Monday, April 7, 2008

Transcendence and Immanence

Once a month I meet with our worship planning team to plan services for the following month. There is a lot of careful thought given to our services, and I'd like to post about that here on occasion, in hopes that it will help you enjoy your time of worship more.

One thing we try to make sure we include each week is the concept of God's transcendence and His immanence.

Transcendence refers to the fact that God is far greater than His Creation. He is, and always will be, unchanging, infinite, independent, and Lord over all. A Bible passage that might exemplify this:

"The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is
like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to
look on the heavens and the earth.?" Ps. 113:4-6


"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth
and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human
hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and
breath and everything else." Acts 17:24-25

We start the service trying to capture this aspect of God, by singing hymns like "All Creatures of Our God and King", "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name", or something similar.

But if we left it at that we would be neglecting the fact that as high as God is above us, He loves us and cares for us personally, and we can know Him. This would be the concept of His immanence.

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child
she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved
you on the palm of my hands." Is. 49:15-16

"You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba!
Father!'" Romans 8:15

At this point, usually in preparation for a time of prayer, we sing things like "What a Friend We Have In Jesus", "I Need Thee Every Hour", or "As the Deer".

It is this understanding of His immanence that allows us to pray to Him with faith that He hears us. It is the understanding of His transcendence that allows us to know that He can do what He says He will do. If one element were missing, we would be unable to worship Him completely on Sunday morning.

Next time you attend worship, look for both of these elements in the service and let them deepen you knowledge of God.

1 comment:

matt said...

We're working on that transcendence/immanence issue from a different angle in addition to the one you've mentioned. I didn't use those terms, but that's a lot of what's behind this post. To me, this "Eucharistic Convergence" I describe there is indicative of the transcendent/immanent experience in which our local expression of Communion is so explicitly linked to the whole Body of Christ. Christ is present to us locally (immanence) through the fact that Tomlin's song has become "indigenous" to the congregation, while the function of the song itself and its placement in Communion draws us into common worship with the heavenly host and believers throughout time and place.