To start this New Year (2014) on a good footing it might be helpful to consider true worship as the key to joy and fulfillment in life. Hence, we propose a series to explore the subject of true worship and the profound impact it can have on all of life for the individual and the wider society. What is the deeper meaning of worship? How does one distinguish between true worship and false or empty worship? What really happens when true worship occurs? These questions and more will be considered in this short series on the theme of worship. The series is offered out of the strong conviction that true worship undergirds and gives impetus, motivation and energy to all of our plans and activities of life.
We shall treat the series in the following manner. The introductory article will offer some clear definitions of true worship. The second will focus on false worship and its consequences. The third, fourth, and the fifth articles will center on the impact or consequences of true worship on all of life. The third will consider true worship and conduct, the fourth, true worship and unity, and the fifth true worship and evangelism (I am indebted to Charles P. Price for his insight on the impact of worship on how people live).
Worship is an ancient as well as current practice all over the worship. It did and still occurs all over the world. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Shinto, Zoroastrians, traditional religionists worship God or gods in one form or the other. Worship takes place in Africa, Europe, America, Latin America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Middle East, Far East, Asia, and every country in the world. But just what is worship? What is the difference between worship and liturgy?
It might help to do a brief word study on worship and liturgy as a way of providing clarity on these common terms and phenomena. The word worship comes from two distinct words: worth and ship and means to assign worth to something or someone. It began as a secular word and meant assigning worth or value to certain persons deemed to be worthy in the eyes of society. A record of burials 1598 reads: “In this cloister were buried many persons, some of worship and others of honor”. “Worship” refers to those with many worldly possessions and “honor” to those of noble birth (the aristocrats). Eventually it took on a religious meaning and lost its secular meaning and in the religious sense means assigning ultimate or absolute worth or value to the Ultimate or Absolute, God Almighty. Whatever we give our ultimate or absolute value or worth to becomes the object of our worship.
The definition we believe expresses the meaning and purpose of true worship and which we subscribe to is from the Webster’s Dictionary, 1928: “Worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission”. In this important sense worship is about values and priorities. Worship is about who God is and where he is on our priority lists. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed in thought, words, and deeds. Worship is about the best of our love and submission of our hearts and wills to God Almighty. It is very much about our how we live and conduct ourselves under all circumstances of life. True worship ought to impact all of our relationships as well.
Liturgy as distinct from worship is a particular form or structure of worship. The particular format and structure formed over many years is liturgy. Therefore there are Anglican/Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Muslim and other liturgies. Again the word and concept of liturgy began in a secular fashion. It originally meant the work (ergon) of the people (laos) for the common good. When an individual or a group carried out some form of work at his/her or their expense for the good of others then liturgy was achieved. This secular meaning was replaced by a religious one which means the work of the people for the glory and honor of God and of course for the common good. Thus worship and liturgy is serious work, in fact the most important of works. True worship gives meaning, motive and energy to all of our forms of works. True worship is about how we live and positively impact the world around us. Any worship short of this is false and empty. More will be said about this in the next article.