Friday, July 9, 2010

Active and Passive Worship

So, I am reading through Luther's Galatians Commentary with Seminarian Hobson, and it was remarkable seeing things I already knew and read but just stood out again. One of the things that stood out was the difference between Active and Passive Righteousness. . .

Active Righteousness is what the Law demands of us - that we be active, that we "DO". The promise is that if we "DO" all this, then we shall inherit, we shall earn heaven. The thing is - we cannot do this. We are sinful and we have sinned - the heart has not those pure desires the spirit of the Law requires.

Passive Righteousness is what the Gospel brings to us - that is that we simply "receive" from Christ His righteousness. We receive from Christ His own merit and love and on account of this we receive salvation.

And the point that Luther makes is that false doctrine always points us to our own active righteousness - if you do this, if you work this, if you share this. And it's not that these things are necessarily bad, but they aren't the focus and security of our salvation. That needs to remain not what I do, but what Christ has done for me.

Now, consider for a moment worship. Is worship primarily something you "DO" or something that you "receive"? When you attend Church, is its purpose to be active - to praise God - or is its primary purpose to receive - to hear God's Word preached, to be absolved, to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord?

If you have an active approach to worship, you will ultimately become disassitified with worship. If worship is about you being active - well, can't you praise God on the golf course? If worship is about you being active, should you be able to whoop and holler as you want to make your own praise more custom tailored to your own desires? If you view worship as active, your understanding of it will be off.

If on the other hand you have a proper passive approach to worship, you will see its true benefit. The purpose of worship isn't to be pepped up, to get a shot of holy encouragement for the week. It is to receive Christ and His forgiveness - Christ and His forgiveness preached in the Word, laid upon you in Absolution, placed upon your tongue in the Supper. It's about receiving this passive righteousness for your salvation - and you don't get that off on our own on the Golf Course on Sunday morning.

And here is the great irony - in the typical, traditional worship service that is properly focused on receiving Christ's gifts -- you're actually going to be more active than otherwise. You will not sit and listen to the worship leader sing into the mic, you will instead sing with angels and archangels the songs of thanksgiving that echo throughout eternity. In the liturgy the congregation says and sings more than in the so-called active praise worship.

This is the irony - all the foci we hear about being active, about how we need to go out and "DO" things so often become red herrings. When we are passive, when we see and hear and taste Christ's own righteousness for our salvation, we will give thanks - when Christ opens our lips to receive the Supper our mouths shall show forth His praise. When we are united to Christ in the waters of Baptism, springs of living water gush forth from us. When we hear the Word of God, that same Word of God by Whom all things were made will flow from our mouths, creating life and faith in others.

And this is all about what Christ does - what Christ does for me and in me and through me. Oh, that we would delight in Passive Righteousness!


Anonymous said...

I trained you well young one.

Brown the Elder to Brown the younger.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

If you trained me well, you would have read me Luther's Galatians Lectures as I fell asleep.