The Proper Response
Some reflections on worship from Restoration member Daniel Murphy:
Worship is one of those elusive terms which can be tricky in Christian doctrine. Most everyone has an intuitive idea about what it is but would be hard-pressed to fully define it. That is to say, people are quick to give examples of what is or is not worship but would find it much harder to define worship’s boundaries or come up with a set of rules that define “worship” in all cases.
I recently came across a simple definition which is proving to be richer and richer the more I think on it. A book I am reading proposed that worship is a “proper response” to God. Said another way, to worship is to respond properly to God. (Worship by the Book, Edited by D. A. Carson)
This is handy because it covers a wide range. When we sing in Church, that is the worship portion of the service. Yet the entire service itself is “Sunday worship”. Also, when we give our tithes, that is supposed to be worship. And we are supposed to worship continually, yet we are also called to come together in order to worship.
Under this lens of proper response, this diversity begins to make sense. With all that God is, and all that he does, worship necessarily takes on a variety of forms in a variety of places. God is generous and has given me all that I have, so I worship by giving back. God made Matt Hoppe and David Hanke unique and uniquely to reflect bits of his nature, so I worship by spending time with them and getting to know the richness of who he made them to be. Yet God also made me special and loves me uniquely, so I worship by withdrawing to spend time with him alone. God is great and glorious, so I worship by cultivating a sense of wonder and entering an emotional experience of singing praises to him. Even obeying his commandments is worship as it is the proper response to a God who is both good and sovereign.
The list can go on and would never be exhausted. As long as God is and is doing things, worship will always be made new.
There is one other critical factor of this definition. If worship is a response, it cannot be done alone.
Everything I listed can be done can be done for reasons other than as a response to God. I can tithe out of guilt or peer pressure. I can sing out of love for music. I can obey out of fear or desire for moral superiority. Again, the list could go on and on. These actions we commonly call “worship” can be done to serve myself, man, or a non-Biblical quest for earned salvation. None of these are a response to God.
For this reason, all worship must begin by seeking the presence of God. Without his presence or his truth in mind there is nothing to respond to. So it must begin with asking, with looking, with waiting. There is no worship in routine or ritual if it is not built on these things.
So look for God, wait on him, and find him. Respond to him where he meets you in wonder or despair, heart full or heart broken. That will be worship. And, as we understand more and more what worship is, we can start to understand what worship is for, which is another altogether wonderful question.
– Daniel Murphy
Daniel Murphy is a Restoration member who has chosen to engage in “Pilgrim Songs” (conversations and disciplines designed to grow music leaders into better ones).
If you want to check out the music and Scriptures for Sunday, you can find them at restorationmusic.wordpress.com.
June 14, 2012 @ 12:50 pm
Thanks so much, Danny. Great thoughts and important reminders!