When I first committed to writing for That Reformed Blog, I wasn’t sure how often I would be able to contribute due to everything I’d be writing in seminary. And then I thought, “Why not share what I’m already writing for class on the blog?” Below is my response to the question, “What is worship?” For someone who has an easier time articulating what something is not, this assignment was fairly challenging. I’ve decided to share it here with the hope that it might start a conversation, so please share your additions below!
What is worship? Is worship synonymous with praise? Does worship happen on Sunday mornings or during the rest of the week? Is a worship service about God or us? What is the connection between worship and music? As people who follow an invisible God, we probably have a lot of questions about what it means to worship that God. Let us consider what worship is with the hope that this question might lead us into a deeper relationship with our Lord and a greater love for all of creation.
Worship is rooted. Human beings have been crying out to their Creator for millennia. As a result, the resources for participating in the act of worship are endless. Worship is rooted in poetic Scripture, beautiful liturgy, honest prayers, faithful saints, and articulate hymns that tune our hearts to the heart of God.
Worship is communal. Worship happens among the people in a specific congregation, with Christians around the world, and with all the saints who have gone before us. The promise that we are deeply connected with a great cloud of witnesses dissolves the illusion that we could ever worship alone. Even in solitude, we are still connected to a community.
Worship is service and justice. As people who follow a God who entered into humanity as a servant, we acknowledge service as an act of worship. Through the words of the prophet Amos, we hear that this same God wishes for justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness to flow like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24). According to the prophet, when we serve others and seek justice, we participate in the type of worship God desires.
Worship is mysterious. Worship is the five-year-old who stays up late enough to see stars for the first time. Worship leaves us overwhelmed with child-like awe as we embrace the mysteriousness of God. This mystery invites us to pursue God further by living into all our unanswered questions. How might we stand under the stars for the first time every time?
Worship is showing up. Followers of Jesus might not always feel like following Jesus. Spirit-filled beings might not always feel like being used by the Spirit. Worshipers of God might not always feel like worshiping God. We might not feel like worshiping with our entire being all the time, but the triune God desires to simply be with us. Worship is about making ourselves aware of God’s presence already around us, and sometimes we literally have to fake it until we make it by just showing up.
This list is by no means exhaustive; it’s just a taste of what worship is. Worship is many things and it’s one thing. Worship is a moment in time and all the time. Worship is a lifestyle, an attitude, a posture, a way of life. Worship is walking in the way of Jesus. The implications are huge but the idea is simple: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Worship is being. Worship is.