Book Review-Worship Come to Its Senses

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Worship Come to Its Senses Don E. Saliers

Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.



Although this book about worship is nearing 20 years old, its ideas are still relevant today. Instead of arguing over the style of worship, we are encouraged to bring awe, delight, truth, and hope to worship. Like all good things we do, worship requires preparation-not just from those leading worship but from all participating. How can you prepare? Come to worship ready for the experience, ready to encounter the other and the Other, and open to the ways God will speak to us. When we are prepared to meet God, we might just find that God is here already.

One theme that flowed through all these aspects of worship is that this happens best in a community where people are known. You might have moments of awe or delight on a retreat by yourself or with stranger. In order to keep these four aspects of worship alive and well, we need to situate ourselves within a community where we plan to listen for God and listen with each other. It is not a short-term process. Crafting worship requires much time and energy and many people sharing their gifts. Likewise, participating in worship requires our openness to what God is saying to us and those around us speaking truth and hope.

What I found so refreshing in this book is that problems with worship were described and solutions were offered. Too often books about worship say that each church is so unique that a solution cannot be offered. This book does the opposite. It shares concrete examples of what can be done to bring awe, delight, truth, and hope back to our worship. Now, don’t be overwhelmed thinking each worship service must inspire each of these things in every worshiper. That is not the point. Our worship planning and our worship preparation must include these ideas so over the course of our time together people have the opportunity to experience these things and know that they are all part of our faith journey.

I recommend this book to pastors, church people with worship responsibilities, and anyone who deeply love worship and wants to think more about it.


“Why do we settle for so little when God offers so much in Word, sacrament and song?” (15).

“Christian liturgy flourishes when the contrast and connection between reverence and love is kept alive; when we are rooted in time, place, and memory continually renewed” (26).

How to inspire a sense of awe

1)Worship in the Natural World also known as Go outside!

2)Ponder the vastness of the universe and how little we know

3)Funerals-stories of a life and celebration of eternal life

4)Babies-new life and the reminder that we are all God’s beloved children.

5)Healing Services and times for blessings

“Where may we meet this wonder and awe of God? Both in the daily life and in liturgy. Or, perhaps we can meet God in the liturgy because of what is given in daily life; and we can recognize what is given in daily life because of what we continually rehearse and receive in the liturgy” (32).


“In our concern to do what is expected, and in our routine habits, we settle for our duty. Thus we miss one of the most essential features of vital worship: sheer delight–delight in God, in one another, and in the very means by which common life is graced. Obligation, custom, and “the way we’ve always done it” obscure the delight. Hence we suffer a diminished liturgy and life together” (33).

“When we bring a sense of gratitude, joy, and delight to common worship, the celebration of the gospel in word, song, and sacrament begins to reveal its own joy and delight” (35).

Delight is found in-

1)The living out of the church year-both feast days and ordinary days

2)Presence-weeping with one who is weeping and joy with one is joyful


“The gap between what “ought to be” and what “is” sets up a permanent tension for all Christian worship that seeks to be faithful. On the one hand, we are called to offer continual praise and thanksgiving. Such a response to the self-giving God involves remembering the whole story of God in Christ–from creation, through covenants, prophecy, and the incarnation, to the promised fulfillment of all things in Christ. On the other hand, such remembering gathers up who we are and what the world has become in the sight of God. This means that if we are to hear the Word and receive the life God offers we must also come to terms with the truth about ourselves” (50-51).

“Who are we in God’s presence? The Christian faith replies, we are saints and sinners, creatures of intense worth to God, yet alienated from the source of our life with each other” (51-52).

For worship to have truth we need-





For many people, hope, optimism and wishing can be used interchangeably. For people of faith, hope must always be rooted in God alone. We have hope because we have heard the stories of our ancestors in the faith and we trust that God will continue to be faithful.

Why is hope so hard or why doesn’t our worship help us have hope?

1)Our focus is on ourselves and not on others

2)We forget that hope is for both this world and the next.

3)”The character and quality of how we actually worship together.”

A)Worship is done for us.

  1. B) Worship is done to us.

C)We don’t understand what is going on in worship (73).

“Christian worship bears, at its heart, the promise of God to sustain us in hope. This is not something done for us or to us by worship leaders. Rather it is the mystery of grace into which we journey together. Worship is the continuing rehearsal of God’s hope for us” (78).

Hope requires us to listen to each other. What are our hopes and fears?

“Authentic Christian worship, true to its sources and alert to the present realities of human life, is a a school of hope. This is not superficial optimism, for it trains us for the reign of God yet to come. It arouses in us a passion for what the prophets spoke of: a time of justice and peace, a time of human reconciliation with God, a time of abundance and the healing of the nations” (85).

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