“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship”
Romans 12:1 (CSB)LIFE AS WORSHIP
When you think of “true worship” what comes to your mind? Of course, such a question is probably shaped by your various religious experiences. But consider these questions just for a moment. Does “true worship” include singing or silence? Giving or receiving? Standing, sitting, kneeling, dancing or walking? Does it include others or is it solitary? Can worship happen outdoors, in a restaurant, a hair salon or a mechanic’s shop?
Of course, the Scriptures have much to say about these questions, but let them linger.
A young Apostle Paul would have been taught about “true worship” according the Law of Moses. A faithful worshiper would have brought items to the temple during designed times (Deut. 16:16) while particular songs were sung (likely from Psalm 120-134). Then, true worship would have taken place on the seventh day - beginning at sundown. In order to prevent people from “violating” true worship, 39 strict rules were enforced. Worship was legally defined.
But Paul doesn’t mention these in Romans 12. There is, of course, great value in giving material gifts, singing songs of praise and meeting intentionally to honor God (see 1 Cor. 16:2, Eph. 5:20, Heb. 10:25). In fact, these Biblical habits are necessary for spiritual growth - even while “sheltering-in-place!” But God has a much more expansive understanding of how and when we should honor Him.
Unfortunately, it can be easy to condense our thoughts of worship into an assembly (or ZOOM meeting) which happens only on Sunday mornings. But if that becomes our only concept of “worship”, then we may subconsciously divide life into either “sacred” or “ordinary.” If such divisions are real, then Jesus had periods when he wasn’t fully exalting God with his heart, mind and strength because he ate, drank, walked, and slept. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, either worship is merely an allusion or all of life falls into it.
Paul, in Romans 12, is urging believers to see the giving of their regular lives as the avenue for true worship every day.
But, practically speaking, how do we do this?
Here is one idea. Sincere worshippers during Jesus’ day had developed habits of offering short “blessings” during what we may consider to be “ordinary” moments. Upon waking, one would say, “Blessed be our God who opens the eyes of the blind.” After hearing difficult news, one would say, “Blessed be our God who is the true judge.” These simple blessings reminded them that every moment can be turned into praise. In fact, the tradition of praying before meals comes from these early practices.
Perhaps you have other ideas of how to give yourself to the Lord when you are washing your hands, paying the bills or turning off the lights. But all can be worship!
May we come to see that each moment can be used to honor the God of mercy. Through Jesus, Amen!