Scott Benhase: The duty of adoration

Love must accomplish great things. But worship precedes it.

Holiness is the brightness of divine love, and love is never idle; it must accomplish great things. Love must act as light must shine and fire must burn.

- James O. S. Huntington, OHC

Jesus tells us we disciples are salt and light to the world. Those are powerful metaphors. Salt brings out flavor and zest in food, but we do not eat salt by itself. It's used to enhance the food we eat. Likewise, it would be hard for us to imagine pure, unfiltered light. No one in their right mind simply stares into a bright light. Light, like salt, enhances and reveals other things. Light reveals beauty and color, but also reveals those things we may not care to see, such as poverty and decay.

Both salt and light exist for other realities. They direct us to other things, just as our discipleship in Jesus does. Discipleship directs us to others so the good news of Jesus can lighten their burdens and reveal God's goodness in a weary world. As disciples, it's our task to make God’s grace and mercy visible in a world where violence and hatred are the norms. As salt and light, it’s our ministry to enhance and reveal the grace of God to the ungrateful and the mercy of God to the broken-hearted.

Such discipleship is exhausting. It may at times seem we are like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. When we are out there in the world as disciples being salt and light, we must be grounded in something deeper and more eternal than simply the desire to be of greater service to humanity. The exhaustion of discipleship is real and experienced by all of us. We keep the proper order in our lives as disciples. That’s why the Church has always insisted that our service to the world proceeds out of our worship of God. It is not that in our service to the world we come to the awareness that we need to worship God. It is actually the other way around. Through our worship of God we are constrained to do no other than humbly serve all those created in the image of that God.

Evelyn Underhill wrote: “One’s first duty is adoration, and one’s second duty is awe and only one’s third duty is service… We observe then that two of the three things for which our souls were made are matters of attitude, of relation: adoration and awe. Unless these two are right, the last of the triad, service, won’t be right. Unless your life is a movement of praise and adoration, unless it is instinct with awe, the work which the life produces won’t be much good.”

We are lasting salt and consistent light to the world only as we avoid becoming disordered. Underhill is correct: adoration and awe must precede service. But the above quote from Fr. Huntington is also true. Such adoration and awe, such holiness, cannot remain idle; “it must accomplish great things.”

Scott Benhase is the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia.