and Paul defined (Eph 4:12-13; Col 3:15-16). Furthermore, our church practices that revolve around the church calendar events as the high points in church life (especially Christmas and Easter) reflect an immature ecclesiology defined and determined more in situations and by events rather than in and by God’s relational context and relational process in ongoing communion together.

Therefore, in worship service (as in the rest of our week), our ongoing reciprocal involvement relational process with the Spirit needs to be compatible with the same relational terms that Jesus made imperative for his followers. “Ongoing” relational involvement focuses not quantitatively on “every single minute,” but only qualitatively on our compatible face-to-Face vulnerable presence with God so that he can count on us for relational connection. We can relationally count on God’s vulnerable presence because vulnerably present is how God is in God’s relational nature and qualitative being (the sum of God’s glory in the face of Christ, 2 Cor 4:6). And so to be mature is to be vulnerably present corporately together as God’s whole, the temple, the church, the new creation family. Each worshiper is accountable for his or her vulnerable involvement in the corporate face before God’s Face. This is what Peter meant when he referred to God’s people as a holy priesthood (1 Pet 2:9-10); we individually and corporately together enter behind the curtain to join Jesus in his sacrifice, to worship the whole and holy God face to Face.

If it is not yet apparent, this hermeneutic of worship language challenges the perspective that persons (e.g. new Christians) undergo transformation (the process of maturing, i.e. sanctification) merely on the basis of regular participation in church, of which attending worship services is a vital part. The thinking is that ‘immersion’ in church life and practice (often described as transformative) are sufficient to establish persons in a new identity, which includes learning the language of Christian practices (cf. the total immersion to learn Spanish by living in Mexico). Immersion in church life and practice is merely ‘total immersion’ (not ‘whole immersion’), if only immersed in God’s relational context (e.g. of corporate worship) but without the necessary reciprocal relational process together with the Spirit for relational connection that constitutes teleios and tāmiym. Total immersion is insufficient to mature us, even if we master the language of ‘churchspeak’, as accomplished by long-time Christians, dedicated Christian servants, church leaders, and persons in the academy. However well-meaning and hopeful the concept of total immersion is, it is a mindset based on assumptions that are insupportable when weighed against Jesus’ whole person and relational language as he was vulnerably involved with persons throughout his incarnation. In addition, Jesus’ formative family prayer conclusively defines what maturing in wholeness is (Jn 17:13-26), which Paul echoes for the church’s ‘whole immersion’ with the Spirit to relationally experience “the fullness [plērōma, completeness, whole] of God” (Eph 3:16-19).

            Maturity in wholeness means to take engaging steps into ‘whole immersion’ in both God’s distinguished (uncommon) relational context and vulnerable relational process for compatible reciprocal relational involvement with the whole of God, in communion together behind the curtain and with the veil removed—corporately as God’s relational whole. Irreducible and nonnegotiable to our shaping and terms, only by whole immersion in the whole of God’s relational whole does the new wine emerge, flow and mature. Maturity makes relational ‘demands’ on us, just as relational grace does: the responsibilities of reciprocal relational together. Responsibilities cannot be engaged apart from relationship together and its reciprocal nature, or else they are undertaken in a reduced theological anthropology (ontology and function). In fact, they are the same demands from Jesus’ words in simply the relational language of family love. To become mature is to participate in God’s life by God’s intimate relational process of family love (Gal 5:6), expressed in the two irreducible and inseparable dimensions mentioned earlier in this chapter: (1) to worship who, what, and how the whole of God is, and (2) to build each other up as the new creation family. These are the two inseparable dimensions (Jesus’ relational imperatives, cf. Mk 12:29-31; Jn 13:34) that the whole of Scripture makes imperative. Nothing less and no substitutes can determine these relational responses or fulfill these relational responsibilities.

These two dimensions compose our language for whole ecclesiology in whole worship, signifying our PASS into communion together with the whole of God in whole immersion. PASS is the acronym for Praise, Affirmation (with Adoration and Affection), Submission and Service. Worship is our PASS to intimate relationship with God; that is, worship integrally composes our relational response of PASS to God as follows: (P)Praise and blessing (bārak) give primacy to the whole of who, what and how God is, which inseparably includes thanksgivings (bārak-dah) for God’s intimate involvement with us. (A) – To God we give affirmation, appreciation, adoration, and affection in compatible reciprocal response of love as daughters and sons who have been adopted and now securely belong in the new creation family. The primacy of praise and affirmation/adoration are the integral relational dynamics giving basis to and integrating all our other involvement in submission and service to be qualitatively whole from inner out.

