We the church in North America have grown fat and lazy in the cradle of Christendom. Like lions basking in the sun after eating something huge, we’ve found a lazy kind of comfort in settling for Sunday morning. We’ve gorged on subtle pieties; we’re satiated with the mundane and the trivial, and I fear we’ve spoiled our truest appetite.
In a conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus points to a time when true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth. He says they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
Many have taken that phrase to mean that it doesn’t matter where we worship God, or when…so long as we do it “in spirit and in truth”.
Too often when I hear someone make that argument, I cringe inside. Usually they’re making a defense of why they never go to church, and why church involvement is really a superfluous addendum to the kind of piety that God requires. My favorite part is when they go on to talk about walking alone in the woods, where God is most present to them in the sound of the wind in the trees and the crickets along the path.
While it’s true that worship is not restricted to any time or place, and while it’s equally true that an authentic encounter with nature often can speak more to the soul than a hundred sermons, I do think the claim that’s being made requires deeper examination.
We’re getting ready to begin a series on worship in our church. The etymology of the word is striking (worth-ship). The object of worship is what we are giving value to in the action of worship.
It makes me think that there’s nothing distinctively Christian about the act of worship itself. Every day each one of us gives value to the objects we come into contact with. You could say that worship is what capitalism is built on…subscribing value to goods and services.
But the truth is, we’ve been hoodwinked by this mindset.
We’ve become little but consumers. Before anything else, we’re people who look for value rather than creating value. Our world is a marketplace, driven by demand and we operate by searching for the best value, or the best deal.
We are bent on what we can get out of the situation, the store, or the church. Not what value we can contribute, or give to the object at hand. In a capitalist system, this works. We’re all consumers and we make choices based on what we perceive as value.
But when it comes to Christ, to God’s action in the world and our faithful response, when it comes to Christian worship, the capitalist mindset is completely backwards. We don’t worship because we find value in Christ or in His church. We worship because we understand our role in God’s story to be that of creating value–creating worth–alongside our God who is fully revealed through the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ.
Sunday morning plays an important (if not vital) part in this unfolding drama, but Monday morning is just as important. We only shortchange ourselves when we settle for Sunday morning.
There’s so much more.
Worship is a mindset that carries us through this life. It’s a prophetic call that leaves transformation in its wake, not a time-constrained nicety that’s neatly scheduled.
The creation of worth, the bestowing of value is what we were put on this earth to do…in spirit and in truth.
Is it not Humanity’s true hunger? To labor with God in the creation process? To make known the hope of resurrection as revealed in Christ? To labor with the Triune God in worshipful kingdom work as long as we have strength in our bones?
I fear we have settled for Sunday morning.
And yet worship is a way of life.