on worship and wonderland

The summer has blown by! At least, summer break has. In Texas, it stays summer 75% of the year. Classes have started up again, and with that comes comes a new shelf-full worth of books, enough papers to publish a book, and chapel. We recently had our first chapel service of the semester at my school, and the hall was full of returning students, brand new students, professors and visitors, all there to ring in the new academic year. Our Dean went up to the front and began by reading a portion from the Bible. And as he was reading, I noticed there was a song softly playing over the speakers, and it sounded familiar, but it was just faint enough that I couldn’t place my finger on it. The media guy must have forgotten to turn Pandora off. So I was simultaneously listening to the Scripture being read and straining to figure out what the song being played in the background was, when I heard it:

I love the shape you take when crawlin’ towards the pillowcase….

And I knew it wasn’t Song of Solomon being read up front. John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland” was the first song to be played at chapel this semester.

Apparently Pandora figured that John Mayer was similar enough to play on the “Hillsong” station. But I shouldn’t be too surprised. Rihanna showed up on my “Chris Tomlin” station.

The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on me. There we were, listening as a Psalm of David was being read, a song where David speaks of his love and worship for God. And juxtaposed next to it was John Mayer, singing of  his love and worship of a woman’s body. In an almost Song of Solomon-esque way, Mayer describes his lover’s body and the pleasures he finds with her, coupled together with a catchy tune.

Da-na-num, da-na-num da-num, da-na-num, da-na-na-num.

It reminded me of the different things we worship. We usually think of worship in regard to a deity in the sense of a specific “god” so that worship is something we give to the God Yahweh or Allah or Vishnu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

A few years ago, several friends and I visited the large Church of Scientology that sits on “The Drag” in Austin to find out more information about it. We were invited to come to a Sunday morning worship service, where there would be “worship music” and a message. The worship part interested us, since we were all musically inclined, so we inquired what kind of music their worship music was. “Oh, you know,” the woman said, “just anything you hear on the radio. Hip hop, contemporary, country, just anything!” And then she invited us to come out and play if we would like.

And I imagined a worship set starting off with Lil’ Jon’s “Get Low”.

In that context, “worship” was anything you wanted it to be. It didn’t hold any value, it was just a formality because faith movements are supposed to incorporate some form of communal worship. So for them, “worship” meant nothing at all.

But I’ve heard people toss around the phrase, “worship is a lifestyle.” It’s an attempt to fight against this idea that “worship” is just songs that are sung or something you do in a religious place, like church. The word itself has different implications. The word “worship” get’s its roots from an old English word that implied giving worth to something… worth-ship. It is whatever you esteem or hold in high regard, whatever it is that you give ultimate worth and value to, be it God, family, money, technology, significant other, religion, education, or women’s bodies.

We don’t like to think of our worship going to anything or anyone other than God. But in case you wonder what it is you might be worshiping, you can probably get an idea by taking a look at some things. Like what do you spend a majority of your time on? What occupies your mind as you’re laying in bed, waiting to fall asleep? What do you talk about with your friends and family? What do you worry about? What do your creative energies go toward? Where does the money in your bank account go to? All these indicate the things that hold your affections, what captivate your heart. What you give much worth to. The things you most value will be what you think about, what you work towards, what you spend on. What you serve.

Our lifted hands during that Sunday morning song may convince us that we’re worshiping Jesus. And maybe it’s true. But our words, thoughts, and receipts may show another god.

Jesus came into a culture and world, announcing the good news that there was a new King in town. Caesar who? And as faithful subjects to this new Kingdom, we serve and live for Him because He really is worth our worship (worth-ship). He who poured His life out so that we might be freed from the chains of idolatry to all the little gods that vie for our attention. That compete for our affection.

Sex, money, power, fame, approval, “stuff”, celebrities, religion, self. Good things that we make ultimate things.

What are you worshiping?

“…So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise..” – Romans 1:25

“You must have no other gods beside Me.” – God, Exodus 20:3


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