I HAVE BEEN THINKING VERY MUCHLY in recent times about the word, “worship”. Is it just about what people do in a church building or a humanly-constructed temple by rote on a particular day or at an appointed time on a noticeboard? Or is there something much deeper and more spontaneous about it which needs to be grasped, not just intellectually but right down into the depths of one’s very soul? I believe that there is; and I will now develop it below.
While I’ve been writing this book on the Book of Revelation in recent weeks, the word “worship” has cropped up many times, thus stimulating my thinking processes on the subject. Of course, it appears on a number of occasions in reference to those who bow down to idols or demons, and also in reference to the vast mass of people across the world who will worship the beast (of which the ultimate manifestation will be the Antichrist) and who will even worship the image of that beast, which is a chilling thought. And if you think that such global madness would be impossible, think about how the vast masses across a supposedly “civilised” country like Germany could end up in the late 1930s/early 1940s holding up an outstretched stiff arm to not only a hollow moustachioed man yelling at them from a podium but even a mere photograph of him on a wall in a room, while chanting “Sieg Heil!” or “Heil Hitluh”! So much wasted delusional energy. Demonic madness spreads as easily through a spiritually untransformed population as a wildfire across a parched and windswept hillside. We will see this again one day, and not just across a few countries but across the whole world. The ultimate in false worship, which is nothing less than a contagion of idolatry.
But in this little piece, I am thinking about the way that genuine worship happens in relation to the Creator, the Power which lies behind and within the whole cosmic show (for that Power is omnipresent as well as being other than the creation). When I did a word study on the word “worship” as a translation of the Koine Greek in the New Testament (προσκυνέω, proskyneo), starting out with “Worship the One who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and the springs of waters” in the Book of Revelation, chapter 14, verse 7, I began to laugh knowingly when I discovered that its essential meaning, made up of two words in one, is ‘to kiss towards’ — in the sense of kissing the ground or the hand of some high dignitary in obeisance, or simply just the beaming out of ‘love-vibes’ in the direction of the Master of the cosmos. Now that really makes sense! If, instead of grovelling before some tinpot bigwig, one applies it to what happens in one’s heart and soul when one’s mind falls starkly upon the Inconceivable Power behind the cosmos, then what else can one do but fall to the ground and kiss it in absolute awe and with a kind of spiritual ‘dread’ as one’s petty ego dissolves into nothingness? If you think that is an exaggeration, picture this: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man”. That was John’s reaction when he had his initial vision of the Christ as recorded in the first chapter of The Book. Few would be so privileged to receive such a vision, but it gives us an extreme example of the meaning of worship. The only reason that John fell “like a dead man” rather than actually falling dead was that His vision was of the Christ rather than God the Father. Throughout the Bible, it is made clear that if one actually sees God, one can no longer live (e.g. Book of Exodus, chapter 33, verse 20; Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 18). Fair enough. Understandable. So Christ — Himself both human and Divine — is the intermediary between God and humans. We cannot really take God in all His fulness; but, if we are open to it, we can take the Christ. That is one of the reasons that He was manifested in the flesh. That fact alone is worthy of worship!
So where does all this leave us in regard to worship? The thing about a genuinely spiritual person is that he or she does not need to be told to worship and does not need to be in some humanly-prepared environment to do so. For the spiritually-minded soul, worship comes as naturally as breathing, eating or drinking. Sometimes it emerges from within spontaneously when one suddenly realises the enormity of what has been planned out by the Creator for the aeons of humanity — especially in terms of the spiritual battle between darkness and Light, which has been a kind of theatre designed to demonstrate who is the real ruler of the cosmos, or the unparalleled Divine genius of sending the Christ to earth so that He could be killed, raised and ascended to heaven to finish off the satanic realm in a display of unmatched majesty. All these things are worthy of worshipful meditation.
Sometimes such worship overtakes a soul when it is wandering deep in nature. Somehow, once one has experienced the grace and goodness of God in one’s life — and I am not referring to the acquisition of material things but spiritual regeneration and transformation — an underlying sense of worship can never leave you. It then provides a kind of solid, ‘always-there’ backcloth to all one’s actions and thoughts, with occasional peak experiences which usually come sweetly out of the blue. One finds that one is then a full-time worshipper — not just a weekend one or when one is in a contrived environment or has the right piece of carpet to kneel on. Once such full-time worship has been experienced, it can never be erased from one’s soul.
Another fruitful area of worship comes when one is eating. A common practice in religious circles, as if by rote, is to say “grace” before meals, giving thanks to God for His provision. But what if — instead of merely giving thanks before a meal as a formal gesture and then forgetting about it while one is eating — one was completely feeling such thanks from the bottom of one’s soul with every single mouthful, savouring the goodness of God in the flavours and textures of the food. In that way, the consumption of the meals themselves becomes an act of worship — yet another way of being a full-time worshipper.
Then there is the experience of nature on a walk or longer sojourn among the more raw realms of the creation. What an opportunity this gives for worship. Why confine yourself to the interior of a building one day per week to engage in a collective ritual which could just be a mere social prop to stave off the ache of loneliness rather than engaging in deep worship? For many psychological factors play into large group activities, and one can easily be manipulated or deluded, especially when powerful or unscrupulous personalities are directing it all. It is when one is alone with one’s Maker in the wild that a powerful form of worship will arise in the soul. Then it is really just between you and God with no distractions, psychological manoeuvrings, or social substitutes. As one observes all the textures, the sounds, the materials, the movements, the richness of variety, the growth, the lifeforce bubbling up in a myriad ways, one finds that one is totally immersed in worship. What else can one do in such a situation but throw oneself to the ground and kiss the feet of God? On this basis, I can say that for me a mountainside or a raging sea, a desolate moorland as I wander free, or a forest in a wind — what a place to be! — are my cathedrals, in which I kiss every atom of created matter.
I just realised that I could write a book about this! But as I am already writing another one, I will just incorporate these words into it. However, I will finish by saying this: I’ve often noticed that when I’ve been in a worshipful frame of mind, I’ve often felt like I could easily and simply let go of life and just leave it behind — all of it, and thus die, right there and then in that moment, just to be closer to God. I don’t die though. Well… not quite yet anyway. Life goes on even after such an experience — though somehow everything seems different. Enhanced. More transparent. Many epiphanies. One then sees things which were previously obscured. Things about oneself, about the others who surround one in one’s field, and about the whole process of life itself. Everything in life is enriched when you let go like that — even if one is, outwardly and superficially speaking, in a state of hardship or persecution. This, and much more, is worship.
When all is said and done, what we call “worship” is really the firstfruits of being back once again in relationship with the Divine for those who are walking the pathway of metanoia, that spiritual transformation and the turning round of our lives which comes through faith in the Christ and through being in discipleship with Him. However, while remaining in this wilderness of a world (a wilderness from a spiritual standpoint) — even though we may walk that precious pathway — we are still living in a physical three-dimensional reality because this is still a fallen world around us, and we are still stuck in a physical body, and we are thereby cut off from all the fulness of Divine fellowship, the completeness of which we have to wait for until after death. The state of worship is a major step towards the reinstatement of that fellowship, through which we transcend the prison of this world and reach into heaven for our strength and succour.
© 2023, Alan Morrison / The Diakrisis Project. All Rights Reserved. [The copyright on my works is merely to protect them from any wanton plagiarism which could result in undesirable changes (as has actually happened!). Readers are free to reproduce my work, so long as it is in the same format and with the exact same content and its origin is acknowledged]