Worship, when conceived accurately, is a theologically passive practice. What I mean by that is that it is God who acts in worship, and we respond. We are not the primary active force in worship! We are invited into God’s presence and we observe his worth and his glory. Too much of a church service has God at subjective pole of worship and us, the assembled people of God, as the objective pole.
By way of example, we were reflecting on some worship hymns, both traditional and contemporary and how they speak to the heart of worship. Consider the Hymn, ‘Crown Him with Many Crowns‘. I had never realized it before but, what a most inappropriate notion: Crowning Jesus.
Am I congratulating Jesus? Are we coming into His presence to give him a slap on the back? We have no business electing Jesus to a role not matter how superior, on the basis of our deliberate intention. He is not ‘Lord of all’ because we say he is but because He Is! He always was! He always will be.
Crowns are only mentioned in one sense in the Bible, In Revelations 4: 9 – 11 we read,
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
The twenty-four elders whether they are saints or heavenly beings are crowned with great honor; with crowns and thrones in heaven. Yet they do not stand and praise God, congratulate Him on His greatness. They are admitted to His presence and throw their glory, all their importance at God’s feet and worship; and why? Because of who He is and what He does.
We praise Him because He is worthy; He just is. We praise Him because He creates. In the Hebrew Scriptures the verb for create bara’ appears 50 times but only ever has God as the subject of that verb. Only God creates. We arrange things but we don’t ever create anything.
The Greek word for worship proskuneo means literally to fall down before. It is a most humble, self-effacing, unpretentious word. It is hard to be proud when your face is in the dirt. The English word worship, ‘worthship’ is far to big for it’s britches. To ascribe worth is too self important, full of itself. It carries a self satisfied air, “I think you are something else! You have worth! Lucky for you I am here to tell you that!”
When worship is about being immersed in the splendor of God, it nourishes the soul, it kindles a sacred fire in your heart.
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.