Two words only

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.]

wpid-img_20150520_105853_506.jpgIn 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.

Awed thanksgiving
Be sincere
Be yourself
Blowing kisses
Exalt God
Faith, dedication
Get closer
Glorify, praise
God #1
God and Jesus
God, me
Great God
Humble adoration
Humility, individuality
Jesus Christ
Joyfully praising
Knowing God (2)
Knowledge, rejoice
Love God; Loving God
Love You
My God
Open heart; Open hearted (2)
Personal relationship
Praise, thanksgiving
Praise God (4); Praising God (2)
Praise, devotion
Praise, needs
Praise, prayer
Praising Him
Pure exaltation (2)
Pure spirit
Responding love
Sanctuary, love
Singing praises (2)
Song, praise
Sweet surrender
Thanking, serving
The cross
Truthful praise
Worship, praise

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.

3 thoughts on “Two words only

  1. Galen 06/15/2015 / 7:50 am

    Interesting on several levels, but the one level I find most interesting is the confusion that seems to get thicker every year. Certainly, our translations are partly to blame, but I think even more so is our natural inclination to laziness. Maybe we were sharper in 1998?


    • Brian Casey 06/15/2015 / 8:23 pm

      Now, *that’s* interesting to me — that you think the confusion is growing. Hmmm.

      Laziness, absolutely — that kinda goes along with spectatorism. I’ve rarely been one to cry “that’s just entertainment, not worship!” with the masses, but I do bemoan decreasing levels of congregational participation. Generally, in my experience in CofC groups, I don’t think I’ve seen a decreasing *understanding* of worship, but then again, it never was as good as many thought it was!


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