No, this is not a blog in which I write only two words. See? Already wrote 14 words. I mean 18. I mean 21. . . .
[John Cage “composed” 4’33” with no actual sounds, but I don’t have anything close to his standing, so I’ll actually need to write something.]
In culling old files, I came upon a folder from the 1998 Youth Advance, an annual conference event for Delaware Valley CofC teenagers who were identified by their church elders as future leaders. I had the honor of being a counselor and worship leader at the 1998 conference, held at Sandy Cove in nearby Maryland.
During a worship session, I asked the young believers to write down a two-word reduction of the core meaning of worship, as they understood it . . . and in my paper file were the actual scraps of paper received from these impassioned, standout teenagers. Below are most of the words they wrote. I have italicized some of those I find the most insightful.
God and Jesus
Knowing God (2)
Love God; Loving God
Open heart; Open hearted (2)
Praise God (4); Praising God (2)
Pure exaltation (2)
Singing praises (2)
Those Youth Advance teenagers were exceptional, and I remember several of them to this day — Alison, Mark, Crystal, Erin, Benjamin, Matt, Jonathan, Abigail, Julie, and others.
And aren’t some of the two-word depictions amazing? Each one of those seems to capture one or more key aspects of worship. Some of them encapsulate the whole of it. Many churchians would do well to digest some of the above concepts; tragically, “worship” seems often to be reduced and/or misunderstood by religionists. Worship is not “church,” as in “get in the car; we’re almost late for worship,” and it is not equivalent to the assembly/gathering, either.
One of the descriptions—”blowing kisses”—warrants a comment. I think I actually recognize the handwriting on this one. Even if I’m wrong, I can still be sure that this person either already knew, or had just heard from me on that occasion, that the principal root for “worship” is a compound one—προσκυνέω (proskuneo)—that involves “directional kissing.” In other words pros roughly means “toward” or “to,” and kuneo is the verb “to kiss,” i.e., as an act of homage to royalty. Far from being light or flippant, then, the person who wrote “blowing kisses” was actually asserting something very profound: that worship is expressing reverent love in God’s direction—from a distance, as it were.
Next, I’ll share a few additional teens’ descriptions that are not as on-target. Subsequently, I’ll describe some thoughts that shaped the worship times I planned for Youth Advance 1998; then I’ll share an affirming response.