Corporate worship, its liturgical direction and artistic support has, for many years, been a big part of my personal and professional life. In fact, for the past fifteen years it has been my bread and butter. Whether I have been involved as lay person or “professional” staff, these things have occupied much of my waking hours. I love to reflect on them. I’ve done so for many years now. The following is one of those.
“Worship” as defined by Webster’s Dictionary: “The act of paying reverence to God”. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines worship this way: “to make obeisance (a bow or a bend of the knee indicating submission or homage); do reverence to.” The original Greek word, “proskuneo” literally means, “to kiss toward”. Moreover, our English word for worship is transliterated from the Old English, “worthschipe” denoting a sailing vessel of total reliability worthy of our complete trust.
The worship of God is nowhere defined in Scripture. But, as we consider the 5 different biblical verbs used for worship we see that it is the act of praising God but not confined to it. Broadly, worship “may be regarded as the direct acknowledgement of God, of God’s nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deeds done in such acknowledgment” (Vine’s, pg. 236). However, with so little in the way of specifics, worship is the central activity of the Christian church.
The words “Praise” and “Worship” are often used interchangeably in the Scriptures. I believe this tells us that, insofar as the activity of worship is concerned, we worship God as we praise God. We ascribe to God adoration, praise, honor and blessing as this is fitting for the created toward the Creator.
There is great blessing in the invitation of Jesus to ask, seek and knock. As it relates to worship, it can provide a wonderful freedom to carve out a worship which is unique to each local congregation – like a tattoo delineating one group from another. As the Church of Jesus Christ faces, together, the dawning of new things in her midst, a continued courage and commitment will reap rich reward in the future.
New endeavors in any field of inquiry will present many experiences, responses and potentialities which challenge the current understanding. And, expanding our understanding of worship can become a wonderful expose of who is in our own faith communities seeking after meaning in Christ and for those already here who want to experience Jesus in a whole new way.
The art of seeking God in Christ is one which demands of us whole new ways of thinking and being. We are called upon by the God of grace and forgiveness to become small, needy and broken. Herein lies the difficulty with our contemporary way of thinking, which suggests that to live is to accumulate, to produce, to do. In this milieu, I most certainly journey, for even in writing this I am confronted with the reality that what God calls us to – honesty, integrity, humility and simplicity – is not simply an extra way to spend my time – but the only way.