What the heck is Worship?

Hello, world. It’s been quite some time since my last post and I’m sure I destroyed any readership that I had accumulated with such an absence… but that’s okay. I like starting from scratch.

I needed some time to process, some time to think, and some time to meditate on feelings before I wrote with them. Why is this important? Because if I don’t take time to distill the fresh passions that are set aflame by whatever catalysts and write with the rawness of my emotions, then I’d be no different from a man who regretfully throws a punch while being “in the moment.” I’m not advocating writing without passion; I might go so far as to say that passionless writing’s greatest uses are for the construction of paper airplanes and toilet paper.

That aside, let’s get to the main course for today. To the surprise of some and appreciation of others, I will not be talking at all about Africa or Missions. If you’d like to see some of my thoughts while we were in Uganda, you can check out that blog at http://vitanovaglobal.wordpress.com.

What the heck is worship? What does it mean to “worship God”?

I’ve been in the Christian world long enough to have things like the organ, hand clapping and power point slides with lyrics within my conditioned response to this question. Recently I’ve been trying to understand worship past my traditional hand-me-down head knowledge.

I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.

My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have

And my tongue will talk of your
righteous help all the day long…

Psalm 71:22-24

I see this as worship from the Psalm: an understanding and awe of God on a heart level that makes its way to a physical expression. These two things in conjunction make worship, not one or the other.

We’ll take the man or woman who only has the physical expression half. He or she is a great singer, able to sing loudly (or softly) in tune and sounds darn good doing it. But really, this isn’t an extension of a deeper joy, just a display of their talent. Some might ask, “what’s wrong with that?” Well, nothing really. It’s just not worship of God. On some level, it’s probably just worship of self (or definitively, pride).

Not being able to sing worth a lick, this isn’t something I can personally relate to. But what I’ve found myself falling into and getting stuck on the other half of worship: not expressing my awe of God past mental ponderings.

I don’t consider this too unreasonable. When we look at how Solomon worships God in Psalm 71, we see that he he “sings praises” with a lyre, which unless you’re Slash or Jack Johnson, is just fruity. He “shouts for joy,” which is no discrete or subtle gesture. His “tongue will talk of [God's] righteous help all the day long,” which is super time consuming. For many people, especially those who are afraid of being labeled as a “charismatic,” worshiping God like Solomon can be pretty scary and undesirable.

What I’ve been experiencing lately is not just God revealing what the cost of following Jesus is, but also responding with what the worth of following Jesus is. In the case of worship, we see that there are actual costs to worshiping God.

The cost for the talented singer is that they have to actually open up their hearts to the experience of worship. They’ll have to do their homework to see the connection between God and their singing. Ultimately, the cost is complication– it’s no longer “just singing,” once a week, but something much, much deeper.

The cost for the non-singer is possible humiliation, the overcoming of fears and the unnatural defiance of self consciousness. There may not be anything cool in lifting your cracking voice to God for others to hear. No social brownie points are awarded to the person who falls to their knees in the aisles of church to show their submission. There is no glory for the self in true worship of God.

We need to understand that at the heart of worship is the illustration of man waiving a white flag in complete surrender to God, the Victor, King and Redeemer of our souls. True worship is a struggle for the unnatural humility to say, “I am not the one who deserves glory and I will sacrifice whatever part of myself is necessary to make sure that you, my God, get what you deserve.”

There’s the cost, but herein lies the question, “is it worth it?”

I don’t quite know the answer to this question yet. But what I do know is that if I am okay with looking ridiculous jumping up and down and screaming in celebration of my football team, I should be okay at the very least in taking my rusted voice out for a spin in worship of my Creator, who upholds the entire universe by his word.

I’ll keep you posted.

-Thomas J.

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