Worth-ship

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100 (NRSV)

Did you know that our word “Worship” is actually derived from the Old English word “Worth-ship?” My guess is you might not. And, even if you answered, “Well yes, Alex, I did know that”, you may still be wondering why I would even bring it up… My reason is this; our language has a huge impact on us, and on how we envision the world.

When I say I am going to worship on a Sunday morning, what does that really mean? Well, it could mean a whole host of things to each one of us. Worship is a pretty vague word, when you come to think about it… What I consider worship, some may consider dull and lifeless. What some think of as worship, others may call a “concert” or “motivational speech.” And there are yet others for whom the elements of worship are so strange to me that I find it appalling. (Take for example the handling of snakes or drinking of poison.) The truth is that worship is pretty hard to pin down.

The interesting thing is that the same is true of God. Faced with a bush that was on fire and yet not consumed, Moses asks God for a name, a name to tell the Israelites which god it is that is sending Moses to them. But, God doesn’t give Moses what he wants. Instead of saying, “I’m Baal,” or “I’m Zeus,” God simply (and profoundly) says, “I am who I am. Tell them I AM sent you.” I AM is a good name for God because by simply taking a name God would begin to be defined by humanity.

This is the very reason that some believers hesitate to write the name of God. Instead they choose to write G*d, or HaShem (which is Hebrew, and roughly translated means “The Name.”) Once we name something we can, on some level, contain it. We give it height and breadth and depth. But not so with God.

But what does this have to do with worth-ship? I am glad you asked. The two roots, worth and ship, tell us a lot about what worthship is. Worth is pretty obvious, but ship… what does that mean? In the Old English it means “to shape.”

Simply put, our worship shapes us by that to which we attribute worth. If we worship money, money shapes who we are. If we worship fame, fame in turn becomes a defining factor in our lives. The same is true of God.

As we worship God, God can (and does) shape us. So, the next time someone asks you why you go to church why not say, “Because that is where God shapes me.” It’s probably not the answer they expect, and I am pretty sure it’s a good way to start a conversation and build a relationship. I hope to be shaped by God with you in the very near future!

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