Wash Your Hearts…
In most public restrooms you will see the sign “employees must wash their hands before returning to work.” Seems like a pretty simple ask of your employees, and seems like a subtle reminder to everyone that minimum hygiene practices are a good idea. But what if the sign read “Randy, would you just wash your hands. Turn the water on, get some soap, scrub gently, rinse, dry, turn off water, and then return to work.” First of all, you would make sure that Randy isn’t making or serving you your food. But secondly, you’d have to wonder, “is that sign really on display for all of us? Because it REALLY seems like this is just a Randy issue…”
Now that our son is in preschool, the first week’s lesson was about hand washing. We have told him time and time again that it is important, and he hasn’t always agreed. Now that it was a lesson in school, he is a hand washing expert. And like Randy, there is a specific order to follow to be acceptable. But what if you want to get the soap first? What if you prefer to air dry? What if you don’t have access to water? Do we have to follow Randy’s routine to properly wash our hands??
One of the common ways that we learn is from the words or experiences of others. This is true when it comes to hand washing, but it is also true when it comes to things like worship. We learn about things like Christian character (humility and obedience as we learned about Sunday) from the stories of the Bible. But what often makes this complicated for us is that the lessons we are to apply to our understanding of God and ourselves are often found in stories that require what we call “contextual criticism.”
Here are a few easy examples.
- The story of creation is not to be used as our explanation for all the complexities and scientific discoveries about the vastness of God’s design. This story reveals that, from the very beginning, Jesus was the hand of creation and that God’s will has always been to dwell with creation in holy relationship (that is continually being restored and revealed.)
- Marching around an enemy territory and blowing a horn should not be the go-to military strategy we implement today. This story reveals to us the importance of trusting God’s ways over the world’s ways.
- The physical building of Temple and Tabernacle should not be seen as our instructions to worship God. This story reveals to us that God’s desire is to dwell with us here on Earth, but we must be intentional and obedient with our love for God.
So, when it comes to worship, we are not specifically asked to respond to God in worship exactly the ways we see throughout scripture from specific people in specific times. We are to dig into those stories to see the echoing truth that “worship is love expressed God’s way.”
Love is not a demand, duplication, or performance, love is an intentional action for the one that is loved. Just like we see in the examples of the 5 love languages, we don’t get to determine how someone else is best loved, and neither does anyone else other than the one in need of love. If worship is this expression of love, and knowing what we know about love, it is clear that the One who determines how we love (worship God) is Jesus.
In short, we find our “ways” to worship from The Way.
So, rather than getting overwhelmed by rituals and traditions for Scripture (although still important) or modern preferences and presentations in church services today (although still significant) we should always re-center ourselves on the truth that our worship (obedience) is a result of the love for God in our hearts.