(S) – The whole of God is the One to whom we give ourselves in submission to his whole terms for relationship together. This understanding of submission (hypotassō) acknowledges who, what, and how the whole of God is that can be counted on in relationship together (God’s righteousness), and responds with our whole person from inner out in faith as relational trust. In other words, we respond compatibly with who, what and how we are that God can count on in relationship together (our righteousness, cf. Eph 4:24). In this submission to the whole of God we also submit in family love to each other for the building up of the whole (Eph 4:15-16; 5:21) in likeness of the trinitarian persons together. Just as Christ submitted himself to the Father to extend and embody family love to us, so also God’s new creation family shares this love among ourselves in submission to one another. This whole understanding of submission in family love redeems our common negative notion of submission that reduces persons. That is, in human contexts, submission usually connotes a person of inferior status acquiescing to (or being forced by) another person in a position of superiority, as in power relations constructed on false human distinctions from outer in; or submission is compliance out of obligation or duty, which appears reasonable but is insufficient to distinguish God’s family in love. In contrast to and in conflict with this view that reduces the person to an object who is acted upon, or who acts in secondary terms without the depth of response, submission in family love is only possible by those who function as subjects in the primacy of relationship together. These are persons who have been forgiven and deeply loved by the Father and only on this relational basis, loves God and others just as they have been loved (Jn 15:9, 17:26). Without having been loved first in communion together with the whole of God, we don’t have family love to give (1 Jn 4:7-21).

(S) – In our submission to God and to each other in family love, and only from this basis, we serve God and each other. In the OT, one of the words for worship (‘ābad, Ex 3:12) also means to work (Gen 2:5), to minister or serve God (e.g. as the Levites, Num 3:7-8, cf. Ps 22:30). The Greek counterpart is latreuo (cf. Mt 4:10). Rendering service to God composes part of our worship of God. Yet, and this is critical for our hermeneutic of worship, service, like submission, must be understood anew through the lens of family love, never giving primacy to ‘what to do’ but only in the depth of how to be involved with the other person. To serve God as part of our worship only has significance to God in the primacy of relationship, the outcome of which is communion together. Service in family love gives primacy to the other person’s whole person from inner, not to just see the one we serve as a “need” or problem to fix. This common outer-in approach to service reduces both the person being served as well as the one serving. Serving has two dimensions in response to God: (1) to serve the family of God and (2) to extend service outside the church. Serving the church is to build each other up so that we are all equalized in intimate relationship together to be whole in God’s relational grace (Eph 4:3-7), thus redeeming any individual efforts to build oneself up (Heb 12:15). Service to each other also cares for each others’ whole persons, deeply from the heart (1 Cor 12:25).

Serving each other to build up the new creation family in love involves the maturing with new wine that Paul especially worked for (along with submission to God’s relational terms of grace), in his conjoint fight for the gospel and against reductionism. This is the primary focus of all his letters to the various churches. Whenever Paul writes about particular behaviors, he, like Jesus, speaks only in relational terms to build up God’s new creation family from inner out to be whole (mature) in family love. Perhaps, then, the hermeneutical key for reading Paul is his “song” about love (1 Cor 13). We must not remain focused on how beautiful his words sound (the qualitative only) regarding love (agapē), nor think of this love in only individual terms. Paul is engaged in rigorous relational work to (1) fight against reductionism of persons and relationships in the church, in order to (2) build up the church in the depth of vulnerable relational involvement in relational likeness of the Trinity (whole person to whole person). This is the relational work of family love that our partaking in whole Communion needs also to affirm and enact, or else, in Paul’s words, we partake “of the Lord in an unworthy manner” (1 Cor 11:27).

Furthermore, for our corporate worship to become whole (mature), we need, for example in prayers for the church, to grow beyond focusing on persons’ physical or situational needs—that is, fragments, which are important but not the whole person—in order to give primacy to whole persons. This is a dimension, again, for which church and worship leaders need to take the lead by their own openness, in the deeper nurturing of God’s family in our innermost during our family communion together in worship. The gospel we claim and proclaim demands this because God has relationally responded to and provided for our qualitatively whole person (again, not merely holistic), the most essential of which is our human relational need. Recomposed language for whole Communion (upper case “C”) embraces this relational function to mature in new wine. As discussed earlier, instead of remembering Jesus’ few disembodied words of institution, whole language of Communion shifts to the encouragement and celebration of our being made whole from inner out by the vulnerable Face of Jesus who is present and vulnerably involved with us today in the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17-18).

In a simple way to remind ourselves, PASS captures the significance of these essential relational dynamics that Jesus embodied at his distinguished table fellowship, and that we as his family must also embody together to mature as new wine in God’s family love.

 

The Hermeneutic of Nothing Less and No Substitutes

            The whole of God has enacted everything necessary that God had to engage to establish us as his new creation family; and given Jesus’ formative family prayer, this relational reality is now and not just for the future (Jn 17:21-23). The Truth is ongoing that God’s very heart is vulnerably present in the Spirit for intimate communion with us, singing in only qualitative-relational language throughout the whole of creation and in Scripture. Yet, as God’s new creation family, our response to God that composes our worship has needed hermeneutic correction for a long time. We have strained to “remember me whole.” We have not listened in relational language to Jesus’ whole person as the embodied Word who communicates only in God’s family language, illuminating God’s relational messages and provisions for relationship together in wholeness. Jesus also makes clear for the church what are the very basic issues involved on our part to complete this relational connection necessary to compose the communion by which whole ecclesiology for whole worship grows and matures. In hermeneutic correction, Jesus’ messages are waiting to be received and responded to.

