In the 1987 fantasy adventure film The Princess Bride, the character Vizzini repeatedly uses the phrase “Inconceivable!” – to such an extent that one of the other characters eventually calls him out on it: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” In preparing this week’s reflection, I began thinking similarly about the way the term ‘worship’ can be used in church contexts.
Increasingly in modern church culture, we find that ‘worship’ has become synonymous with ‘music’. Music is certainly an important medium of expression of worship; indeed, there are numerous references in Scripture exhorting us to sing praises and make music to God (Ps 47:6, Ps 95:1-2, Col 3:16, Eph 5:19 – to name a few!). But is music alone sufficient for our understanding of worship?
Similarly, we can also hear ‘worship’ defined as our formal gatherings – our Sunday ‘worship services’. This broadens the categorisation from just the music portions of the service, recognising that the other elements (i.e. prayer, scripture, preaching, communion, tithing, etc.) are also important acts and responses of worship. But are Sunday services alone sufficient for our understanding of worship?
William Temple, former Archbishop of Canterbury (1942-44), offered the following definition of worship:
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.”
To worship God is to give ourselves to Him, wholly and continually. Paul writes in Romans 12: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
One of the themes set before us as a church this year is Renew Worship: “cultivating a rhythm of awe and wonder in daily life and together on Sundays”. May we continue to grow in our understanding and expression of worship, nurturing patterns of adoration and thankfulness in our day-to-day lives, so that God may continue His transforming work in our hearts.