Both for perplexity and dulled conscience the remedy is the same;
sincere and spiritual worship.
For worship is the submission of all our nature to God.
the quickening of conscience by his holiness,
the nourishment of mind with his truth;
the purifying of the imagination by his beauty;
the opening of the heart to his love;
the surrender of the will to his purpose…
and all of this gathered up into adoration,
the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable....
Archbishop William Temple, Readings in John's Gospel.
Ever since I was introduced to these words by my own College Principal many a year ago, they have set the gold standard by which to measure what we mean when we use the noun to define worship, and the verb to refer to the act of worship. The submission of all our nature and the integration of all our life into adoration and self-giving love describes a deep rootedness of mind and soul in the love of God.
William temple was far too alert to the social and moral problems of society and church, the dangers and tensions of national and international politics, to ever be described as other-worldly, vaguely mystical or naive about human capacities for evil and destructive purpose. What I find interesting, and enduring in his words, is that they still identify the deficit of life meaning and the dissolving of moral imperatives which contribute decisively to our 21st Century malaise.
Readings in John's Gospel is a two volume series of meditations written between 1939 and completed in 1945; precisely the years when the world was confronted by dictators who demanded obedience of conscience, mind, imagination, heart and will, and ultimately self sacrifice in the name of the human will to power. These words of Temple are much more than a prose poem for devotional souls; they provide a set of criteria as specific as a barcode that enables us to critique and unmask those lesser, life diminishing, penultimate goals of human life too often presented to us as life's ultimates. Conscience, mind, imagination, emotion and will are precisely those aspects of our humanity which require to be dedicated to recognising, cherishing, healing, loving and enabling to flourish the very humanity in which such remarkable capacities exist.
A christian anthropology is open eyed about human sinfulness, and open hearted to the grace that renews, restores, enables and recreates the image of God in us. Temple knew this - here is the rest of the quotation, which balances the urgency of worship with the realism about human waywardness and a distorted sense of our own importance:
and all of this gathered up in adoration,
the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable,
and therefore the chief remedy of that self-centeredness
which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.”
I wonder if a key part of the church's mission today is to demonstrate attractively, enact convincingly, perform persuasively, live credibly, witness faithfully, by worship which has the height, depth and length and breadth of the love of God, that immense gracious love drawing from us and answering adoration which distils into a new and radical discipleship.