When God created humanity, he made us so that we could interact with everything he created using all of the senses he created us with. And we know that God wants us to live in relationship with him and to worship him using all of these senses. We can see this very clearly when we look at how he instructed the people of Israel to worship him.
Think about the visual experience of interacting with all of the symbolism included in the Tabernacle and the Temple (sight); imagine laying your hand on the head of the sacrificial lamb (touch); or the aroma of the incense offered by the priests (smell); think about getting together and sharing in the great feasts celebrating God’s acts of salvation (taste); and, of course, there are the great throngs of people singing as they enter the gates of the temple (sound).
When God gave instructions for how his people should worship him, he very specifically included all of the senses. He made us whole people and wants us to worship him holistically. Another way to express this holism can be seen in Luke 10:27 where we are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Yet, in spite of this, much of our evangelical tradition has simplified worship so that it primarily becomes about one of two things: our intellect (mind) or our emotions (heart). On top of this, these two things are often pitted against each other when they really should be working hand-in-hand. Of course it is important that we worship God with our minds. It’s essential that we worship in a way that truthfully represents who God is and who we are in relation to him. And, of course, as we worship God truthfully, this should elicit some sort of emotional response (regardless of how that emotion is demonstrated).
So, yes, worshipping God with our hearts and minds is good and proper. But what about the rest of the list; which senses should we be engaging if we are to love God with our heart, soul, strength, and mind?
Worship must be holistic.
Worship isn’t just something that happens in our minds.
Worship isn’t just something that happens in our emotions.
Worship isn’t just something that happens with our bodies (because there is always the danger of simply ‘going through the motions’ without engaging our hearts and minds).
Now, times of personal worship are one thing, but what about our corporate worship? What might it look like to intentionally engage all of our senses as we gather as a community? And, what would it look like for our corporate worship to model sensory-engaged-worship so that people can safely and responsibly engage all of their senses as they worship God in their own times of devotion?
For now I’ll just leave you with those questions.
Next week I’ll propose some ideas of how we can worship visually and a few small ways that I’ve been exploring visual worship in our church.