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CREATION AND WORSHIP: A PEOPLES RESPONSE IN THE UCCP CONTEXT

Thesis: Worship should be an avenue of the Church in realizing our


responsibility as an integral member of the whole creation and in responding
to the mission of actively respecting Earths dignity.

Outline

I.
II.
III.

IV.
V.

Introduction
A. Statement of the Problem
B. Significance of this Paper
The Worship Experience and the Reality of Creation
Biblical Sources for the Theology Integrating Creation and Worship
A. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Analysis of Psalm 148
B. Comparison on the Motifs of Worship
1. Isaiah Motif
2. Acts Motif
Reflection on The World as Gods Body by Sallie McFague
Theological Statements integrating Creation and Worship
A. The Church is an integral member of Gods all Creation and not
limited to human beings but extends to all Gods creation seen
and unseen
B. Jesus Christ is the power of reconciling and repentance achieving
Dignity of all Creation
C. The Liturgy is not limited to the four walls of worship centers but
an articulation of concrete response in standing with the dignity
of our fellow Creation
D. Proposal: An integrated Liturgy of Worship with the Fellow

VI.

Creation
Conclusion

I.

Introduction

The reality of the indigenous spirituality and worship had been a


debate in relation to the normative which majority of the Christian Churches
follow. The tradition which the Christian churches follow have been carefully
protected and have ruled out the new things; though in the reformation era,
changes had been brought but it only catered to the mind in the
centralization of the Word through the preaching yet there are still no

involvement of other creations of God.

The long journey of protestant

worship had made its way to the Philippines through missionaries in the
opening of the 20th century which adopted the missionaries tradition and still
have a difficulty integrating the whole creation in the worship experience.
One of the protestant churches which claims to rediscover their indigenous
roots in worship is the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Even if there
is a strong clinging to the traditional Reformed-Evangelical worship style 1,
there is still a continuing discovery and articulation of the faith practices
such as worship in the context of being a Filipino, especially being an
indigenous Filipino. One of the original Filipino spirituality is its value to the
creation around; a kind of respect to the overall dignity of creation which is
very essential to trace back and reclaim. Though the missionaries from the
Spanish times and continuing to the American time had clearly understood
this as pagan and as time moves, they instill that this is unchristian in
nature.

Statement of the Problem

Worship as a response to God is indeed a responsibility of all creation which


is not just limited to the so-called reasoning being but it extends to the
overall creation of God. Still, the tradition which is followed by the majority of
the Christian Churches have forgotten the value of including the remaining
1 Paul F M Zahl and Paul Basden, Exploring the Worship Spectrum: 6 Views (Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2004), 45.

creation of God in the expression of worship. This is because of the


exploitative tendency of human being and greediness. This is also the sinful
nature of the worshipers which forgets the real purpose of humanity as only
equal with all creation. Getting above on others due to dominant attitude
which is present in the greediness of a person. Confinement of worship as a
work of reason and emotion in a certain place and time closes the door to
the full realization of worshipping God with the stars, moon, earth, trees and
other creatures. In the age where the tradition becomes solidified as rock,
the problem of including them in worship will become a subject of debate but
still it has to be again incorporated as it is in the original intention of God the
Creator.

Significance of this Paper

This paper aims to reclaim the essence of the human response of the
Church to the overall Creation of God in the expression of worship. It is
important to point worship as a human response to the God who had loved
and created each one not just humans but all the cosmos. It is also the aim
that it will be a venue to create a meaningful worship form that includes the
major participation of other creatures; trees, animals, birds, plants, water,
rocks and others. It is the hope that this paper would open the minds of the
readers especially UCCP church workers and lay members to widen the
perspective in the inclusivity of worship to the Sovereign God of all creation.

II.

The Worship Experience and the Reality of Creation

One of the distinctive expression of the Church is the worship


experience. Most religions have placed great importance in worship.
Worship has been the expression of human response to God who is
the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all.

