Boomerangs, eh? No matter how hard you throw the wretched things away from you they just keep on coming back. And there we have a picture of the problem facing us when we try worshipping God in Spirit and in truth from out of a self-centred world.
Worship is something we do for God. Most of us know that ‘in theory’ and yet we regularly find ourselves coming away from an ‘act of worship’ muttering rather darkly and disappointedly something on the lines of, “Well, I really didn’t get much out of that!”
Service is probably the issue here. Lots of the time when we read the word ‘worship’ in our Bibles there is behind it a Greek or Hebrew word meaning something like ‘service’; the kind of work that a servant or a slave does for their master or (linking up with last months article about homage) the kind of service that an overlord receives from a vassal.
Already for us there may be a problem. We are quite used to connecting the two words ‘worship’ and ‘service’ because after all there is that often used phrase ‘a service of worship;’ but we may not have made the connection with work before. Worship is something we more typically associate with rest, after all ‘services of worship’ take place on the ‘day of rest’ don’t they? So when we find that the act of worshipping is making demands on us - perhaps praying might be a struggle, we have to make an effort to understand God’s word or it is hard to find ways to fit in with the worshippers around us – we feel something has gone wrong with the worship somewhere and we are tempted to give up. We are taught (not by the Bible) to believe that real worship is always an easy, restful, soothing experience – almost a tranquilizer for our frenetic selves – and we reject anything that does not fit that pattern.
If once in a while we do rise above ourselves and make an effort, we will certainly expect some kind of reward for it; some kind of recognition that our service was above and beyond the call of duty.
And that’s the real issue, the reason why worship becomes a boomerang which we keep aiming at God and it keeps on returning to us. When the Bible talks about ‘service’ like this the whole point is that the work is never above and beyond the call of duty. We don’t have servants or slaves and we are deeply uncomfortable with the kind of relationship where one party can expect the other to work without reward. Nevertheless, the Bible uses this kind of language very deliberately [Luke 17:7-10].
We are servants of Christ Jesus [Ro 1:1] also friends [John 15.15] also children of God [1 John 3.1] So we are in a relationship where whatever we do for him can never go any way towards matching a millionth part of what He has already done for us. The effort, the work that worship will involve cannot put Him in our debt. Neither does it go any way towards paying off our debt of love and gratitude to Jesus. It is simply a true expression of our relationship and an appropriate response to the generosity of His lordship over us.
Once we get our heads round that, the boomerang stops coming back.