Although we may meet God in some place, at some time, and in some ceremony, worship is not limited to times, places, or ceremonies. God cannot be limited to a time, for God is timeless.
Beauty of setting or form may contribute to worship, but it is not dependent on either. Orderly ritual has a place in worship but it is only a means and not the substance. We can worship God without a prescribed form, though worship takes shape of its own nature. Worship is a spiritual experience having to do with a deep sense of God’s presence in which we humbly praise and thank God, make confession of sin and receive forgiveness, pray for self and others, bear the Word and respond with commitment.
It has to do more with inward mood, attitude and experience than with outward order. “Christian worship is the affirmation of God’s living presence and the celebration of God’s mighty acts.” (Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith, 1984, page 13.)
Truth is reality as opposed to fantasy – sincerity as opposed to hypocrisy – and actuality as opposed to form or movement.
To worship in truth is to seek sincerely to experience God in reality. “Christian worship is the deliberate act of seeking to approach reality at the deepest level by becoming aware of God in and through Jesus Christ and by responding to this awareness.” (New Forms of Worship, James F. White, 1971, page 40.)
“You will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your
soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29
“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” Isaiah 55:6
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 “
“As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” Psalms 42:1
“Today, if you would hear his voice, harden not your heart.” Psalms 95:7, 8
“To worship God in truth is to seek to think God’s thoughts.”
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return to the Lord, that he may have
mercy on him, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:7
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalms 139:23, 24
An old woman was going down the road with a bucket of water in one hand and a torch in the other. When asked “Old Woman, where are you going?” she replied, “With the water I am going to put out the fires of hell and with the torch I am going to burn up heaven. The people will love God for himself, and not for fear of hell or love of heaven.”
We cannot worship in spirit and in truth unless we also worship in inclusive love.
He who taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves, showed love and concern for a Samaritan woman. John 4:1-26
He crossed three barriers: the ethnic barrier, the religious barrier, and the gender barrier. He ignored the custom forbidding him to relate to or associate with Samaritans, women and those of different religion in a personal way.
The God who calls all of us to worship, reminds us that people of other ethnic groups are God’s people also.
“Are you not like the Egyptians to me, O people of Israel?” says the Lord. Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines form Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? Amos 9:7
When Joseph was helping his brothers during a famine, he wanted to see his younger brother, Benjamin, who had been born after Joseph had come to Egypt. He said: “Ye shall not see my face except your brother be with you.” Genesis 43:3
God says to us in many ways: “You cannot see my face unless your brothers and sisters are with you.”
“There is no longer a Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there are no longer male or female for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
Although we have separate denominational and ethnic churches, God’s word leads us to be open and inclusive of each other and willing to come before God together in worship.
“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” (A variety of backgrounds.) Acts 13:1
“Whether we worship separately or at the same place, our worship becomes real, true and complete, when we share our common concerns and needs and love for all God’s people, remembering that he created us all in the same image, and calls us all into the same covenant through Jesus Christ, the Savior of the whole world.”
God is not a game of hide and seek in which God is hiding from us and we have to do all the seeking.
Although God calls us to seek, the initiative in worship is not ours but God’s. It is God who calls us to worship and invites us into a relationship. It is God who sent Jesus to find us and who sends us the Holy Spirit to woo us.
“The hour is coming and now is here, when the true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.” John 4:23
There is a double search in worship, God seeks us and we seek God.
God seeks us before we are even aware that we need God. As God sent Jesus Christ to find the lost, strayed and outcast, so does God send the Holy Spirit to find us right now, wherever we are and whoever we are.
God’s intention of revelation in worship is expressed in these words:
“I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me, I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, here am I, here am I, to a nation that did not call on my name.” Isaiah 65:1
“Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24
To worship in faith is to worship in expectation. Expectation is faith in action, looking forward to something about to happen.
“My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him.” Psalms 62:5 KJ
“I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch the morning.”
“Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Our Response to God
It is ours to respond to a seeking God. We usually respond through Liturgy. This word comes from Greek meaning “the work of the people.” A liturgy is a form, or order, of worship. It is like a dialogue in which God converses with us and we with God.
A liturgy which will enable us to make an adequate and meaningful response to God will provide a means for our:
Sensing God’s presence
Recognizing and confessing our sins
Thanking God for blessings
Praying for self and others
Listening to the Word
Committing or recommitting ourselves to God
Going out into to the world to witness our faith in word and deed (Romans 12:1 NRSV)
“O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” Psalms 95:6, 7
(The scriptures used are taken from the RSV or the NSV unless otherwise noted.)