This the time and

place where people can encounter God and present the peoples
agenda to God and vice versa. The worship life is very visible in the
eyes not only of the members of the Church but with the larger
community as well. In the external view, Church worship is
necessary inside of a building and has a specified place as present
in the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. It is ideally seen as
a place of gathering and this gathering ranges from the formal
worship and some in the contemporary form of worship. Yet, all
these worship are very human in form and limited only to humans.
Sometimes, it will be seen as an absurdity for many when
indigenous music and even symbols that are indigenous are
included in the worship. There are also times that worship are
confined in the normative location. If it is done somewhere else or
the movements are very different from the normative actions, it
could be branded as pagan and unchristian.
2 Jeaneth H. Faller, Introduction to Christian Worship, Silliman University Divinity
School, 2012.

III.

Biblical Sources for the Theology Integrating Creation and Worship


A. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Analysis on Psalms 148

Hallelujah
I
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights.
2
Praise him, all you his angels;
give praise, all you his hosts.a
3
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all shining stars.
4
Praise him, highest heavens,*
you waters above the heavens.
5
Let them all praise the LORDs
name;
for he commanded and they were
created,
6
Assigned
forever,
set an

8
Lightning and hail, snow and
thick clouds,
storm wind

that

fulfills

his

command;
9
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars;
10
Animals wild and tame,
creatures that crawl and birds
that fly;
11
Kings of

the

earth

and

all

peoples,
princes and all who govern on
them
order

their
that

will

station
never

change.
II
7
Praise the LORD from the earth,
you sea monsters and all the
deeps of the sea;

earth;
12
Young men and women too,
old and young alike.
13
Let them all praise the LORDs
name,
for his name alone is exalted,
His majesty above earth and
heaven.
14
*He has lifted high the horn of his
people;
to the praise of all his faithful,
the Israelites, the people near to
him.
Hallelujah!

3 The New American Bible (New York: J P Kennedy, n.d.).

The psalm refers to a call to all creation to praise God because of His
goodness and with full of joy. This psalms reflect the joy of the Jewish
community especially when they have returned to Jerusalem and had rebuilt
the temple. This is an overwhelming joy which extends their call not just to
the Jewish people but it includes everything which they believed are created
by God. This mood of joy and celebration can be seen as exaggeration in
reading it in the perspective of the present readers but to the worldview after
the exile which they have experienced new knowledge, especially a touch of
Greek knowledge, it could be that the Priestly writers have preserved their
historic faith tradition which is very important to maintain. Thus, new
knowledge can be integrated but to maintain the faith to God and in the
existence of Gods creation is an evidence that they too are active
participants of Gods worship. They are also intended to worship God. If they
are neglected, exploited and even put in the lesser position, it is also giving
the idea of detaching them in the active participation of worship which God
did not intend. God intends that every creatures above and below shall
worship God and in this worship every creation is equal and only the One
who is above is God.

B. Comparison on the Motifs of Worship

The Isaiah motif of worship is one of the fundamental guide in the


worship followed by the Roman Catholic and some protestant churches. In

the UCCP, there are modifications but the general flow comes from this motif
which is found in Isaiah 6:1-9. The motif is presented as follows: Praise and
Adoration, Confession and Absolution, Commissioning and Proclamation. The
part of proclamation had been interchanged with the commissioning though
the concept is still the same where the proclamation of Gods Word is again
proclaimed in the part of being commissioned; now, as the work of the
person being proclaimed to. This worship motif then can be translated to the
response the people should do with the creation as included in the worship.
People should praise and adore God because of creation and the creation will
also voice their praise to God in their ways which even if different, essential
in the purpose which they have been instilled by God; still in mystery. People
should also confess their sin to creation and to confess it is to show the right
relation which God has originally intended and at the same time, we should
accompany creation to have their form of confession in which God had
endowed them to express; still in mystery. In the time of confession, God
gave us the grace of forgiveness in the Assurance of Pardon where in this
time, people should really mean their change of heart, attitude and mind
towards the maltreatment, malpractice and injustice to the whole creation
and same with the creation towards itself; in mystery. This is an authentic
worship and by this forgiveness, people and creation are empowered to
proclaim Gods love and the good news which can be both effectively
proclaimed by both people and creation.

