I was reading an introduction to 1-2 Chronicles a few days ago and came across an interesting phrase: accurate worship. It seemed strangely out of place, yet I know Eugene (Peterson) meant to use exactly those words. So I did some thinking and reading and researching. Here are some thoughts that came out of that.
First, let's look at the word 'accurate.' I consulted with a few people who are well-versed in archery and came away with some good pointers on accuracy. First, orient yourself towards your target. Never let it out of your sight. Second, anchoring is very important. Be firmly grounded (solid stance) and find a point of reference which will help you to be consistent. Some people draw the bow back till it touches their cheek. Every time they aim, they then pull to the exact same spot -it helps them be consistent. This is called anchoring. Third, use a soft grip. Too much tension on the bow or too much tension in your body will pull you off target. A death grip on the bow (happens when you are trying really hard to get it right) makes your muscles contract and affects your accuracy. Hold the bow lightly, with a partially open hand, allowing it to rest naturally between two fingers. Be at ease.
Now a few words about 'worship.' Ronald Rolheiser talks about fire, desire, restlessness, longing, dissatisfaction, or an ache that each of us carry inside. This is the impetus for human beings to reach beyond what they know. What we do with this desire, Rolheiser says, is our spirituality. I would say that it could also refer to our worship. Rolheiser insists that all of us have a spirituality; we all do something with our longing for something greater than ourselves. I believe the same applies to worship: we are all worshippers. We all direct our life-energy somewhere.
When talking about accurate worship, there are two questions: 1) who or what are we worshipping (what is the target)? and 2) how well do we worship (how accurate are we)? If you know anything about the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, you know that they loved to worship. Most of the time, though, it was a bit of a shotgun/haphazard approach: they worshipped Jehovah but added in popular gods from the surrounding nations. Their worship was also known to include a wide variety of practices; they started with the directives from Moses and picked up a few other additional rituals along the way like temple prostitution (everybody was doing it). They added and dropped targets and changed practices at whim. It was worship, but it wasn't very accurate. God had given specific instructions to the people, letting them know what it looked like to be connected to him, to be in a covenant with Jehovah. Covenants need to be accurate and explicit in order to protect the sanctity of the relationship and by inference, both parties. Accuracy matters in these things.
Accurate worship, then, means that we choose only one target (Kierkegaard talks about willing 'one thing'). It means that we keep our eyes on that target and orient ourselves towards that target. It implies that we find some anchoring points and practice in order to become consistent. It requires that we find stability, yet not rigidity.
Rolheiser suggest 4 essentials for a healthy spiritual life (and I would add, for accurate worship): 1) private prayer and private morality (Jesus knew the value of a strong, private relationship with God which resulted in choosing what God chose), 2) social justice (compassion for others), 3) mellowness of heart and spirit (not being a worrier, not quick to anger, but exhibiting thankfulness and graciousness), and 4) community as a constitutive element of true worship (being committed to a group of people not only keeps us anchored, it keeps us real). I think those are pretty good places to start helping us focus our worship and develop some consistency.
We are all going to worship today. Who or what will it be? How accurate will it be?
the photo: outdoor ribbon installation I saw downtown this summer, with a few photo adjustments
Ronald Rolheiser. The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality. Doubleday, 1999.
Eugene Peterson. Introduction to 1-2 Chronicles in The Message. NavPress, 2004.