"But the time is coming - and is here! - when true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth. God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24).
Simpson discusses attending graduate school with a colleague who spoke of her experience growing up in the Pentecostal tradition. She spoke of the joy and ecstasy in worship, but lamented her experience of encountering anti-intellectualism in the preaching and in Bible studies. He told her of growing up in the Baptist tradition, where he discovered a deep passion for knowledge but didn't find his heart always engaged. For both, he writes, something was missing.
In John 4, Jesus encounters an astute theologian - a Samaritan woman, whom he meets at Jacob's well. Their conversation touches on a wide range of topics, among these the difference between the worship of the Jews and the Samaritans. Though these two groups shared similarities in heritage, they differed in practice and in their claims of "proper" belief. Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah of Israel and announces that, through him, worship of God has undergone both a renewal and a transformation. True worship, says Jesus, encompasses both spirit and truth.
Jesus is not only concerned with the passion of our worship; he is also concerned with the subject of our worship. He instructs us to worship "in spirit and in truth," a puzzling phrase that grabs our attention. What does this mean? Jesus calls us to know God as God, and to worship God truthfully. But in worship we also are called to experience God as God truly is, the One who formed us and knows us better than we know ourselves.
Worship brings together knowledge and passion, head and heart. It encompasses both our mental and our emotional faculties. True worship engages the whole person, enabling us to increase in our knowledge of God and our love for God. We are then sent into the world to serve God, pointing others to Christ.
Prayer: God, help me to know you as you truly are, and to experience you in the fullness of joy. Renew both my mind and my heart. Help me to worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.