In a culture where to many, religion is thought to be something that is irrelevant at best, and dangerous and divisive at worst it may seem strange for me to ask such a question. Many of us just don’t worship anything. Unlike our parents and grandparents before us, we live in a time when we are free from the obligation to attend services, free from guilt, and free to use our precious time off to do the things we enjoy. This freedom, and our rights that protect us from the coercive influence of others, allow us to express our individuality. They are important to us. Perhaps they even define the age in which we live.
We will all picture something when we hear the word ‘worship’. To some, the sounds and images evoked will be from a different time, from childhood, from a wedding or funeral of a friend or family member. To others, the word will have no meaning, or perhaps just a vague recollection of assemblies at school. But even among those for whom the word is familiar, what you picture will not be the same as what others see.
The word ‘worship’ at its root comes from the idea of acknowledging the value or ‘worth’ of something (worth-ship). Town mayors and magistrates were once called ‘your Worship’ because they were seen as valued members of the community, and worthy of respect. Today such titles may seem old-fashioned and yet as human beings, we still express and communicate with those around us our own estimation of the value we see in people and possessions.
We all make value judgements all the time. We divide our days to ensure that we have time to do the things we value the most, with the people we care for the most. Our friends and family, set beside our passions and interests, sports and hobbies, beside opportunities for advancement. All competing for our time and resource. What we spend our money on; the house we decide to buy or rent, the gifts we give our children, our phones and technology, the clubs, holidays, meals, clothes, subscriptions and our other ‘must haves’, are all signals of the worth we place on such things, and ultimately the worth we see in ourselves and in those around us.
If this then, is the meaning of worship, the truth is that every time we wave our credit card or make a calendar entry we are worshipping something or someone. If we do it regularly, through a subscription or weekly meet-up with friends at a pub or sports club, then our devotion could also be said to be ‘religious’. This may be difficult to discern in the small things of our own lives, but when it is scaled up and observed as thousands gather in a sports stadium then the parallels with organised religion are hard to miss.
You may, or may not agree with such a broad and wide understanding of worship. But neither am I suggesting that there is any wrong with these value decisions that we all make, all the time. We all have just 24 hours to live each day and a finite amount of money that we can spend. There is, however, a great temptation that we all face, when we place ourselves in the centre of our own worlds, we make ourselves the ones who decide what and who is of greatest value, and flowing out from this, what or who we worship. We become our own ‘gods’ and our own universes orbit around us at their centre. Perhaps this may work for a while, but what happens when our universe collides with that of another person who has different values and a different centre from our own?
Common in human experiences, is the moment of realisation that there is more to all this than we first thought. We see in the miracle of a new life, in the breath-stealing moment before the splendour of nature, in the recognition that ‘blind chance’ cannot account for the life that envelops our planet, that perhaps there is an intelligence beyond, and above, and before ours. Throughout history, there have been those who have seen in all this and in the experiences of their collective lives that there is a being, like us in some ways, but way beyond us in many others, who is the one who the galaxy formed around and who is responsible for its and our existence. They called him ‘Yahweh’, but in English, we call him God, and if this God really exists, then plain reason tells us that he must be worthy of taking note of, and what he tells us must be worth listening to.
So, what do you worship? What is of greatest value in your life? In what or who do you invest your money and with who do you spend your time because this is worship? If God exists, then he cannot be irrelevant because he, by definition, is the one of greatest value, of the highest ‘worth’. As a Christian, I see this God in the beauty of his world and in the incredible complexity of the living forms we share this planet with. But I also know this God personally, because he became a person like us, in Jesus, and Jesus paid me the greatest honour by meeting me when I was a rebellious teenager. In Jesus, I found a faithful, lifelong companion, but I also found one who was worthy of my time and my resources. He was worthy of my worship. Perhaps he is worthy of yours too?
The Bible contains four eyewitness reports of the life of Jesus and further writings of these witnesses too. If you want to find out more about Jesus then reading the Bible is the best place to start. If you have any questions or would like to talk further about this or anything else, then please get in touch, I would love to hear from you.