At all times and in all places people worship God. Our Anglican way is only one of a vast number of ways to worship—but all speak of a human response to something beyond the human. We can learn a great deal about the activity of worship by examining what the word means. The English word worship is a contraction of “worth-ship.” Worship means assigning worth to what is thought to be worthy and giving to it an estimate of value. Worship has to do with value. The earliest use of the English word had to do with nobility, but it became a religious word and has crowded out other meanings.
We remember the story of Moses and the burning bush, and how Moses was moved to worship God by taking off his sandals because he was on sacred ground. This time with God changed Moses’ life. Then Jesus’ followers realized that Jesus was changing their lives and they needed a way to respond to the initiative by God. Religion is the response humans make to God’s initiative, and worship is the first response. Isaac Watts puts words to the feeling: “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
One of the ways we participate in worship is the need for physical activity. The Hebrew word shachah denotes physical activity-falling prostrate. It is like the word genuflect-which is used only in a religious context. We get the word shachah in the Venite: “O come, let us worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our maker. O come, let us shachah before God. In the Greek it is prosyneo- which means prostrating oneself before another and kissing the other’s foot.
Worship is an activity of human beings in their complete
selfhood. The holy God demands of us a total response. And the worship of God together brings about shared values, shared estimates of the value of life. It is a community affair. It is not private devotions. This is why our worship book is called the Book of Common Prayer—not only is it in the common language of the people, but it is what we do-corporately-in common.
We, at St. Andrew’s, have two wonderful opportunities of worship , coming up soon. We are introducing a new and contemporary worship service out side on the front lawn on a Sunday afternoon called Worship Without Walls. This originated from a trip to Orange Beach taken by Anne Staley, Belle Casler and I took at the suggestion of Beckwith’s Eleanor Reeves. We, at two different times, attended a worship service at the famous (or infamous) bar-The Flora-Bama-on the beach between Alabama and Florida, just at the state line. This service is sponsored by the Perdido First Methodist Church. It occurs at 11 a.m. on Sunday, and includes Cursillo type music, a homily, and lots of interaction between the 800-1000 people who attend. Obviously, it is very casual, and because it is held at the Flora-Bama there are all sorts of refreshments! We plan to hold the first new service of this kind on the first Sunday of November-November 3, on the front lawn. Bring lawn chairs, your coolers, and it will be before the sun goes down. The time will be announced. Be ready to sing, and worship God in God’s out of doors!
The second special worship will be November 17 at 4:30 p.m. in the chapel. This will be a Taize service celebrating the Feast of St. Andrew. It will be accompanied by members of the Panama City Pops Orchestra, led by Mary Kay Thompson. The service of Taize, as many of you know, is lovely, spiritual, and, lit by hundreds of candles, and beautiful icons. Since it is our feast day, you are invited to bring a photo of someone who has been an icon for you. A reception will follow with heavy hors d’oeuvres.
So mark your calendars for November 3 and November 17th.