O come, let us adore Him
November 1992, Revised March 1996
Worship \'w&r-sh&p \ n [ME worshipe worthiness, repute, respect, reverence paid to a divine being, fr. OE weorthschipe worthiness, repute, respect, fr. weorth worthy, worth + scipe -ship, akin to OHG skepfen to shape] : reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence vt : to regard with great, even extravagant respect, honor, or devotion ~ vi to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship
WORSHIP. Literally, worth shape: to give shape to the state of someone's worth or specific value.
That's some of what Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary has to say about the word "worship" and how it made its way into our language. The etymology of words can add insight into the meaning behind the definition, and I must confess that they hold some measure of fascination to me.
On the subject of worship, the Word—God's Word—may shed more useful light on the matter. He is the object of our worship, and His thoughts can help us learn how best to worship Him. I am thinking particularly of a couple of passages which don't directly address the Sunday morning aspect of worship, but which do place it in its proper perspective.
Romans 12:1,2 is perhaps very familiar to many of us. Paul wrote,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual [or reasonable] act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Among the many rich truths in this passage is the little nugget that describes our worship as the offering of our bodies as living sacrifices. This "act" of worship describes an ongoing lifestyle of obedient service. It isn't confined to the "worship service" that takes place in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. It is a living, breathing, walking and dynamic worship which we act out everywhere we go in our obedient service to God: at home, at work, with our friends, "up north" and-yes-even in church.
Jesus himself taught that worship was more than ritual confined to special holy places. He said to the Samaritan woman who asked about the religious differences between her traditions and the Jews',
"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23,24).
Here again, our worship is not confined to a specific time and place (e.g. the sanctuary on Sunday morning), but must be accomplished in a manner consistent with God's nature (spirit) and through his Son Jesus (truth). If we are living our lives as a lie, out of fellowship with Him, the truth is not in us and we cannot rightly worship (see 1 John 1). Nor can we worship truly if we simply perform lifeless rituals that are not expressions of God's spirit within us (see Hebrews 10:1ff).
Do I write this merely to divert attention from the worship team? They work hard; they practice long in preparation; it's their "job"; they're the ones up front leading us. Isn't it their responsibility? In a word, no. To borrow from Paul, may it never be! And in light of these verses from Scripture, it's not just Sunday mornings that count.
Rather, considering the awesome task before those who lead on Sunday mornings, I must also look at my own life and worship. If I expect them to effectively lead and direct our time of corporate worship, I must face the challenge daily to be diligent in my own "spiritual service of worship" that it be "in spirit and in truth."
This responsibility falls to each of us at church: if every person is living a life of worship during the week, then no matter what we do together on Sunday mornings, it can bring us rich blessings of fellowship, and moreover, glory to God. In reality, as we come together on Sundays, we become the worship team. Alone in the audience is our loving heavenly Father, the awesome Creator of the universe, Giver of life and Redeemer of our souls, who sent His Son that our worship might be acceptable to Him.
I am excited to share this challenge with you. O come, let us adore Him.
©1992 Rick Wattman