by Jason Denison
Humans can’t help but worship. The practice of making something or someone ultimate and arranging our lives around it/them is as natural as breathing.
So why are we talking about it as a practice, when it’s actually more like a reflex? Probably because our worship doesn’t tend to land in the right places.
Just a quick glance at pop culture shows quickly what we tend to make ultimate – the trinity of pop culture – money, sex, and power. It should come as no surprise that in ancient times, as NT Wright (One of the world’s leading New Testament scholars) points out, these three had names, Mammon the god of money; Aphrodite the goddess of love/sensuality; Mars the god of war/power. These gods are not unique to our time and culture. They are as common today as they were at the beginning. Why?
They promise to give us what we had with God at the beginning; energy, connection and consummation.
My neighbor grew up in the Ukraine. Her memories of her childhood, though challenged, were mostly positive. I spoke to her about a trip home she recently took and she told me that being there was special – she did not realize how deeply she missed even the soil of her homeland. I think we all long for a certain soil. The soil of a distant land where our lives with God enjoyed a freedom and fullness that we’ve been looking for ever since. A place where energy, connection and consummation (or the sense of things being complete) was present in plentiful amounts.
In the hands of money, sex and power, something else results. Rather than energy, the love of money turns everyone else into a commodity — kids, spouses, and friendship all become pawns in the game of appeasing Mammon.
Similarly, when we pursue connection by elevating sex and sensuality, we find that people become objects of our gratification. We commodity and de-humanize the very people we actually long to connect with.
When power is on the throne of our lives we manipulate and scheme to make people do what we want them to do. Again, a really good way to live if you want to be alone. And we all know what loneliness breeds – regret or a lack of completion.
So where do we go from here? Practice.
- Recognize when money, sex or power has taken the throne of your life. The number one sign, as already spoken of above, is that your relationships will grow increasingly unhealthy and unfulfilling.
- Dethrone whatever has been elevated in your life to that level. NOTE: Worship is about attention/time. Dethroning will look like usurping or replacing the time given to other things, with time given to God’s Spirit. Lots of ways to do this, but one cool place to start is sacredspaces.eu.
- Follow the longings for your homeland when they come. I find they come in the form of satiation with things that may have once been fulfilling. It’s in this place where the feeling of completion is scarce that I drive my heart and consciousness to God.
So I guess the practice of worship is pretty simple – attention.
May God grant us willing spirits to sustain us and may his name be the central concern of our lives.