The Pieces Need to Fit Together

One of the great issues I see with modern society is that our lives are compartmentalized. We are not whole people we divide our lives based on our commitments. At work a person is expected to be an employee with total allegiance to the company. In social settings a person can be a Republican or Democrat, a hiker, a biker, a football fan, or any number of other things. But each of these is only a piece of “Me” and so none of these allegiances defines me more than I want. This view also allows people to hold to competing values, with no sense that there is tension. The great difficulty in compartmentalizing our lives this way is that “God” becomes merely another compartment. Tragically, we can assign Sunday mornings as our time to be religious and then exit that compartment by Monday morning when work demands (or at least allows) people not treat people with honor, dignity, and love.

I can see a number of ways this trait is valuable for humans from a biological perspective. The human ability to lay aside the fears and stresses of one area of life as we push into another helps us cope with difficulties in our world. Compartmentalizing our lives allows us to blend into various groups where we might otherwise be shunned. Often this segmenting of ourselves is healthy; it is beneficial to me that my work life is somewhat isolated from the rest of myself, so it does not overwhelm who I am. However, there is also a danger inherent in the fragmentation of our lives and that is when we talk of God and religion.

But even in this present life, there is danger in the very concept of religion. It carries the suggestion that this is one more department of life, an extra department added to the economic, the social, the intellectual, the recreational, and all the rest. But that whose claims are infinite can have no standing as a department. Either it is an illusion or else our whole life falls under it. We have no non-religious activities; only religious and irreligious.

Lewis, C. S.. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

I remember the first time I read Revelation in Greek and stumbled over the word λατρεύω (latreuo) which is usually translated “worship”.

"Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him" Revelation 22:3.

When I first read the word worship in that verse I thought of Sunday morning singing. I enjoy singing every Sunday (and many times in between Sundays), But I think day and night singing would get to be a little much. But as I learned the Greek idea behind latreuo I begin to realize that it represented more than singing it was service. Worship in this sense meant anything the priests did around the temple to maintain it. Cutting stone, mending tables, tending livestock could all be Latreuo. In fact, if we recognize that Revelation is describing paradise as the Garden of Eden, then worship necessarily includes gardening and taking care of animals. We can also build on this from the concepts of Sabbath. I love Walter Brueggemann’s book Sabbath as Resistance and how he develops the concept of rest and the ways that brings glory to God. Rest in his book is roughly synonymous to worship in Revelation. And Brueggemann discusses how rest includes building family bonds, including playing sports and making love. In other words, resting or worshiping is about fostering the relationships we have to God, neighbors, and creation.

This brings me back to our compartmental lifestyle. We are supposed to take the ideas of Sunday or Sabbath out into our week because we are trying to establish this idea that all of our work, everything we do in life, is worship. Worship in the larger sense of making creation everything God wants it to be, and we cannot do that if we live segmented lives. The person stocking selves at the grocery store can be engaged in worship, not by singing during the shift, but simply in stocking shelves to provide food for others rather than for the pay alone. Brother Lawrence wrote of how he wanted to worship as fully in the kitchen as in the choir, and this is possible if we do not compartmentalize our religion, but let the worship of God drive us in all we do. I hope to rake leaves this afternoon, I do not want it to be segmented off from the rest of the week as a chore. I hope to go hiking this weekend, I want that time to be an expression of my faith. While I can distance my work life and time hiking, both need to be an expression of my faith. My life cannot be whole unless it is united under something, and I hope that it is all strung together by this concept of worship.

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