Another motif of worship that is significant, is the Acts motif of worship


found in Acts 2:42-47 where it shows the sharing and equality among the
believers. The needs are met and there is a positive impact of realizing the
good news of Jesus Christ. This is also the centrality of the Christian worship
in the sacrament of the Lords Table where the essence is all about the
sharing, sacrifice and equality among all. This motif can also translate in the
worship inclusive with the over-all creation in the act of sharing, sacrifice and
equality. This sharing is the ideal of all where the need of everyone is
satisfied. It is important to limit it to the term, need and beyond which it
will be called as greed is not anymore of concern and not fitted in the
practical picture of a realization of Gods Kingdom. There is sacrifice not
because some will have a mind of being an opportunist but it is necessary to
give out of love to those that are inflicted, humans and other creatures alike.
This sacrifice speaks of a transforming act to empower the people and
creation to realize and concretize the good news and the Love and Grace of
God in Jesus Christ. Everyone shall be satisfied and no one is left behind even
the creation shall not be left behind. This is the reality of worship form which
is not just confined to human minds and construct but can be identified in
the overall structure of creation to glorify God in the form which God gave to
all; humans and other creatures.

C. Reflection on The World as Gods Body by Sallie McFague

The world as the body of God model criticizes the traditional models of
how the Judeo-Christians look at and regard God in relation to creation. Sallie
McFague identifies the imperialistic or monarchical model of God as one of
the models that has caused so much destruction of the natural world. This
old model portrays a God detached from the world and governs from afar
leaving the administration of the whole creation to the hands of humanity. As
a result, this old model has encouraged humanity to do whatever he/she
pleases as his/her interpretation of the task entrusted by God. Instead of
shaping a perspective of interdependence between humans and nonhumans
the monarchical model of God promotes a mind-set and behavior that
elevated humans as masters of other creatures. According to McFague and
other theologians, this model probably was helpful and useful at the time of
its creation but not anymore at this time. McFagues critic and proposal to
come up with an alternative model is based on her observation and
realization how the old model has contributed to the distraction and
devastation of creation.4 Being Gods body is reflective of a person becoming
Christs body which is in unity towards the goodness of one another and in
reclaiming all creation as the image of Christ.

IV.

Theological Statements integrating Creation and Worship

4 Sallie Mcfague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress


Press, 1993).

A. First, the Church is an integral member of Gods all Creation and not
limited to human beings but extends to all Gods creation seen and
unseen. The Church should not be limited to humans only but the
Church should include the whole creation as creation is seen as an
active participant in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The work of
Christ cannot be possible without the means and mode of the
creation as baptism needs water to explain the significance, the
material needs to create wine and bread in the Lords Supper and
others. They are participating even if they are not in the human
construct but the significance should be acknowledge. With this
acknowledgment, the Church cannot be anymore confined in walls
or built structures but the whole world and even the universe can be
a gathering point for worship and service because every created
being by God can be considered as part of the Church.

B. Second, Jesus Christ is the power of reconciling and repentance in


achieving the dignity of all Creation. With the faith in Jesus Christ,
the manifestation of Gods salvific work is present. The Church is
not just called for the human need but for the all creation needs as
the Church reflects the redemptive nature. The Creation itself also
reflects a redemptive nature in the course of time and history which
cannot be denied as similar in the nature of the repentance which

Jesus Christ offers to all. This repentance is shown through the


movement of all towards an ecological balance and harmony. It also
neglects the sin of greediness which is the root of the degradation
of creation as a whole; humanity and nature alike. This sin should be
vigilantly and carefully struggled and if possible, removed in the
system of the Church towards a correct understanding of the gospel
and realization of the new heaven and a new earth.

