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.

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