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Making Love To God

by Rev. Michael Piazza, Executive Director for Church Multiplication at The Center for Progressive Renewal

     “Making love to God” is my definition of worship.  I think it also was Jesus’ definition.  He reiterated that the first and foundational commandment was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  The word “strength” could have been translated, just as accurately, as “passion.”  How often do you see churches loving God with passion?

      We Protestants do a pretty good job with the “mind” part of that commandment, but the rest is neglected generally.  How strong and healthy would you be if the only exercise you took were mental?  Imagine if the only nourishment you received were intellectual.  How diminished would your life be if your heart were not engaged?  Love, beauty, wonder, awe and passion are critical to being fully alive.  They also are critical to our worship services being fully alive.  Where did we get the idea that it was sufficient to connect people only intellectually to God, or even primarily?

      What would Protestant worship look, sound and feel like if we sought to obey fully the first commandment?  Would any first-time visitor ever describe our worship services as “making love to God?”  Why not?  Or, better, why shouldn’t they?  It is, after all, what they need, and what they may be seeking.  Almost every piece of information about God is available to them on the Internet.  They don’t really need to know more about God; they need us to facilitate an intimate experience of God.

      It isn’t just the seekers and the un-churched who need that.  The grieving widower who hasn’t been touched in the months since his wife died may be in desperate need of being touched by God.  What about the lesbian who was abused by her father and could never in a million years use that name for God?  Perhaps she needs to experience a strong parent whose love can be trusted.  Teenagers and their parents sitting in the same pew may be together for the longest shared period of the week.  Religious information is not what they need.  Perhaps what is needed is for the teenager, seeing a parent moved to tears, to remember that they are humans with needs and feelings too.

      This commandment was number one in the Torah, and it was number one for Jesus.  It is critical that we understand that it isn’t the most important religious teaching because God is insecure.  God does not require our love and devotion and worship because God is afraid of competition. The first revelation of our faith is that before anything else existed God was.  It is from God that all creation and life emanate, and it is by God that it all is sustained.  This commandment is given so that humans might get life in its proper order.  Worship is how we do that.

      Authentic worship keeps God as the axis around which our lives rotate.  God-centric lives are healthier and more functional.  The egocentrism toward which humans are prone leads to neglecting the poor in favor of over-consumption; destroying the environment in our unwillingness to be inconvenienced or of making a sacrifice and using and abusing others who are seen as existing to serve our purposes.  It is easy enough for those inside the Church to critique the ills of our society; however, we are less willing to take responsibility. By making worship boring, inaccessible or purely intellectual, we have deprived our culture of the antidote that could help them reorder life.

     While I do not wish to make too strong a claim for worship, the Bible makes a sufficient one:  “Those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth for God seeks such worship.” God is seeking worship, not because God needs or lacks anything, but because it is how we respond in love, affection and devotion.  Ultimately, our response to God’s love has the power to restore our soul and, who knows, perhaps our world.

Rev. Michael Piazza will Keynote the upcoming Church Vitality Event, One Size fits…Some!  Learn more about the event here.

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