Defining Worship 19

Definition

WORSHIP: OUR MINISTRY TO GOD

Worship has been defined as being preoccupied with God.

We humans are preoccupied with many things: successes and failures, the gaining or losing of possessions, the hurts and joys of living; but we are rarely preoccupied with God.

And, yet, in a secularized age, which seems to be racing dangerously along in a rapid moral decline, we need to worship more than ever. As the late William Temple said:

The world can be saved by one thing and that is worship.  For to worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.

This exaltation, this adoration does not often happen spontaneously. It takes work on the part of humans, bogged about by the demands of materiality: by the urgent, by the necessary, but not by the spiritual. We must learn to work at our worship so that preoccupation with God becomes delightfully habitual.

Worship is a sacred work in which a people corporately, determined to be enamored with God, find meaningful ways to tell Him of this and to remind themselves as well.

How do we become intentional in worship?  How do we become participants rather than spectators? A friend’s mother taught her to go to church with “A full basket, not an empty one.” We must begin to retrain ourselves to consider during each Saturday evening/ Sunday morning: What have I to give to God and to his people? Am I ready to ready to worship? Am I eager to be preoccupied with Him?  We must learn to transform the age-old, self-centered question, What am I going to get out of the service? to, What am I going to put into the service?

We need to remind ourselves, over and over, that the focus of Sunday worship must be upon the living Christ among us.

In truth, if Christ were bodily present and we could see him with more than our soul’s eyes, all our worship would become intentional. If Christ stood on our platforms, we would bend our knees without asking. If we could hear His voice leading the hymns, we too would sing heartily; the words would take on meaning. The Bible reading would be lively; meaning would pierce to the marrow of our souls. If Christ walked our aisles, we would hasten to make amends with that brother or sister to whom we have not spoken.  We would volunteer for service, the choir loft would be crowded. If we knew Christ would attend our church Sunday after Sunday, the front pews would fill fastest, believers would arrive early, offering plates would be laden with sacrificial but gladsome gifts, prayers would concentrate our attention.

Yet, the startling truth is that Christ is present, through His Holy Spirit, in our churches; it is we who must develop eyes to see and ears to hear Him.

One old man I know always weeps when his church sings the doxology, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”  The tears run down his wrinkled cheeks.  Would that we all could experience that we all could experience that awe, that reality which breaches the borders of the intellect and somehow reaches the affective, the guarded emotional parts of ourselves.

 For truly, one day, one eternal day, we will recognize that divine presence, we will kneel in awe, our hearts will sigh, will shout, “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!” We will weep for joy in the Presence of God. We will become utterly preoccupied. We will adore. We will exalt. We will worship. And this time, this one day in time, this Sunday—every Sunday, in fact Sunday after Sunday: we are preparing our souls, practicing for that Eternity when every day will be a Sabbath without end, for that day when we will know most assuredly, Christ is here!

—Karen Burton Mains, Introduction to the hymnal Sing Joyfully!

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