Worship or the Sunday Sacrifice
In early Western history, morality and religion lacked the link many people accept and expect today. In contrast, a classic Greek separated ethics from religion. Usually Greeks and Romans participated in worship so that the gods would leave them alone asking them to please stay out of their lives. On occasion, a Greek or Roman worshiped by sacrifice to obtain the favor of the gods, an exceptional intent of worship. This deviation from the norm of paying worship homage and instead seeking special attention or favor carried great risk. Why? The gods displayed all the virtues and vices of men but in much greater intensity. Their “favor” could cause problems and unintended consequence. Most people gave minimal honor and worship to the gods in hope of receiving minimal interference. Religion was founded upon and driven by fear.
With Jews Came a New Worship and New Concept of God
Then along came the Jews with an extraordinary concept, ‘God is good.’ As the maker of good, he wanted them to be good. Morality and religion joined for the first time in history. This brought a new and powerful concept into the world. The Law given to Moses brought great restraint and order. Many people today judge the Law as cruel, but it brought restraint where restraint had not before existed. An ‘eye for an eye,’ and a ‘life for a life’ ended multi-generational blood feuds and the taking of a life for lesser personal offenses. The Law offered good news and some control of fear in a dark and violent world, but the Jews mainly kept it to themselves.
Then Jesus came along and brought forgiveness and salvation because man was not completely just, could not atone for his sins, and could never achieve God’s standard of goodness through the keeping of laws. Man needed a savior. The Greeks and the Romans fell in love with this Savior, and many over time abandoned the old ways. They joyfully embraced the joining of religion and morality along with the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. Worship became a rejoicing for a new joyful and more hopeful existence — a new reason for living and total freedom from fear.
But the habit of worship for the sake of having the gods – now God – leave me alone probably did not die out immediately.
If I Experience Meaningless Worship, Perhaps My Priority is Religion or Self instead of Relationship
Jesus made it clear that he does not intend to leave me alone. He intends an intimate relationship. He wants involvement in my daily life and expects me to connect with him in prayer and study of his Word. Yet it seems that sometimes I still like the idea that if I go to church on Sunday and offer up one to two hours in sacrifice; that is enough. I have fulfilled my Sunday sacrifice for the week, and now I can go and do what I want. With this sacrifice, the idol of self remains in place, and I live in the crippled unsatisfying condition of “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” – 2 Timothy 3:5 KJV
No, Sunday worship only exposes a tiny tip of my connection and identification with God. I need Him every day, 24/7. So if I view worship as a duty and as something that once fulfilled allows me to go my own way, my view of worship contradicts God’s will. I don’t go to church so that God will leave me alone. I go with other believers to affirm my identity in Him, to encourage others in their relationship with God, to publicly affirm my submission to his transforming will, and to begin a week of daily worship where I submit to his touch upon my life and the transformation of the meaningless into the meaningful. “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.” – Ps 96:9 KJV Being made Holy requires my daily submission and obedience.
If My Worship has Meaning, Public Integrates with Private
One of the worship tools we use in the Anglican Church — APA, not CoE — is the Book of Common Prayer. Our public worship sermons follow the Christian Calendar so that over the course of the year, we cover the entire life of Jesus. Morning and Evening Prayer readings whether used publicly and/or privately cover the New Testament about twice, the Old Testament about once, and Psalms monthly. Sunday Sermons integrate with the daily readings and prayers. The point: public and private worship, ideally, integrate completely. Thus what happens Sunday reemphasizes and integrates with every day of the week. This makes living out Psalm 96:9, and “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” – Colossians 3:23 KJV much more simple and fulfilling. Every thought, word, and action becomes an act of worship.
Everything I Think, Say, and Do Becomes Worship as I Abide
“The things that Jesus did were of the most menial and commonplace order, and this is an indication that it takes all God’s power in me to do the most commonplace things in His way. Can I use a towel as He did? Towels and dishes and sandals, all the ordinary sordid things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of. It takes God Almighty Incarnate in us to do the meanest duty as it ought to be done. “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” Watch the kind of people God brings around you, and you will be humiliated to find that this is His way of revealing to you the kind of person you have been to Him. Now, He says, exhibit to that one exactly what I have shown to you.” Oswald Chambers
Meaningful worship means living, thinking, doing in his presence with awareness of Him right here, right now. To worship means to abide in Him moment to moment. Read John chapter 15. And Sunday worship must raise that up along with the body of Christ as the underpinning for the strength to worship daily. If Sunday worship doesn’t do this and I easily forget it, it is meaningless. As Joshua Jones, my friend, Evangelist (perhaps Prophet), and Author of Elijah Men Eat Meat reminded me: enjoying a cup of spiced rum with a friend is an act of worship if I invite my Lord to be present. Whenever I invite my Lord to be present, I worship and abide. He is here anyway, I might as well acknowledge it, and please Him with “a sacrifice of praise.”
The Necessity of Surrender
If I will seek to abide in Him as discussed in John 15 and abandon and surrender my life completely to Him, I will experience life with a joy and peace un-achievable by any other path. A life of demanding empiricism blind to the unseen, deaf to mystery cannot bring the joy He intends. As He created all dimensions, the life He wants for us lies beyond the walls of this world’s terrarium. Belief is an exercise of the will, a choice. If I will make the choice to follow Him, I will know His truth. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31b-32 KJV Worship means belief experienced, a path followed, a choice. With each step, His light becomes brighter and sharper.
If I worship daily, I can be transformed and live without the fear of death. And if I become this, it means beginning to live without the fear of anything or anyone. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 For more on assurance, read Defeating Fear Daily.
The Hub on Which it Turns
The hub on which all this turns is my existence being about God. Him being the creator and me being the created. Worship is about finding Him and celebrating that essential point of being.
Acts 17:24-28 — “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”
Worshipers celebrate living, moving, and being in Him.
Sadly too many want to replace “thy” with “my” in Revelation 4:11. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” His pleasure not my pleasure, though my perfect pleasure results as an extension of His, but not “mine” separated from “His.”
An example of Anglican Sunday Worship: numbers way down because of Covid concerns. The congregation is over 60% African, but many were away because of understandable Covid concerns. Most have experienced far worse diseases in their homelands.
Originally published January 3, 2013