C. Third, The Liturgy is not limited to the four walls of worship centers
but an articulation of concrete response in standing with the dignity
of our fellow Creation. Worship services fall in the notion that
worship is just a cognitive act. It must be corrected that worship is a
response; an active response towards the realization of gods glory
not just for a personal category but for the community which
includes all creation. Liturgy as referred to as the work of the
people should emphasize on work which is active in nature.
Following the first argument on the identity of the Church, all
creation are now working in this set-up which is very true in the
reality set in the course of the Gods Divine will and purpose to all. It
is also a call to the people in the traditional setting of the Church to
respond to the need of the creation as an integral part of all the
creatures of God. This can be manifested through the involvement

in the renewal of practices and active participation in the planting of


trees and other positive work on the greening of the community.

D. Fourth, the Proposal on sample of an integrated Liturgy of Worship


with the Fellow Creation. Worship can be done outside the
traditional four walls of the Church. Worship can be done in the
forests and fields or even in the mountain and sea side. Everyone
and every creation participates in the worship. In this liturgy
proposal, the context would be a worship in the sea side. The
worship should be done early sunrise or sunset, the sun should be
visible because the sun will play an important role in the worship.
Explaining to the church members that the sun is the source of light
and fire. The presence of the sun itself is an assurance that the light
of Christ is shining and imitated in the life of the people especially
when darkness comes as it is imitated through fire or electricity. The
sea or water will also play an important part as again explained that
the water symbolized the act of cleansing especially in the part of
confession. If there is coconut or other fruits, it can be the elements
that can be used in the communion (only if it is first Sunday). The
flow will now in the motif that is appropriate.

Early Morning Worship (Break of Dawn)- UCCP Mayantoc, San Andres, Quezon
Silence (welcoming the sunlight; the beam of Gods light and salvation
manifested through the suns beam)

Morning Praise
Leader: we welcome God in the sunlight, wind and waves.
People: we feel God in this new day, praise God everyone
(Silence- as giving space for the creation which have no human voice to
praise God)
ALL: GOD BE PRAISED! HALLELUJAH!
Invocation (Feeling the wind and silently praying)
Morning Hymn
Great is Your Faithfulness
Call and Act of Confession
Leader: Let us confess our sins to God and be refreshed through Gods work
of forgiveness to us. Let us feel the water of the sea and cleanse our feet and
hands and face as a sign of our cleansing
(Go to wash in the water)
Assurance of Pardon (Minister)
Passing of Peace
Community Concerns
Pastoral Prayer (Minister)
Reading of the Scripture
Sermon
Offertory (Seedlings of Mangrove or Cactus)
Let us now offer these gifts to the sand and see that belongs to God like us.
God is the maker, we are Gods creation
Song of Commitment In the Bulb there is a Flower MFW 29
Act of Commitment Coastal Clean-up and Planting

Conclusion

It is necessary to give acknowledgment to the whole creation as


integral part of the Body of Christy. Becoming redeemed and reconciled,
there is much to do in including the whole creation especially in worship.
Worship is a visible expression of proclaiming the love of God through Jesus
Christ. This is the response of the people to the love of God through their
faith. It is not just that people can express their love to God but the whole
creation as well and it is the opportunity to reclaim the identity of our equal

being as all creatures of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer God. This is
the expression not just by human but the overall cosmos to proclaim Christ.
The local effort in integrating and establishing the identity of each and every
being and creation in facing God is approaching to a meaningful encounter
and a wonderful realization that truly God is the One reigning and not the
humans. Worshiping God with whole creation place the humanity in equal
with the whole.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Faller, Jeaneth H. Introduction to Christian Worship. Silliman University
Divinity School, 2012.
Paul F M Zahl, and Paul Basden. Exploring the Worship Spectrum: 6 Views.
Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2004.
Sallie Mcfague. The Body of God: An Ecological Theology. Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 1993.
The New American Bible. New York: J P Kennedy, n.d.