Have you ever stood statue-still in the midst of worship, singing songs you don’t understand in a tone of voice that borders on complete boredom, whilst your heart is angry and your brain is busy trying to figure out how to most convincingly call in sick tomorrow so you can go to the coast with your friends?
I feel like i have done it hundreds of times.
The songs, that are supposed to engage our spirits in giving God his worth (worship – worthship) are written in such a way that they only engage our minds and our mouths. But some of these songs are written by men we have never met, in contexts and life stories we don’t know, using words that are outdated or unused by the whole congregation. How many times I’ve sung hymns with thee’s and thou’s in them in a country that doesn’t speak english….. lost count (it could be four). We have mind, body, soul and whilst our mind tries to figure out what the difference between thee and thou is and what hosanna means again, our mouths are fully engaged. Our mouths know these songs back to front and inside out. This is what makes our brain acrobatics possible.
The stance is that of a dead man strapped to a gurney. Hands by our sides, eyes and head directly targeted at the screen. No movement. Just rows and rows of dead people standing. Why did God give us bodies, if he was planning to have us stand completely still?
We sing ‘i Give my heart to you’ whilst our hearts are clearly someone elses. As we sing these powerful words, especially the ones we actually understand, there should be something happening in our hearts. Its physical posture of prostration. and if it isn’t in a humble posture, shouldn’t our times of worship have with in it, the space to get there.
If what we have here is the mouth engaged and nothing else, can we get rid of the words and still be in ‘worship’? Can we worship mute? Can we worship only singing 3 words for four hours?
Bodies. I’m not a dancer by trade, but the joy that explodes out of my heart occasionally means that my body goes into excited convulsions that is sometimes confusedly misinterpreted as dancing. The rhythms that beat through my veins every second of the day from listening to copious amounts of hardcore, funk and hip hop means that as soon as worship times get any kind of beat going my legs just start moving. Sometimes that even amplifies a little more into my feet coming of the ground and me just grooving away with Jesus. Not often, I will just throw caution to the wind and just let my body go. it jumps and skips around and does the weirdest of things.
In the midst of worshipping God, are our bodies allowed to love on, entertain, worship, enjoy – God? Or does God really expect us to stand still?
Occasionally in worship, God with process humility with me on my knees. Sometimes i won’t want to stand up so I lay on my face, or sit on my feet and journal. I’ve always dreamed of holding hands and worshiping. Sometimes we could easily go to sleep in worship because of Gods peace and comfort.
The shape and use of our bodies is powerful in connecting with God.
Minds. Our minds are the places where God drops a whole bunch of knowledge and revelation. This happens a lot for me in worship because i have given God a kind-of, extra anointed place to move. This is where we speak a whole bunch to God, this is also where we can get very distracted, because its easy to go on side tangents in there. But how do we engage our minds outside of, the words our mouths know off by heart?
Meditating on the words. ‘I am worth dying for, so you did’ – This statement wigs my mind out. God knows that I am worth dying for because he did. If you sing those words over and over and let God download a whole bunch of things, our mind easily engages more so, i believe, then singing a 8 verse song with words we don’t understand that we know off by heart.
Making our own. Making our own stories, songs, lyrics, proclamation, melody. It takes an engagement with heart, mind and soul. Like a jazz musician who knows all the notes of his instrument, but gets to choose which to use when, we know Gods story, we know our story, and we get to choose how to respond. Use the words of better poets, use words that don’t make sense, use spiritual groanings, use the same word over and over again. ENGAGE. ENGAGE ALL.
Create alongside God. I have watched a lovely lady paint through a worship session. Getting words and pictures from God she created this amazing work of art that encouraged and prophetically encourage a large crowd of people. I have listened to amazing musicians make up worship on the spot, dances, back flips – God is the creator and we are his mini-me’s God loves when we make stuff, and likes it even more when we make stuff with him and for him.
Colour, I grew up in a church building that was literally a white shoe box – and my experience is not unique. We wear black and white, we carry brown bibles and sit in khaki chairs. The first time i saw a flag waver in church I sniggered. The first time i saw worshipping fire twirlers i was in awe. The first time i saw a ribbon gymnast twirling in the air i was confused but inspired. Our sessions of worship can proclaim large truths through colour and texture. Walk into a orthodox church and you are inundated with art and smell. God gave us senses to sense things. To taste feel smell see hear.
Imagine Gods heart for a worship session with no words, just our hearts and minds and bodies engaged? Imagine one with only words, no music, no dancing.
Imagine a group, getting together with no agenda, only to worship the living God who rescued us all from death. Making every little bit up. Going for as long as they needed and ending when they felt too.
Heaven is going to be sweet. But heaven on earth would be even sweeter at this stage.