            Beyond the dissonance of our noisy silence in worship constituting worship in front of the curtain with the veil covering our hearts, God deeply desires to be heard and responded to[5]—but only Face to face behind the curtain with the veil removed, nothing less and no substitutes. God wants us to be able to boast that we know and understand the whole and holy God in the primacy of relationship together. God has set us apart to be the distinguished family that speaks to and for God in uncommon communion in wholeness. Yet, the ongoing Truth illuminates that God does not accept just any worship because just any worship cannot distinguish who, what, and how God is in communion together with new wine. Remember, then, these words that point to Jesus’ hermeneutic for worship language: “the depth of your vulnerable involvement with your whole person that you give will determine the depth of knowing and understanding God you get” (Mk 4:24).

            I believe that the Spirit, in the formation of the biblical canon, intentionally didn’t include any descriptions or prescriptions for ‘how-to-do’ worship. The Spirit knows that our tendency would be to focus on the secondary of what to do, notably by referentializing the Word, and thereby ignore or diminish the primacy of God’s relational language. For this reason, this study does not give sample liturgies and orders of worship, which so often have been reduced to templates constraining ontology and function, both God’s and ours. In family love, however, I invite you in communion together with my husband and me to praise, affirm and submit to the whole of God, singing nothing less and no substitutes but “Hallelujah Whole.” The whole of God’s presence is undeniably distinguished as vulnerably present and intimately involved, whereby we composed this song for his new creation family to vulnerably sing to the Trinity with our compatible corporate response. Then, on this relational basis, we will indeed speak to and for the whole and holy God who makes himself relationally known and understood for communion in new relationship together in wholeness—the best news we can claim and proclaim.

            “Since we are receiving the irreducible family of God…let us give thanks in relational language by which we offer to God acceptable worship” (Heb 12:28). Therefore, let us mature together with new wine and respond with nothing less and no substitutes but God’s relational whole!

 

                              Hallelujah Whole[6]       

                         (Mt 15:8-9, Jn 4:23-24, Col 1:19-20)

 

1     Hallelujah!    nothing less

       Hallelujah!    no substitutes

       The whole of God be present

       The whole of God be praised!

       Nothing less no substitutes

 

Chorus:          Hallelujah, hallelu, hallelu

            Hallelujah, hallelu, hallelu

            Praise to You, to You, to You

            Praise You holy! Praise You whole!

            All of You—all of You!

 

2     Hallelujah!    nothing less

       Hallelujah!    no substitutes

       The whole of God be involved

       The whole of God responds!

       Nothing less no substitutes

       (chorus)

 

3     Hallelujah!    nothing less

       Hallelujah!    no substitutes

       The whole of God be embraced

       The whole of God exalted!

       Nothing less no substitutes

       (chorus)

 

4     Hallelujah!    nothing less

       Hallelujah!    no substitutes

       The whole of God highlighted

       The whole of God give thanks!

       Nothing less no substitutes

       (chorus)

 

Endingslowing          All— of— You!—

 

 


 


[1] For a fuller discussion of Jesus’ post-ascension discourse to the churches for the ‘ecclesiology to be whole’, see T. Dave Matsuo, Sanctified Christology, 260-70.

[2] For a full discussion of Paul’s theology unfolding in ecclesiology for the church to be whole, see T. Dave Matsuo, The Whole of Paul and the Whole in His Theology.

[3] The following summarizes the main interpretations for the Communion elements: Transubstantiation—When the words of the sacrament are spoken (either Jesus’ words of institution [Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24], or the epiclēsis, i.e. the invocation of the Spirit upon the elements), the substance of bread changes to substance of Christ. Consubstantiation—Christ’s substance coexists with the bread and wine’s substance. Transsignification—Communication through signs, words, and gestures can contain God’s presence. By these, there’s a changed significance. Bread and wine mean one thing, and when words are said, it changes the meaning. Memorialist view—The significance of the elements is only cognitive.

[4] For a fuller discussion about music’s qualitative nature and unique relational function in worship, see A Theology of Worship:‘Singing” a New Song to the Lord, 76-86.

[5] Thanks to Paul Ricoeur for his original words (that express wanting more in literary hermeneutics), on which this sentence is based. Ricoeur’s original words were, “Beyond the desert of criticism, we wish to be called again”. La Symbolique du mal (Paris: Aubier, 1960). The Symbolism of Evil, trans. Emerson Buchanan. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.

[6] By T. Dave Matsuo and Kary A. Kambara, ©2013. Printable sheet is available online at http://4X12.org.

 

 

 

 

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