Thursday, July 28

What is worship? -- #1

A few weeks ago we were having a discussion in one of the Covenant Church Facebook groups about what constitutes corporate worship. Someone was suggesting that worship should be seen more as a relationship and less as labor. Worship should be seen as something that happens to us or for us rather than something we have to do -- a duty or obligation.

I offered the following definition.
Corporate worship is the work we do together of bringing honor to the Triune God, to whom we are connected through our collective and individual relationships with Christ Jesus. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we together honor him through adulation, prayer, by listening to his Word, and by sharing in the sacramental means of grace he provides. Sometimes we are deeply moved by and find joy in the sense of his presence. At other times his presence is troubling and disconcerting. And even when he feels distant, by faith we believe he is present at the gathering of his people and we continue on with the work of worship.
So, I obviously come down on the side of seeing worship as work. And I would point out that even the most intimate of human relationships requires work. Love is not something that just magically happens between two people. That's infatuation. Love requires work -- at times being there when you're distracted, pitching in when you'd rather be doing something else, staying close when you feel frustrated and distant... Our relationship with God is similar in nature.

However, I would suggest that there is fulfillment in good work. As serendipity to the work we discover joy and freedom. We are built up and encouraged -- all the things which if we pursue them on their own become fluffy and shallow.

My point -- We should not shy away from the work of worship, for in our focus on the God who is truly other but who graciously reveals himself, we find our own place in life. It IS something we work at. What the Apostle Paul says of his own preaching is true of worship in general -- "I work hard and struggle for this goal with his energy, which works in me powerfully." ~ Colossians 1:28 (CEB)

Worship is work.


Carol Noren Johnson said...

Good post. Interesting that on the day when we do not work as usual, the day of rest, that we "work" to worship.

Brad Boydston said...

Bunny trail -- Early Christians would not have considered Sunday to be a day of rest. The first believers kept the Jewish Sabbath because they were also Jewish. It wasn't until the 4th century that Sunday was established as a day of rest. Christians met on Sunday because that was the day of the resurrection. Often they met very early in the morning before going off to work. Many were slaves and had no choice.