Jesus. Real Life.

Worship (and) Service

Worship has now become a musical term. Praise and worship means music. “Let’s worship” means the band will play. . . . [Our congregations] have no idea what Biblical worship is outside of the context of their favorite songs played by a kickin’ band. They have little idea of worship in vocation, in family, in ordinary work or in silence. They credit their favorite songs as major spiritual events.

The above quote is from another interesting post from Imonk. He articulates what all of us who care what happens outside of worship services need to think about.  Please hear me, I am not advocating in this post that we should only do hyms, or high-church liturgy or that singing–whatever the tempo–isn’t a very good thing for churches.  I’m a Vineyard guy and I still think that worship music regularly being done in the ‘native’ musical language of the community is a good thing.  This isn’t about what style of music is played during a service.  This is about the unhelpful discrepancy that’s developed between what we think of when we hear the word ‘worship’ and the (much larger) concept in the scriptures.  Check out this interaction between Jesus and Satan:

“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

Now, where did Jesus get the idea that Satan was asking for ‘service’–Satan only asked him to ‘bow down and worship’ him?  Because the ‘bow down and worship’ that Satan is asking for, and the kind that the scriptures are talking about generally, is the kind of bowing down before and ‘kissing the ring’ of a king when pledging one’s loyalty and service.  Think The Godfather or of Pippin kissing the ring of the steward of Gondor in Lord of the Rings – Return of the King.  The bottom line is, biblical worship more like signing up with the Marines than attending an Opera or movie.  Both may give you chills, but for very different reasons and with very different implications for the coming days, weeks and years.  Or think about the connection Jesus draws between love and service to a master. Biblical worship is much more like saying or renewing wedding vows than attending a wedding as a guest.  And of course, renewing our vows matters little; it’s how we choose to live them day-by-day that counts.  As Gandalf told Pippin after his ‘worship’ of Denethor, “You’re in the service of the steward now; you’ll do as your told.”  On with the uniform, the hearing of the terms of the covenant between the steward and his new servant, and obedient service by the worshipper.

This is the context, the making and renewing a covenant with a king, in which the Psalms, the Shema, and the New Testament’s concept of worship can be properly understood, prompting this strong statement from Paul:

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

This is also why the NT as a whole spends so much time on the shape our lives are to take as God’s people in the world (and next to no time on the shape of our ‘worship services.’)  Because being a Christian is about following Jesus, the king, in all of our affairs.  That’s what ‘worship’ in truth is.  Thankfully, God does like singing, but you wouldn’t get the impression from the scriptures that what he really wants is singing.  Jesus doesn’t say “if you love me, you’ll sing to me.”  I agree with the confessions that say that our highest call as humans is worshiping God, just more of the how-our-bodies-get-used-variety that Paul talks about above.  We need to change our concept of worship so that when someone says, “let’s worship” we think more about how we live and who we serve than how and to whom we sing.


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