Answer: “It might lead to dancing.”
With apologies to my Baptist brothers and sisters in the Lord – that right there is funny. And believe me, as a Lutheran Seminary student, I laugh just as hard at a good Lutheran joke. We all have our denominational and generational and locational (is that a word?) idiosyncrasies that set us apart.
This joke obviously has nothing to do with dancing as an act of worship, but it still reminded me of the differences between us as evangelicals. With all of our differences in emphasis and practice, we do have one thing in common, regardless of denomination, age, or locale… the tension in our corporate worship experiences of balancing reverence and celebration, dignity and joy, obedience and freedom.
In our churches, we are inviting human beings into the presence of God. We are witnesses in our worship gatherings of a beautiful and powerful collision of the hearts of men and the holiness of God. There is confrontation, brokenness, proclamation of what is true, forgiveness of sins, reverence and FREEDOM.
We are witnesses of the supernatural when we experience the relational presence of God. The fact that we can stand in the presence of the Holy Creator God – all powerful and righteous King of Kings – and yet be honest before Him about our sin and our deep need for His grace – THAT is FREEDOM.
And sometimes, it makes me want to dance.
Yesterday in our Historical Books class, my Seminary brothers and I were walking through 2 Samuel, and the story of David, the new King of Israel. There is a great story in chapter 6, verses 12-23, about David dancing before the Lord and before all the people of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is being returned to Israel from the Philistines. It was a powerful symbol of God’s presence and blessing. This was a moment in history of profound meaning for God’s people. And as the Ark was being brought into David’s city, verse 14 says:
“David danced before the Lord with all His might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.”
Think of a linen ephod as the official loincloth of the priests. Instead of dressing in His royal attire, representing his position of authority, David was dressed and functioning as a priest – a mediator between God’s people and the Almighty. He was unashamedly celebrating the return of God’s presence and favor with wild abandon… and he didn’t care who was watching. The dance was “before the Lord.” It was for Him.
As he danced wildly below, his wife Michal looked at the window, and saw his undignified behavior, and she despised him for it. Her husband was making a fool of himself, and it reflected badly on her. When she confronted him, David said:
“It was before the Lord… I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”
From that day forward, verse 23 says, Michal was barren. God’s judgment rested not on David for his lack of religious decorum, but on his wife Michal for her concern with outward appearances.
I have no idea what your Sunday morning experience looks like. You might be arm raisers, victory shouters, hand clappers, and dancers for all I know. Or, you may attend a church where clapping never happens, and the order of service is structured and reverent in a quieter, more “dignified” style. To both camps and the many variations inbetween, I say God bless you! Engage your heart with Lord’s truth and respond appropriately with obedience and thanksgiving. It’s not about the form, but about the substance of our worship. I’m a drummer, and I lead worship with a contemporary rhythm section almost every week in our church. But my roots are more traditional, and singing hymns with an organ allows me great freedom to express my love to God too. It’s not about the form.
And in the end, that’s the point of this post. It is OK to have a prefered style. I think God is reminding us here that what matters is not what our worship looks like, but whether it springs from an honest heart in response to the truth. Worship happens “before the Lord.” Sure, I believe there are posers in every church – trying to make it look right. But for those who are celebrating, crying out, or humbly remaining silent before Him… it is before the Lord. It is not meant for you. Every sacrifice is the Lord’s to judge, and the Lord looks at the heart.
If you belive that your prefered style of worship is the “correct” way to worship, I’m challenging you to rethink that belief.
“David Danced – Michal Watched” by David Steele
Michal was loyal
To everything royal
For she was the daughter of Saul.
But her husband was boorish
So awfully boorish
With simply no manners at all.
It was her fate
To marry a mate
Who had grown up with chickens and sheep
How to bring charm
To this boy from the farm
Was causing his queen to lose sleep.
Oh, she had to confess
He was a success,
In the eyes of the world, Dave was famous
But of how kings comport
Themselves when in court
He remained a complete ignoramus.
David’s heart soared
And he danced to the Lord
In a manner more free than refined.
And his poor little wife
Got the shock of her life
So she gave him a piece of her mind.
“I don’t care a smidgen
About your religion
As long as it’s solemn and chaste
But the way you’re behaving
With arms wildly waving
Is shockingly lacking in taste.”
“If you must raise
Your spirit in praise,
Please see that it’s soothing and calm.
The Lord I am sure
Would really prefer
Something more like the 23rd Psalm.”
Then God’s anointed
He knew he had nary a chance
Of ever persuadin’
This prim, regal maiden
That the Lord is a lover of dance.
Churches these days
Talk a lot about praise
And the Joy that accomp’nies Good News
But don’t tap your feet
Or get out of the seat
For Michal still lurks in the pews.
“with apologies to my baptist brothers… :: david danced, michal watched” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.