Worship in Mind, Heart, and Spirit

Worship is an activity that includes every aspect of human awareness: heart and mind, senses and intellect. St. Paul bids us, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1). We can see how he is using the word “spiritual” here: not in contrast to the physical but rather as a quality of worship that includes the physical and ultimately transcends it. Nothing in the human experience lies outside the scope of true Christian worship. 

For too long, at least in the West, and perhaps especially among the Protestant churches, worship has been an activity primarily of the mind. It has been reduced to a process of edifying the mind and informing the intellect. Yet the scriptural commandments of Old and New Testaments alike are as all-embracing as they possibly can be: to love God with all our heart and soul, mind, body, passions, and strength. We need to take the concept of corporate worship even further and see our worship not only as an activity involving the whole body of Christ and all its members but also as an activity involving the whole human body—mind, heart, and spirit.

It is quite clear that we cannot and must not exclude the body with all its senses in the totally involving activity of worship. The use of the body is an outward and visible sign of the intentions of the heart and mind, as every ballet dancer and actor knows—or forgets at his or her peril. But, at a more mundane level, we also know that the use of the body for self-expression is true in the ordinary affairs of everyday life. 

If I am conducting an interview, the position of my body will indicate the level at which I intend to conduct that interview and will also say something about my relationship with the person I am interviewing. If I remain seated, behind a desk, and you are compelled to remain standing, I am implying that you are my inferior and you may well be on the carpet! If on the other hand you are seated and suddenly I stand up and begin to walk up and down the room, there is the chance that I shall be arguing and seeking to make a point or even to deliver myself of some lecture upon a topic that has become the burden of my soul. But if I come from behind the desk and pull up an armchair alongside you, the ice is broken, and confidence and cordiality would be the name of the game. 

Truth to tell, the whole of our life is shot through with ceremonials, often unconsciously, but frequently consciously (as at dinner parties). So, it would be a strange fragmentation if, when we expressed ourselves before God, we suddenly affected a distaste for ceremonials.

Michael Marshall

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