the purpose of worship

i find myself promoting some comments i recently made on worship to a blog post of its own. i feel that if one is going to criticize the practice of others and point out an injustice or a problem, then one ought to do something constructive as well, like offer a viable alternative. in this spirit, please allow me a few brief thoughts on the purpose of worship.


"Contemplation" by Jean Proulx Dibner. Bronze and Stone.

"Contemplation" by Jean Proulx Dibner. Bronze and Stone.

i have a fundamental difference of opinion with many others regarding the purpose of worship. this difference in the understanding of the purpose of worship is based upon a related difference in my understanding of what it means to live a life of faith. i seek enlightenment through knowledge and reason, allowing for the possibility of that which i cannot understand, but rejecting that which has been materially disproved, lamenting that which is ignorant, and attempting to shed light on darkness. a life of faith is not about a set of orthodox beliefs, but a set of adopted behaviors that rejects complacency and instead embraces a life dedicated to solving problems, be they intellectual or practical, individual or social.

a life of faith seeks to utilize one’s talents to help others. for me, a life of faith is to endow others with verifiable facts, teach them to reason, and encourage them to ask questions. a life of faith is one that understands the science of the physical universe, as well as the unquantifiable mysteries of love and beauty. a life of faith is neither about making money nor preserving money, but making sure that others have when they have need.

a life of faith should not revolve around proper doctrine and dogma, but service and compassion. it is not about being right; it is about admitting that we don’t know, and supplementing our ignorance with acts of kindness and service.

this understanding of a life of faith manifests itself in a particular view of worship. the goal of worship is not ecstasy, nor is it communion with the divine. in fact, the goal is not even about getting to heaven, as if proper behavior is somehow a means to an end, a capitalistic investment for a future return on my deposit. rather, the goal of a life of faith should be to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with god. it is to give the cup of cold water when i have one to give. it is to celebrate the joy, lament the sorrow, and laugh with (and at times at) that which is humorous.

for those who see worship as a pep rally, a concert, a money-making endeavor, or a charismatic communion with the divine, they have received their reward. rather, i view worship as an opportunity to say thank you. thank you for my life – good or bad – and for the opportunity to think, wonder, rationalize, philosophize, ponder, ask questions, discuss, learn, experience, and hopefully pass on both a balanced mindset of discovery and disposition of service to those around me.

worship is acknowledging and offering thanks for my very existence, the mere opportunity i’ve had to experience life itself.

if worship has any purpose at all, it is an opportunity to say thank you. it is not for us, but for god.

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