Sunday Catechism: Worship in the Real World


This week begins a series of questions about the second commandment:

Q: What is the second commandment?

A: The second commandment is: You shall not make yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand (generations) of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The second commandment is probably the most misremembered and misunderstood of all the commandments. It’s certainly relatively rare to find someone who can recall this commandment in its entirety. It is, however, a very, very rich Biblical passage to unpack for it is all about how we worship and what worship is meaningful to God. If our very existence and purpose is centered on worship, this is a commandment to pay serious attention to.

Given that this is a month of Family Worship at New City, this would be a great week to discuss as a family what the elements of worship and sacrament are at church. What is consistent about the format of the worship? How does our worship differ from other churches in other religions? Why do we do things like read the Bible, pray, preach, sing, and take communion? What parts do the kids enjoy? What parts do they have a hard time with or don’t understand?

You may also want to start (or re-start) a discussion about how these elements can be translated into daily worship practices. When I commuted to school with my son, we began a routine where I would read the day’s passage from Training Hearts Teaching Minds before I started the car. Now that I spend more time at home with him (and that he knows the books of the Bible better), we’ve modified this routine so that after breakfast, I find the relevant passage from THTM, he finds and reads out loud the scripture reference, I read the devotion, and then I lead us in a short prayer. It’s not a massively impressive or comprehensive ritual, but it’s a step in the right direction for us, one we can build on.

Pastor Paul’s sermon about wisdom this Sunday brought to mind a book I’m reading, Slim by Design by Dr. Brian Wansink. Wansink is not a medical doctor (and I’m not really on a diet) but something more akin to a behavioral economist, who researches how environmental design helps guide people toward certain decisions around food. This kind of thinking is all the rage these days (Nudge, Freakonomics, Predictably Irrational) but it does research actual human behavior and cognitive tendencies, and Wansink argues that we’re more likely to do things if they’re convenient, attractive, and “normal” (embedded into the local culture).

The second commandment suggests that usually what is convenient, attractive, and normal in our culture is idolatry. In a fallen world, that is our default setting—and one that is passed down within families. We need, as families, small groups, and churches, to actively and wisely work against this, so that our worship is proper and properly directed.


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