The whole of life is about worship. This is the chief end of man and the song of the universe. From quarks to quasars, every movement of every creature exists to radiate and reflect the glory of God.
For men, worship, the profession of worth, primarily takes the form of obedience to all that God designs for us. And this obedience is not simply as a servant, but as a son. In worship, we display God's worthiness through the gift of our whole selves, an offering which is love. This pertains to the two great commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor. These twin forms of worship correspond to the two tables of the law. In the first four commandments we render to God His due honor directly and immediately. In the six latter commandments we still glorify God, but indirectly as we bless His reflected face in our neighbors, whether human (preeminently as His own images) or other creatures (since all creation reveals at least some sparks of His being).
These two forms of worship, direct and indirect, are especially applied in life's two main contexts: in the sanctuary and in the world. By the Spirit in the New Covenant, sanctuary is not limited to a specific time and place, but applies to all of those times and places devoted to the direct address of God in praise, sacrament, and the like. Sanctuary in this sense has special reference to the corporate gathering of Christ's Body formally for this purpose, but can also be applied to personal prayer and other devotional practices. The world, by contrast, refers to most of our mundane lives: washing dishes, going to work, drinking coffee, playing with children, etc. In sanctuary we focus on the first four commandments in direct worship; in the world we focus on the latter six commandments in indirect worship. In sanctuary we honor God directly and explicitly; in the world we primarily honor God indirectly and implicitly.
Perhaps counterintuitively, God Himself originally established a pattern which allots significantly more time to world than sanctuary. "Six days you shall labor, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God." This is not because direct worship is somehow less important, but precisely because of its weight. Direct worship is performed, on the human side, by means of symbols: words and actions which carry meaning. The prayers and songs and obedient participation in the sacraments profess to God our meaning of loving Him and recognizing His worth. This provides purpose for the much more extended time of indirect worship.
As we live in the world, we interact with other persons and creatures—whether vegetable, animal, mineral, or anything else—which represent God to us, and we ourselves represent God to these others. How we respond to God under these masks, and how we portray God ourselves, fleshes out our love for Him and for our neighbor. It affords us the opportunity to give ourselves to God as whole offerings, or to reserve a part. Each encounter and opportunity creates space to obey or disobey, to yield or not to yield, to love or not to love. What we do, say, and think in the world shapes who we are and how ready we are to give ourselves, body and soul, to God in love.
Direct worship in sanctuary, then, is shorter not from its insignificance but from its climactic significance. Most of a story is not the climax, but the climax is precisely the most significant moment. Yet the climax is nothing in itself apart from the meaning which it is given by the rest of the story. In sanctuary, we come to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices, the only gift of love He genuinely made us to be. The truth and content of these offerings, however, are determined by how we love Him and love our neighbors in the world. When we give the sacrifice of praise in the sanctuary, our declarations of trust in God or gratitude for His gifts only mean what they do by how we have trusted Him and appreciated His benefits while in the world.
This is what unites ethics and worship. Our lives in the world, largely consisting in loving our neighbors and imaging God to the creation, are precisely what we consecrate and offer to God when we come before Him directly. Thus the prophets always condemned the worship of the wicked, who honored Him with their lips in the sanctuary even though their hearts, revealed in their deeds in the world, were far from Him. So God requires that His sacrifices be ethically sourced.
From the same angle, we see the error of those who would have ethics without worship, those who would think being a good person suffices before God. It matters little what kind of self we have if it is not offered intentionally as a gift to God. To save the self for the self, or even to give it to anyone or anything other than God, is to deliver it unto death. For we are only able to become living sacrifices because God returns and transfigures the selves we offer to Him by the vivifying power of the Spirit. To offer ourselves to anything else or nothing at all (which really means to our own mortal selves) means death and decay.
When we instead live in the world in obedience and faith, loving God in our neighbors and emulating His virtue in all we do, we may offer ourselves as sacrifices which, although still quite blemished in themselves, are purified by Christ's once-for-all offering of His own unblemished self, to whom we are united in the Spirit. Only in doing this can we enter the sanctuary with love and the hope of life, a life glorious and full as it passes from the altar into the cloud.