Most ancient Religions heavily relied upon sacrifice to either appease or control their deities. They believed that somehow the act of sacrificial surrender were draw compassion out of the heart of each deity. It might include the sacrifice of a family member, crop, natural items or even household commodities. Somehow the sacrifice demonstrated the necessary commitment the deity required to perform the act or need requested. Out of the sacrifice came the creative expression of worship,ecstatic experiences, cutting, drumming and etc. Worship was born out of the sacrificial system, another way to demonstrate one’s commitment to the cause of their deity. Worship itself has evolved quite a bit since its inception. For Christians, it involves a lead singer with a guitar (more or less), other religions have a variety of ways in which they express their allegiance through song. And that’s what worship has seemed to evolve into. Songs we sing to our God.
Several times the God of the Jews states through his prophets of the Old Testament that He wants mercy over sacrifice. Hosea 6:6 is one such place —
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
It seems God doesn’t want a worship that has evolved out of sacrifice. A worship that attempts to coercively persuade God to do things for us. A worship that is compelled by consumerism makes God the vending machine and us the customers who purchase what He’s selling. In fact, I would go so far as to say that God doesn’t want our worship, since it seems to be have been conceived out of a sacrificial system mentality. In that case, God doesn’t want worshippers. If God doesn’t desire song, dance, drumming and cutting and we’ve been told we are worshippers, than it poses a question of our identity in relationship to God. Who are we then?
I think Genesis Chapter 1 tells us. God ‘created’ ,in the very first few lines, God is creating out of nothing. But He/She is creating. Creating life. Creating beauty. Creating ‘good’ things. I think the greatest act of worship we can give God is by being people who learn to walk into situations and create out of nothing. Into a place where there is war, we go and create peace out of what seems non-existent shalom. Or we walk into a neighbourhood where there seems to be no hope and create sevartha, hope (and the same Aramaic word for Gospel). Out of the act of creation comes worship. Creating songs. Creating moments. Creating life. Creating moments for grace to live and breath. These are some acts of worship.
Worship in the english language is the act of giving something worth. An expression of awe. In the Greek and Hebrew languages the words illicit a more ‘imagerical’ posture of understanding. Almost this sort of folkloric response where we kneel down from the heart outwards in recognition that we know who God is. One of the words define a posture of laying prostrate. Which wasn’t just an act of submission, but a confession of who the kneeler thought they were kneeling down to. It wasn’t a distance thing, it didn’t create distance, in fact it encouraged vulnerability between the object being worshipped and the worshipper.
It would be like walking out onto a balcony just when the sun is rising and you see the trees, hear the birds, and are invited into the day by the beams of sun that you beckon you in it. It is this realization that its not about me. That what I am caught up in is bigger than who I am. It doesn’t change our importance or our contributions, if anything it enhances them because we realize our place in the story. Its a denial of the importance of self. It is rendering ourselves nameless, powerless, and weak. All of this is intentional. Its a self-realization that we don’t have to be the center of attention. One of the many word-pictures for worship is the hebrew qadad – it means to bow your neck, a move that is laced with the possibility of losing one’s life.
The Hebrew mind towards worship is an active giving of yourself. It is a self-proclamation that all of this is bigger than you are. That in creating opportunity for others to realize that you or I don’t have to be the rockstar, we worship God. But, God doesn’t need worshippers in the strict sense of the word. We tend to look at worship as something that is sung by a worship band, or by famous religious artists. That is a small part of it, to focus or define worship as that (only) is to apply an anemic definition and the castrate the intensity of worship being an all-consuming participatory life-long moment we all are invited into.
When we walk into a room and step back from the lime-light, we worship God. When we focus on the plight of those in need, we worship God. When we highlight creation, we worship God. Worship is holistic in involves us in creatively pointing things off of us and eventually back on God. Worship is creation. Creating is worship. We are first creators, then worshippers. Out of our creating (and repairing the divine in the world) emerges worship that allows others to see the Creator within emerging without.