Summary: part 4 of our series on worship as a lifestyle not an event or place
God is the Audience of My Worship
Gordon Dahl said, "Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, work at their play, and play at their worship."
William Temple, the renowned archbishop of Canterbury, defined worship as quickening the conscience by the holiness of God, feeding the mind with the truth of God, purging the imagination by the beauty of God, opening the heart to the love of God, and devoting the will to the purpose of God
Worship is one of those over-arching, very emotional, often conflict-ridden topics that is central to our faith. To talk about worship is difficult and even at times dangerous. To not talk about it is to ignore one of the most important and fundamental elements in the practicing of Christianity.
One of the greatest reasons why this topic is so difficult to dialogue about revolves around us. We are, at least primarily, the problem. We approach worship much like we approach everything else in life. We are consumers. And more to the point, we are experienced consumers of recreation and enjoyment.
When we go out for dinner, when we visit the home of a friend, when we watch a show on television, when we listen to the radio on the drive home for work… we evaluate everything from a utilitarian, enjoyment culture. How much did I like that? What did that do for me? Was it what I wanted it to be? Did it taste right -which is really to say - did it taste the way I wanted it to?
The question is not whether or not humans today are hungering for worship and spirituality. Of course they are. We just don’t know how or where to go. In one of those mall-based, fast-food style eateries, a restaurant worker pulled from the oven one day a Cinnamon Bun, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the face of Mother Theresa. The owner called the local paper, the story and photo circulated. Before long there were long lines of people coming to see, even coming to worship. How true is it that part of our problem today must revolve around the fact that we can’t tell the difference between the Bread of Life and cheap junk food.
And we bring this materialistic, self-indulgent worldview into the church house and act out of it quite willingly. Oh, in our higher and better moments we translate it into more appropriate religious vocabulary. We want worship to sound "right", to look ’right’ to feel ’right.’ We say that we don’t want worship to be entertaining. But of course we do. We want it to entertain a very specific mindset, to indulge a very specific set of expectations, to interest a specific way of thinking.
We just don’t know how to be honest about it. We take the word ’entertain’ and make it sound unholy, irreverent and use it to defend against any attack that might impede on the kind of worship we’re sure we’re supposed to engage in. And all the while, we’re preventing any sense of true worship.
We’re put ourselves at the center. Is this what I expect it to be? Does this serve my understanding of what it means to ’act holy?’ Is this the kind of music that I enjoy? What did I get out of that service? What did I feel? What did I get?