The first definition I learned of worship was that the word worship comes from the old English word weorthscipe which means to ascribe something as worthy. I was then further instructed that this was how we worshipped we tell God that he is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory. I think my first definition of worship might be a good jumping off point, but it is missing a whole lot of the story. In this definition of worship, I am the subject of the sentence pointing my action of worship at God the object of the sentence. If God is only the object of our worship, if God just sits and observes us as we go through our acts of worship, then we have placed God somewhere far removed from us like the patron of the opera in the furthest box seat from the stage. Yet scripture repeatedly tells us that God is close to us. God is far more than just the object or observer of our worship, He is the initiator.
Our relationship with God is like a dance where God initiates and we respond. How does that dance play out in worship? Bob Webber juxtaposes these two views of worship this way, “If God is the object of worship, then worship must proceed from me, the subject, to God, who is the object. . . . If God is understood, however, as the personal God who acts as subject in the world and in worship rather that the remote God who sits in the heavens, then worship is understood not as the acts of adoration God demands of me but as the disclosure of Jesus, who has done for me what I cannot do for myself. In this way worship is the doing of God’s story within me so that I live in the pattern of Jesus’s death and resurrection.” [Robert Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 232.] God has initiated His life in us and our response is one of grateful worship; a worship that retells God’s story and lives out God’s story in my every minute of my every day. Worship is then not something we do, but something we are. It is transformative and infectious. It changes not only how we see ourselves, but how we see God, others, and the world.
Do you need a new definition of worship? Do you need to rethink how you come to and participate in worship? Summer is coming. Why not make this summer a season of plumbing the depths and reaching the heights of all worship is supposed to be?
[Next time: Narcissistic Worship]