By Guest Writer
I went to more than one-hundred Sunday church services last year. First, I worked at a church that held three services. Later, looking for a new church, I tried two locations every Sunday. After I picked one, I still went to every service to re-plant my roots.
Last March, we paused our services for thirteen weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19. For thirteen Sundays, I watched church on YouTube alone, whispered the first line or two of a hymn, and mumbled through the shared liturgy. But I realized during this season that I needed to re-learn what worship really is. It is not just for Sunday morning, and it is not just that part of the church service where the worship team is playing music.
Jesus taught the Samaritan woman that, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). The Holy Spirit is sometimes likened to air, or pneuma. Job said, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). Jesus breathed on His disciples to share the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Elsewhere, Jesus reminds us how God’s truth feeds us: “Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). So we have it backwards if we think God needs or craves our worship. We are the ones who need to worship, the same way we need air and food.
God creates and sustains and saves us. Before Him we can boast of nothing. But we get to worship. It is our response to His work and His nature, and it isn’t limited to a service once a week. It is a discipline we carry into all of life, like Moses bowing at Yahweh’s name in gratitude of His compassion, grace, and love (Exodus 34:6–9), or the disciples responding in awe of Jesus’s power over creation (Matthew 14:24–33). When we worship, we are adding our praise to that of the lame man who rejoiced in Christ’s power to heal (Acts 3:1–10). We anticipate when we will join with all creation in singing, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).
When Augustine said, “The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot,” maybe he meant that to have a head and a foot, and the life that comes with them, is the grace of God. And to offer that whole body and life is the discipline of worship (Romans 12:1). The Holy Spirit acts in worship, nourishing us and guiding us to praise, thank, confess, obey, pray, and give. Living out the practice of worship, we learn how to be, how to know, and how to be still and know (Psalm 46:10, NIV).
Written by David Chaniott