Worship is the offering up of ourselves in totality to the Lord - sacrifice. It has little, if anything, to do withparticular rituals, traditions or preferences. It has everything to do with love - that is, it has something to do withethics. Worship will only occur as I give my heart to the Lord, however imperfectly or incompletely I may be able todo that at any given time - which is indeed all I have to offer and even that is beyond me accept as I liveeschatologically. This, then, is the bottom-line of worship. The Lord will accept nothing less than all of me: And hewill demand nothing more then what I am able to give in that direction at a given point in time.Jesus, when asked by a Samaritan woman about worship (a woman dying of thirst so much so that the questionthat popped out of her mouth when she realized she was talking to a prophet, was something like, Our fathers tellus to worship at this mountain (Samaria) and you Jews say to worship at Jerusalem! Where am I to go to worship?(Where do I find God?!)) Jesus told her,
Believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father inspirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Himmust worship in spirit and truth.
(John 4:21-24 (NASB95))What did Jesus mean be this? That is the question. It is a question that we must answer when we find ourselves atodds over forms, traditions, purposes and opinions (Samaria, Jerusalem (for the woman at the well); seeker,believer, traditional; blended, contemporary, convergent, emergent, worldterms used by those who are writingand reflecting on the current state of the art). My desire here is to express, if incompletely, some thoughts onworship in spirit and truth as I have come to experience it.Above I mentioned what must be the rock bottom foundation of any philosophy or practice of worship: Love! Youshall
the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength (Mark and Luke add mind). Love, biblicallyspeaking, includes all that we are, emotionally, materially, and mentally. Love is for sure a big word and we use itin many ways to describe many relationships with both animate and inanimate objects. We use this word for boththe most narcissistic and altruistic of people. We use love for the most trivial and banal things in our lives as wellas the most profound and sublime. Nevertheless, it is the word used to express the very nature and essence of thebeing of God- God is Love declares the Beloved Apostle, and thus my usage of love as the only possibleirreducible essence of true and spiritual worship (For a stimulating and thought provoking discussion on love Irecommend Robert W. Jenson, On Thinking the Human: Resolutions of Difficult Notions, chapter 6, ThinkingLove).Love, at one level, is obedience to the revelation of God in how we think and how we conduct ourselves in theworld. We understand this to be so because of the recognition that the greatest commandments are what we have just mentioned above along with, Love your neighbor as yourself. In these two commandments, all the law andthe prophets are summed up and fulfilled, that is love, and that is worship. Thus, we find another dimension of worship in that if we do not address love for our neighbor we have yet to attain to a full expression of worship thatwould qualify as being in spirit and truth. Though we can say and must say that to love the Lord means at the veryleast, that we will keep his commandants, nevertheless, to equate love simply as obedience to a code, even theBiblical code, is often misleading, and, I think, is some of what causes confusion in our attempts to define andpractice piety and worship. For in reality, love far exceeds the law and asks things of us the law is never able to.How, then, are we to understand the in spirit and truth part? The truth is that we cannot worship at this level if left to our own! This is the whole testimony of Scripture and it is the reason for the coming of Jesus into the world.He came to set us free and to provide for the possibility of new birth. That is, the fulfillment of the promise thatGod would remove our hearts of stone (an image that conveys our utter inability to love and thus to worship!) withhearts of flesh (an image that conveys a new capacity to actually be
to love and thus to worship). These arewords of life in the sense of empowerment. Freedom language is power language as is heart-of-flesh language.