A few days from now I’ll be flying to Orlando, where I’ll be teaching a week-long class at Reformed Theological Seminary. I’ll have the privilege of leading a number of future pastors and church leaders in thinking about worship.
As I’ve prepared for this class, I’ve been struck by the enormity of this subject. Worship is more than an activity we engage in on Sunday mornings. It is what we are doing every waking moment, as we are always worshiping someone or something.
Everything we do, whether eating, working, resting, playing, can and should be an expression of worship to our loving God. This is what we see in Jesus, whose life on earth was one of unceasing worship. As he gave himself in love to others throughout his life and ministry, it was always ultimately an act of devotion to his loving Father. He lived with a constant awareness that he lived before the face of God as one who belonged to Him. In Jesus we see how we are meant to be.
In our daily lives, however, we struggle to worship God with any sort of constancy. From the moment we wake up and reach for our cellphones, the demands of the day push out any sense we might have of being part of a divine reality, and we quickly slide into our habits as those whose main job is not to worship God, but to Get Things Done. In moments of tiredness or overwhelmedness, we seek refuge, not in our loving God, but in escapism. Again and again by the end of the day, we feel the monotonous, frustrating sense of our failure to live out our calling to be worshipers of the God who loves us.
I’ve been encouraged in my studies to remember that I am not on my own in my worship of God. When Jesus perfectly worshiped God here on earth, he worshiped as one of us, as our representative. Whatever worship we offer is now joined with his, perfected in him. Somehow, miraculously, as I offer myself to God, my “spiritual worship”--flawed though it be--is “holy and pleasing to God” because of Christ (Romans 12:1).
I’ve also been struck by how much of a gift of God our gathering on Sunday morning is. Sunday morning is not simply a sermon delivery device (with a little bit of singing added as a garnish on the side). Sunday morning is, as one theologian has said, a kind of gymnasium for our hearts. Sitting in silence after hearing God’s Word, engaging our hearts and voices in songs of praise, pausing in the midst of busy lives to pray—in these moments we are not only engaging in worship, but we are training our very souls to know what is true and to love what is good. Over time