Worship. It’s derived from a funny little Old English word weorð , which meant "the condition of being worthy ." (Source: Online Etymology Dictionary)
We all worship, though we don’t all realize it. And although, in our culture, worship has been downgraded to an outmoded experience for the superstitious, I believe it lies at the very core of our purpose and meaning in life.
True worship is the pinnacle of human activity and divine grace. It’s the realization of the purpose and design of humanity. It’s a function that only one species on Earth can experience (although sometimes I think whales sound like they're doing Gregorian chants).
True worship of the living God actualizes our potential; simultaneously inviting us to embrace our immeasurable worth , and humbling us to bow before the Supreme (yet intimate) Creator. That any of us thirst to worship is one of the greatest evidences of the immaterial, eternal souls resident in our fragile, finite bodies. It’s like a stick figure on a ruled sheet of paper being aware of a three-dimensional space. It’s only possible if such a space exists and it has been revealed to the 2-D drawing.
True worship gives perspective: I am small. He is big. My problems are small. His glory is bigger than my issues, and even the selfishness within me, which ought to doom me before an Eternal Being who is worthy of worship. Did you get that? True worship is also a paradox because the mere existence of a being worthy of our worship instills fear among lesser beings who have broken His morally perfect commands. And yet, somehow, He tenderly invites us to draw near!
True worship is intellectual, emotional, physical, mystical, communal, purposeful and prodigal (in the recklessly extravagant sense) all at once. It engages all of us and, when done right, takes the focus off of us. Worship is the only antidote to our self-absorbed, narcissistic, petty, “follow me”, “tag me”, “like me” culture.
But we must beware: we can be tempted to abuse the worship impulse in support of our own agendas! True worship, however, reminds us that God is not aligned to our political parties, sports teams, nationalistic pride, economic, academic or social partiality. It reminds us that the transcendent One is above race, sex, age, class, marital status, denomination, ability or any other way we identify ourselves.
Because true worship is not about us or our agenda. It's about the God of the universe who invites, but doesn’t force us, to ascribe to Him worth above all things. Though some identify as irreligious, skeptical, agnostic, or even atheist, they have not avoided worship: they have merely replaced true worship of the Creator with worship of something else (intellect, pleasure, experiences, etc.) Others worship on Sundays: not in sanctuaries of stained glass, but in concrete temples filled with blood-stained athletes in helmets and pads.
But in reality, our souls thirst for true worship because it allows us — temporal, and ignorant about the universe, our own planet and even our own souls — to commune with the infinite, omniscient Divine. We only find our own meaning when we cease making life about ourselves but about the One who is greater and who is therefore worthy of our adoration: our post-enlightenment, post-modern,”post-Christian” era worship. True worship tells the story and reminds us of the story and is the story that we are not alone, on our own, or our own. We were created, fell, were redeemed, and will be restored. We were given immeasurable worth , yet are still unworthy of any headlines. We are intrinsically valuable, yet corrupted and fallen. We are either rebels, or beloved and yet either way the fact that we live is a reason to worship.
But what is ‘true worship’? Jesus said it best in John 4:23-26:
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
True worship is spiritual and truthful, and points to God the Father and the Son, through the revelation of the Spirit. True worship reveals who He is and how we can approach Him. It is experienced in moments of solitude and prayer as well as in the midst of a hectic day at work or school.
Music and the arts find their meaning in true worship. But so does everything else. True worship is what happens when we offer up the mundane to the Divine and acknowledge the very ground on which we stand is sacred. True worship involves choosing to sacrifice our interests, desires, resources, conversation, and yes our very lives for One whom we can’t see, hear, touch, smell, or taste, but to whom we attribute our very humanity. In spite of doubt, confusion, sorrow, disappointment, difficulty, and despair, we worship believing that our momentary suffering doesn't compare to the glory we will experience when He whom we truly worship will at last fully reveal His glorious beauty and moral character ( 2 Corinthians 4:17 ).
We all ascribe supreme value to someone or something. Romantics lean toward relationships. Entrepreneurs tend to choose success. Politicians prefer influence. Parents are tempted to worship their children. All of us at some point are susceptible to any of the above. In the right context any of those roles can serve to express and enhance worship. The key lies in identifying the object or person we choose to worship. Choose wisely though, because we become like what we worship!
What about you? How do you experience true worship?
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