Ordinary Worship

It is 1am and I cannot sleep.

I don’t know if that’s a sentiment you can share – I’ve definitely been up this late on purpose before. But tonight I did not want to stay up until 1am. Far from it – in fact I’m hoping to wake up at 5am…

Tonight I can’t sleep because my mind is everywhere. Lately I’ve been trying to read or scroll through the internet until I get so tired I pass out – but that’s been taking longer and longer to happen and so here I am. 1am. Deciding that if I’m going to be awake I might as well try and write out some of my thoughts instead of letting them swirl in my head. I also took bread dough out of the fridge so now I’m committed to letting it finish proofing and then baking it. I’ve watched 6 seasons of the Great British Baking Show and if I’ve learned anything from Paul Hollywood it’s that you can’t renege on proofing your bread dough.

Tonight I am drifting between two topics: of grief and of worship. The former is due to the recent passing of my grandfather and the latter is similarly related but also just because I have been thinking about the next season of leading worship at church.

Part of why I’m sitting here is that I am of the mind that worship is much more than singing songs and playing instruments on a Sunday morning (or at any other church/parachurch meeting/alone/etc. I’m pretty sure I’m right because Paul backs me up in Romans 12:1.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Now, if you’re like me, you were probably super thrown off by the ESV translation of  λογικὴν λατρεία to “spiritual worship” – but no fear; they have a footnote that says it can also be translated to “rational service”. Why they picked spiritual worship I don’t know, since rational service is a much more direct translation (or reasonable worship), but if I took an exegesis class I might have a better idea.

Anyway, point being that by physically committing our lives and bodies to God we are worshiping him.

Now I’m going to back up one more step and get a quick dictionary definition of worship, because I think in the church the word “worship” is one of those weird words where we throw it around all the time but we never really define it very well/when put in the spot we can’t say what it really is (or maybe that’s just me?). So worship, according to my Google search is “to show reverence or adoration.”

We can easily see how singing praise songs shows reverence and/or adoration to God. That’s kind of what singing about/to someone IS. Going back to Paul & Romans, though, we see that we are to also show reverence and adoration by offering our lives to his service. A living sacrifice is a little bit of a weird oxymoron since a sacrifice is generally something that you kill. But God doesn’t ask us to kill our livestock, offspring, or selves for him. He asks us to live – and by living I’m pretty sure He’s just talking about doing our daily ordinary things in a way that shows him reverence and adoration.

I honestly don’t think either the ordinary or the extra-ordinary lend themselves perfectly to being able to “live for God.” In some ways the ordinary is easier – we can get into rhythms and routines that can easily be tailored to revere God. However, the ordinary is also very, well, ordinary. It can get boring and monotonous and become easy to forget to do the simple things as acts of worship – or just seem a bit pointless (brushing my teeth as worship does sound a little out there).

In contrast, sometimes extra-ordinary things are really easy to use as acts of worship. Weddings and births and other exciting things can easily lead to choices and actions as we consciously behave in reasonable worshipful ways. After all, it’s usually easier to adore someone who gives you a good thing. However, sometimes we just…forget. So caught up in the moment and the things that we forget who and what we’re actually living for. And then there is the opposite end of extra-ordinary, which can be equally as difficult or easy. Being worshipful in loss, hardship, and grief? I mean … it can be easy to rest in God’s peace but getting there and laying down your burdens can be so, so hard.

A friend recently asked me if I thought that leading worship the day after my grandpa passed away made my worship that morning more or less genuine. What followed was an extremely brief conversation that I wish had been longer. It’s got me thinking a lot about how worship is more than songs, and how if you are claiming to worship God, you ought to be committing to worship in happy and upsetting moments. You are committing to walk your entire life with Him and worship throughout all of it.

Romans 12 can say “therefore” because Paul just spent 11 chapters talking about how we are saved by Jesus and how this works with and fulfills “the law” so we can be saved by faith. So we are therefore, in response to this, choosing to give our bodies and lives (this is me performing my own exegesis – that by “body” they are talking about more than just the flesh I inhabit, but that it extends to the actions and things I do in this body) and that in doing so we are saying that regardless of what happens, we are choosing to turn to look at God. Choosing to seek him and his face despite our circumstances – in both the extra-ordinary and the ordinary.

And so this brings me to my now 2am thoughts: if worship is an outpouring based off of what God has done in our lives, then ordinary times ought to find us in a perpetual state of worship. Similarly, extra-ordinary moments, whether happy or sad, ought to lead us to deeper moments of worship. That worship might look like exuberant singing, but it might look like broken hallelujahs or silent sitting. Whatever it looks like, it is choosing to show reverence and adoration as we walk and wrestle through our thoughts and feelings.

It is now 3:30am. I don’t know when I will sleep, but I know that I can rest a little easier knowing that as I walk through each moment I am still seeking the face of God and resting on the sure hope of the promises being fulfilled one day. I am working out what it means to be a living sacrifice – and I’m trying my best to live my ordinary (and extra-ordinary) worship. And that’s good enough for 3:30am – and every other ordinary moment that will come.

In Closing … (Romans 15-16)

And finishing up the essay…Paul again focuses on – you guessed it! – the gospel. I like reading Paul’s letters in that it always always always reminds me of how we must constantly be focussing on Christ in everything we do. He is the reason for all things. Also Paul’s anguish and desire to share the gospel with everyone he meets.

