So many ideas on worship, so little biblical foundation. . . .
Principles of equity, academic fairness, and logic would seem to dictate that I stay out of the fray this time around: although I had pointed a couple of toes down a worship path a few weeks ago, the toes got stubbed, and here I am again. Here I am to struggle and wish, but not to worship very much.
Oh, the facts that demand worship remain. For instance: God is, God created, and God is all-glorious and majestic. God divested Himself of deity in some sense to be with Us in the person of Jesus, the Anointed One. These realities and others call me to worship, but I’m faced with deafness to said call: I don’t worship as I could, or should.
Acknowledging this stark shortcoming, I’ll still dare to offer some thoughts about worship, although without a lot of current, personal praxis to back it up in this phase of life. My hope is that this will help in clarifying our understandings and practices.
“What does worship mean to you?” I’ve asked that in groups before, and will again, but it was more with the idea of getting our inadequate ideas on the table than with the hope of some marvelous amalgamation of stunning truth. I uncovered a variety of responses to the question “what is worship to you?”:
- “People have said that even the birds worship God just by flying around and building nests and taking care of their babies.” Umm, no.
- “Giving yourself fully over to God, and receiving Him in return.” Nope. This is important, but it is not worship.
- “Giving more than begging or receiving is worship. Sharing Knowledge. Sharing service. Sharing techniques to art of life. Sprinkle the dust of joy.” Not a chance. This is like saying playing basketball is putting silverware in a drawer, changing a tire, tying your Converse shoelace, shooting a 3-pointer, hitting a home run, sleeping, and going to counseling. There’s a morsel of truth there, but it’s surrounded by things that are only (barely?) related.
- Well, of course, “It’s not just the songs.” Yeah, yeah. We’ve heard this before, yet most of us continue to live hypocritically in this respect. We’re still desperate to dovetail the musical endings and beginnings as in radio, eradicating the “dead space.”
- “Worship is bowing/kneeling before someone, making them the center of your existence and groveling at their feet. Honoring means accepting someone/thing as being up there in status and respecting them, but not drooling all over them and giving them useless tokens.” Now we’re getting somewhere. There is some very good material here!
When some people talk about worship experiences, their expressed longings seem, vacuously, to anticipate a divine, dove-like descent — analogous to what John saw at the immersion of Jesus. Drooling and perfunctory token-giving, begone. But bow and kneel (sometimes, physically!), and know that the One you are worshipping is by nature above all. This is a good picture of worship.
But can God glorify Himself through a completely secular activity, as expressed in #1 or #3 above? Of course. But will He? I’ll keep waiting for that to happen in any observable way . . . but without half the elpis (hope) that I have in the second coming or in my own ultimate dwelling place.
Worship, strictly speaking (and I do like to speak strictly, clearly), does not consist in serving others. Mowing the lawn and washing the dishes and even diapering an infant do not constitute worship. These things are horizontal; they are service actions that can become, metonymically, worship. Worship is inherently a vertical attitude and/or action. It is the demeanor and/or the adoring, reverent expression of a subservient one toward a greater one.
To be continued . . .