My reading of Calvin’s Institutes (I’m not very far in it yet) brings to mind an anecdote about Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is sitting on a panel of writers at a Fantasy/SciFi convention and someone is talking to him about how amazed they are at his talent for writing, talking about how they could never create stories of such beauty, etc. He gets peeved, and tells the person that if they really want to show him how much they appreciate his work, they should do their own work. They should demonstrate that his life was spent in a meaningful and valuable way by devoting their own life to the same thing – the creation of great stories. There’s no special talent that he has – he just works extremely hard, and learns from his mistakes, and produces what he does only with incredibly time, effort and sacrifice. It isn’t enough to just absorb other people’s stories – the point is to move you to create your own.
I think of this when I read a Reformed theologian writing about how the chief end of humanity is the worship of God, that the chief response to the knowledge of salvation and relationship with God is to worship. I have to say, flat out, I disagree, at least in the sense that worship is almost always understood. I don’t think that’s the point at all. I think the highest response to God is, for lack of a better word, emulation. The way we demonstrate that the gospel contains truth, that it is powerful, that it is transformative, that it connects us with God, is to live it out personally. We demonstrate that Jesus’ life had value by living our own lives the way Jesus did. We demonstrate the truth of God’s relationship with us by entering into relationship with others. We show the value of God’s love by loving, not by sitting there and thanking God for all that love we’ve received.
This is worship that doesn’t occur for an hour on Sunday. This is worship that requires no church, no liturgy, no sermon, no hymns, no pews, no pulpit, no devotionals, no curriculum. That kind of worship, for me, is the entry point, perhaps, but far, far from the culmination. Worship that only occurs at church is pretty much dead. I mean, you can do almost anything for an hour. But the real test is what you do with your life. And not just with a life of worship (whatever that means) – with a life that lives out the gospel, that lives in the kingdom. Otherwise, the kingdom of God is just something we talk about that has no concrete reality. The gospel is just something we preach, but it is like commemorating a corpse. Wow, wasn’t the gospel amazing? Or, thank you God, for giving us the gospel.
What is the chief end of humankind? God.