This week I've been re-learning the Hebrew vocabulary and grammar I learned last year and promptly didn't work on very much over the summer...
Something that hit me as I was reviewing flashcards is the fact that the verb meaning "to worship" (pronounced avad) also means "to serve, work, till." It comes from the root pronounced eved, meaning "servant, slave."
I find this fascinating--I think in our culture we think of worship as a passive thing, something we sit around and do, telling God how great God is (as if God needs a reminder, or flattery), and call this worship. Especially in programmed Friends circles, and other Christian groups, worship has come to mean "singing praise songs." I think the ancient Hebrews had an amazing understanding of praise, and of music, too, but this wasn't all that worship constituted. Instead, worship apparently had a lot to do with serving God, with tilling and working the soil of the heart and community.
This reminder came to me in meeting for worship this morning, and I wondered what work we're doing there. I think early Friends understood that worship was work. For one thing, it was work just to set a meeting time and place and get there in very early Friends times, since they weren't legally supposed to meet together. But the work didn't end with an hour of meeting together. The work of worship called them out into the world, to be active in spreading the Good News of the relationship with God that they had discovered. It called them to make a more just and equitable world through the work of their everyday lives.
What is meeting for worship for now? What work are we doing there? In unprogrammed meetings, are we allowing ourselves to do the work of what Thomas Kelley calls "holy expectancy," of waiting for God to give us words to speak and faithfulness to do so? Are we listening for how we're called to live and work in the world the rest of the week, as our acts of continued worship?
In programmed meetings, do we too easily let the released ministers do the "work" of worship for us, listening and preparing for the meeting in advance, while the rest of us get to sit back and enjoy the "show"? Are we allowing ourselves to be spoken to through those we've released as ministers, and to hear beyond them to the voice of God speaking through them in ways they couldn't have planned? Are we aware of the ways God is calling us to act and work in the world throughout the week, to continue our worship as service, not just as song?
How are we as Friends living worship as work, service, and tilling?