I have come to realise that it is impossible to move toward a more worthy form of worship without taking on the issues of how we percieve life, ourselves, and G-d. Without doing this, without reflecting on the life we live, I doubt that the growth required for a healthy spirituality is possible.
The single most pernicious factor militating against a Worthy Worship is the idea that our world is divided into parts; the religious part and the worldly part. This philosophically is known as dualism, it derives from Greek thinking where the “real” is always in opposition to the “ideal”.
I say it is pernicious very intentionally – it is a weed with strong, long and deep roots that can take a lifetime to extract. This idea of division pervades all we do. It doesn’t help that we live in a scientific age where categories and hierarchies are the basis for knowledge.
I am very interested in epistemology. This is the study or knowledge of knowledge itself. Its basic question is “How do we know?”. There are many answers to this question; the main two in the Western world are “I know because I think” (rationalism) and “I know because I observe” (empiricism). Others include “I know because I feel”, or “I know because I exist”. These ways of knowing are all valid.
Another way of knowing is “I know because I believe”; faith is the basis of spiritual knowledge. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen and the substance of what is hoped for”, it is put in Hebrews. Moreover, it is important to realise that mere belief could be in anything. “I know because I am in relationship” underpins the fact that G-d is not just an idea but a being who knows and can be known. Desmond Tutu describes the African concept of ubuntu, where “a person is a person through other people”.
If dualism is the sin, what is the right state of being that provides an effective framework for worship worthy of Creator G-d? Ouch, that’s the big question. Lets try to answer it in one quote; Paul talking about Jesus, Paul says “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven…” (Col 1). The key word for this discussion is “All”. All things will be reconciled back to G-d. Everything on Earth and everything in Heaven. Everything. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
And there is neither sacred nor secular, between church and world, between nations and races, between work and play, between worship in a house of worship and worship in a house. In fact, the measure of your worship is how you approach the mundane. Are you glorifying God in your everyday home life, or while you do the unpleasant tasks like managing waste, doing routine chores, or doing that which demands sacrifice?
If this sounds like we are not acknowledging the reality of categories of life, not taking all the natural polarities we encounter or think daily (work v play, friend v colleague, musician v not musician, heaven v hell, sinful v righteous) into account, we need to make sure we understand the difference between Dualism, and Dialectic. Dualism is a static demarcation between opposites. We are either one or the other. Dialectic, on the other hand, is a dynamic state of balance or tension between opposites. We are always moving between one and the other.
Maybe this all boils down to the attitude with which we view life and its parts. Life as we know it has parts, do we accentuate those through dualism or work with G-d dialectically? Do I see a “heathen” or a “human with potential”. Do I see a consumer of art, or a creator? Do I see an unqualified layperson, or someone G-d says is a part of the priesthood of all believers? A dualistic attitude is “He has left the church”. The dialectic approach would be “He is not as close to us as he was.” “She is not a musician” rather than “She listens to, enjoys and feels strongly about music.”
I am not here proposing anarchy (no structures or rules), saying that anything goes, or that person 1 should be made treasurer, or that person 2 should therefore be qualified to lead a band. Qualification and quality are very important in maintaining trust, or making an activity worthy. What I am trying to emphasize is that a worthy worship is not possible with a dualistic mindset. If we do not have a strong appreciation of “God in all things” our worship can not be whole hearted. This means, if our notion of worship is only an activity that happens in a church meeting, it falls short.
If on the other hand we bring our lives to that meeting, that is the substance of all we are and is happening to us, at home, in a family, amongst friends, facing enemies, at work, in the marketplace, our struggles, our pain, where our passion lies, the things we loathe, like or love, books, movies, music, food, sport, the outdoors, technology, any number of activities that give us life, as consumers and as creators, if we bring these things to a meeting and they find some sort of expression, we will then start to enter the fullness that is the inheritance of the children of G-d. If we can truly embrace the “All”, I believe that the depth and breadth of our expressions of worship will be hugely expanded, and move towards that state of a worthy expression.