I also kind of like reading Paul’s personal greetings and plans. He talks a great talk when he writes his letters, but when he references his actions, you can see that there is some definite walking the walk going on as well. It makes the lines he throws in about working together and obeying that much more desirable to put into action.

And, appropriately, the doxology finishes on the glory of God, who is the centre of all things. There is a sense of satisfaction when the letter is completed. It’s a good feeling.

Love (Romans 13-14)

Paul continues his exposition as he moves into how we should live. I have to say that while I like reading the way he describes all these things and the ideals behind them, it’s also a little convicting when you realize you aren’t living all of these out.

Today my stand out is where Paul tells us that we need to love each other. Love was my word of my Springhill Summer, and seeing it here is kind of cool. I’m trying to take the lessons in serving others and being selfless into real life, and this reminder is key. It’s hard to love your neighbour as yourself, but at the same time, it fulfils the law and sets us apart from the rest of the world that is not walking in Christ.

Glorious Salvation (Romans 11-12)

Hmm…the concept I’m picking up in Romans 11 is a little new to me, but this is how I’m understanding it. Salvation was first offered to the Jews, but due to their rejection, any Gentile can also now receive salvation. In doing so, God brings glory to himself and fulfils Israel (remembering that now we are saved by grace through faith, not following the law). I have to say … that’s pretty neat. And therefore, it makes the first bit of chapter 12 make a whole lot more sense. Knowing that we are saved by the grace of God to fulfil his kingdom, why wouldn’t you choose to offer your life as a living sacrifice? As for the rest of chapter 12, I feel like it speaks for itself pretty well. You should go read it.

Evangelism (Romans 9-10)

God is just. All the time he is just. And he has made us to fulfil the purposes he has called us to fill. This passage isn’t exactly the easiest of them all to swallow. Chapter 9 reminds us that it is purely God’s will that saves, and follows up in chapter 10 with the need for evangelism. I was talking with someone about this recently, and how these two concepts match up. Yes, we are to evangelise, because if we don’t tell them, who will? But also, because it is God working through us, it is not upon us to save people. Tell, yes. But save, no. That rests on God and releases us from any anxiety that we did it wrong at the time.

Wretched to Lovely (Romans 7-8)

I always return to Paul’s description of fighting with the fleshly desires in chapter 7. Even though it’s super wordy and confusing, I think that makes it even more appropriate for describing the confusion and frustration at trying to live contrary to what our sinful nature desires. I have to side with Paul when he ends his dilemma with “What a wretched man I am” (7:24).

Then chapter 8 starts being more positive with our life in the Spirit and the wonderful future we have as heirs of Christ once the present sufferings are done. It is a beautiful aspect of what we get when we “trade in” our current lives for the new ones found in Christ. And, who can separate us from the love of God now? Absolutely nothing.

Dead to Sin (Romans 5-6)

And now we can move into the joy and peace we have through faith and the reconciliation Christ won for us. My standout in chapter 5 is verses 6-8. First off, it was at the right time that Christ died. There was no better or more perfect time than the moment that he died. Secondly, he did it for sinners. Not righteous people, nor good people, but sinners. People who deserved it least, and would move you to pity the least.

The beautiful part is that through this, we are dead to sin. Sin isn’t dead, but we are dead to it. Instead, we are alive in Christ! We do not continue to walk in a sinful lifestyle, but instead strive to imitate Christ. There is grace there for us, but that itself is not reason to continue to live the same way we used to. The new life we are given is reason enough to push forwards.

Need and Faith (Romans 3-4)

As we move on in Paul’s exposition to Rome, we are reminded that we are all sinners. Every single last one of us. We have a need for salvation. There is a distinct need for a way to be saved since we are all condemned to die. But there is hope moving on into chapter 4!

Paul tells us that we are saved by faith, not through physical circumcision, with the example of Abraham (which I coincidentally had not caught before), and the law. Instead, faith. Faith and faith alone. What gets me is that Abraham took the promise of God, and confidently moved forward on it. He was “ fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (4:21). How many times do I doubt that God can do what he promised? And in doing so call God a liar! So instead, we take the promises and gifts from God confidently and walk in them, knowing full well that God will fulfil everything he says he will.

Setting up the Essay (Romans 1-2)

Whenever I read Romans, I feel like I’m reading a long, well written essay. He makes his points and backs them up and weaves all his arguments so that he gets to say the gospel about a million times (figuratively speaking, that is).

I like how Paul begins his whole letter off with … the gospel! Go figure. However, I like how it is related to his “status” and not just for funsies. Every word he writes has purpose to drive a point. He then moves on and focuses on the judgement of God and how we all will be judged on our hearts. Our hearts. The heart is a reoccurring motif in the entire Bible, which is kind of fun since it wasn’t all written at once. The heart is, in this case, where God looks to judge a man. It speaks beyond our outwardly actions and the things we say. It goes deeper than the earthly justifications we may have for salvation. It purely takes man himself into consideration. Is the heart circumcised or not? This is a radical message for many people who think that through the law they are justified. But, luckily, we aren’t. We are only justified through Christ.

For reflection: If God looked into my heart (or yours?) what would he find there?