Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What is worship?

Just recently I was involved in a discussion about worship and what involves worship with God. That is a very loaded question and I will try to answer some aspects of it.

I love definitions, etymologies, etc. When I look at the word, "worship," I discover that etymology of the word comes from Old English and is "condition of being worthy, honor, renown" (1). I remember once a German Salvation Army officer, Major Andrea Weber, did a Bible study on worship and really loved the meaning of worship in English.

Let me return the favor and say that I really love that word in German:  Gottesdienst. The German language loves to combine words. (Don't get me started on that one.) In this case it is two words encased in a genitive form. We don't have the genitive case in English, but basically it means that it is a possessive form.  The two words in the German word for "worship" are "Gott" (God) and "Dienst" (Service).

It's nothing too spectacular at first glance, but to me it is a wonderful insight. It can mean two things:  Our service to God, but it also means God's service to us. It is a mutual relationship! I love that idea and am excited about it.

There are some people who get tired out with serving God. They work hard all during the week and when they come to worship at church, they get even more exhausted. Perhaps they are preaching that day. Perhaps they are teaching a Sunday School class or a Bible Study. They leave out any chance for God to minister to them. They get burned out. How very sad! If I am being honest, however, it is also something that I struggle with as an introvert. I love to preach and to teach. I love to express God's love to everyone, but then afterwards I am burned out, tired, exhausted and have neglected to even receive God's service to me.

Sometimes worshiping God means allowing God to minister to us:  to serve us. I am reminded of that beautiful passage in the Gospel of John that is not recorded in the Synoptic Gospels.  Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. After a day of walking outside in the dusty streets wearing only sandals and getting ready to eat by sitting on pillows on the ground, having clean feet was not only refreshing, but a necessity for proper etiquette. A servant would do this. In the absence of a servant, the person considered "lowest" in the group would do the washing. When the disciples and Jesus came to prepare for the Passover dinner, no one stood up to volunteer to wash people's feet. So Jesus did. He would have been the last person to do so. When He came to Simon Peter, Peter was a bit confused by it all. We read the following:

Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He *came to Simon Peter. He *said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (John 13:5-8 NASB)

What I find striking about this passage is that if we do not allow God to minister to us, then we have no part of Him. What does that mean for us? It means that when we worship God, we need to make the effort to allow Him to serve us as well. Maybe we need to be silent before God instead of talking His ear off in prayer. Maybe we need to allow someone else to preach, instead of always trying to have the last word.

Let us make an effort to not only serve God, but allow God to serve us.

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