Proskuneo (2)

So many ideas on worship, and a few do have biblical foundation. . . .  (This post continues thoughts from a few days ago.)

Eighteen years ago, the Christian Chronicle surveyed a few American Restoration Movement leaders of various, shall we say, bents.  I retained at least one response that surprised me positively, on recent re-discovery:

. . .  Worship rings out of the fountain of the soul and heart–the springing out of adoration, praise and thanksgiving to God. . . .

The internal man must be involved. You can worship internally without doing anything external, but you can’t worship externally without involving the internal.

Worship is intentional. You cannot worship God accidentally. It must be an intended act. [editorial emphasis–bc]

We only worship vertically. It is something we do in communication, adoration and praise toward God. . . .

God is not our buddy. He is deity; we are human.  Let us go back to the fact of how awesome is the majesty, power, grace and love of God. . . .  We must beware turning the worship of God into more of a pep rally than the awe-inspiring worship of the Almighty God.

– Excerpted from  Roy Lanier Jr., “My Hope for the Church’s Worship” in “Worship Today: Six Leaders Express Their Views,” Christian Chronicle, 7/94. Reprinted by permission.

Mr. Lanier, if memory serves (and it well may not!), is someone with whom I would share a fair number of historical underpinnings, but whose ideas around church functionalities and Bible interpretation would often fall to the right of my own.  He does seem to have a good handle on worship, though!  Here, I particularly want to highlight that worship is vertical, i.e., between creature and Creator.  The horizontal “life” stuff is related, and does absolutely need to be harmonized, but is not worship per se.

Moreover, specifically on an expression that leads to much misunderstanding:  Paul did not write “spiritual act of worship” in Romans 12.  He didn’t write English words at all, and the Greek words he wrote aren’t normally, otherwise translated “spiritual” and “worship.”

May we get our ideas on all “God things” from the scriptures.

To be continued . . .


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?”:

  1. “People have said that even the birds worship God just by flying around and building nests and taking care of their babies.”  Umm, no.
  2. “Giving yourself fully over to God, and receiving Him in return.”  Nope.  This is important, but  it is not worship.
  3. “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.
  4. 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.”
  5. “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 . . .