The What and Who of Meandering About

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reclaiming Words - "Worship"


For the next several weeks, we will take a look at some words that seem to have lost a part, if not all, of their meaning in our culture.  We will begin with a quick look at the dictionary definition of the word.  Then we will think through what it might mean to reclaim the word in our lives and as an important part of our journey of faith. We started last week with a look at the word "desire".

This week, let's look at
worship
n.
1. a. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
    b. The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.
2. Ardent devotion; adoration.
v.tr.
1. To honor and love as a deity.
2. To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion.
v.intr.
1. To participate in religious rites of worship.
2. To perform an act of worship.

Worship has been a huge topic of discussion and debate in churches across the country.  It has even sparked books, articles, and conferences centered around the theme of "worship wars."

Much of the debate has centered around the style of music played during worship.  Will the church have an organ, a choir, and "traditional" music or will the church have drums, guitars, and "contemporary" music?  There are people who lobby earnestly on each side of this music style debate - good people of deep and abiding faith.

In spite of the best intentions of those on both sides of the debate and those somewhere in between, we have lost something.  We have lost the heart and the meaning of worship.

Music is indeed an important and integral part of worship.  Music is to be a part of the prayer and praise offered by the congregation or the individual in worship.  However, music is not the entirety of worship nor should it be the focus of worship.  In fact, John Calvin wrote that everything we do should be an act of worship offered to God.  It is not just the songs we sing.  Worship is as much an attitude of the heart, mind, and spirit as it is the actions of the body and mouth.

In the Book of Order for the Presbyterian Church (USA) we have these words, "Christian worship joyfully ascribes all praise and honor, glory and power to the triune God. In worship the people of God acknowledge God present in the world and in their lives. As they respond to God’s claim and redemptive action in Jesus Christ, believers are transformed and renewed. In worship the faithful offer themselves to God and are equipped for God’s service in the world." (Book of Order, W - 1.1001)

In our long and tiring debate over worship style, we have lost the point that worship has very little to do with us at all.  Worship is about God.  When corporate worship and individual worship is focused on what we get out of it, worship has become nothing more than an empty exercise of ego-centric self improvement.  We might as well be at a Tony Robbins seminar.  Worship is to be about giving "all praise and honor, glory and power to the triune God."  When our worship is rightly focused, style becomes much less important.  All of our vain trappings and stylings come off of the center stage when "the faithful offer themselves to God."
Donald McKim writes, "We gather in the covenant community for praise, petition, and thankfulness for who God is and what God has done...We worship as Christians to give our full attention to the God who is our creator, who redeems us in Jesus Christ, and who is present with us by the Holy Spirit...Worship provides the orientation for our Christian lives" (Presbyterian Beliefs, 104).

The end result is that God is glorified and the people of God are transformed, renewed, and equipped for service to the world.  Let us worship God in all we say and do.




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