From July 18, 2014
by Pastor Cliff
There is an astonishing picture in 2 Samuel 6. The king of Israel worships God to the limit. There came a point when praying, singing, lyres and harps, and liturgy were not enough. David led Israel in a dance of worship. Twice the text reads that David danced with all his might. This dancing wasn’t common to worship in the tabernacle, or later in the Temple and synagogue. But on this day David danced his way into the heart of God. He was the king of the dance, joined by thousands of his subjects.
What are we to make of this worship event?
As I write this I am aware that change is always sweeping through the church and worship is usually at the center of the storm. Worship should bring us together but it can have the opposite effect. Sometimes our best efforts to come together miscarry into controversy and argument. At home we have family meals to bring parents and children together at least one time each day, but often we let arguments fracture the peace. In business, we have company picnics for fun and fellowship, and fights break out. I read about a minister who married a couple who telephoned him during the honeymoon and begged him to tear up their marriage license! Human nature and subjectivity work to separate, not unite us.
Each of us has a subjective view of worship that comes from our understanding of the Scriptures, our idea of what pleases God, the example of Jesus, and our personal experiences. These assorted views can create rifts between us. So what exactly is worship and how do we make sure it doesn’t fracture the Christian community?
First, worship is in the substance and not the style. Jesus taught the woman at the well that a time was coming when the place would be unimportant, and that God seeks those who worship in spirit and in truth.
Second, worship is to please God and not self. David embarrassed his family with his worship dance. His own wife denounced him. But God seemed to be pleased. So, if I worship in a way that suits me but doesn’t please God, what good is it?
Third, worship is both planned and spontaneous. David planned everything about that day – the music, the sacrifices, the installation service. But what he didn’t plan made it unique. We know that planning is essential for proper worship. Lack of planning is a serious problem. But rigid planning that stifles spontaneity is also a problem.
I am not naďve. I know that new sects and denominations will emerge to please the peculiar tastes in worship. Some want hymns while others want choruses. Some want sound systems with digital accompaniment while others want organs. Some want a cappella music while others want instrumental music. Some want a choir while others want a worship team.
There’s a story about a shop that advertised, “We fix everything.” A preacher asked them to fix a cracked egg, the last egg laid by the last living California Condor who had died the day before. The clerk in the store said, “I’m sorry, we can’t fix this egg. Do you have anything else we might fix for you?” The preacher thought a moment and said, “Can you fix the conflict between the traditional worship people and the contemporary worship people in my church?” The clerk conferred with his supervisor and said, “Can we look at that egg again?”
So where will it all end?
I’m not a prophet but I believe the worst is past. I predict we will all get used to the changes occurring in worship and settle down for awhile. The church has divided more often because of worship than it has because of doctrine. But worship shouldn’t create this kind of division, because Jesus described the parameters of worship very broadly, with much room for difference in the middle and on the right and the left. He said that God seeks those who will worship him in spirit and truth. If we will worship in a way that is scriptural and appropriate, while being tolerant, patient, and appreciative of the diverse ways people feel led to worship, we should find some solid ground to build on.
A young woman spoke of her relationship to Christ. Others preceded her telling of their “walk with the Lord.” She said that her relationship with Christ was more than a walk, it was a dance, because in a dance someone leads and someone follows. “The Lord leads me in my dance with him.” In her eyes, Jesus is King of the dance.
Remember that King David was criticized for his worship. He went home to the hurtful speech of his wife, who tongue-lashed him for being undignified, for dancing in his underwear before the servant girls. David replied, “I will celebrate before the Lord and I will become even more undignified than this (2 Samuel 6:21). Thanks, David. To us, you will always be the king of the dance.
See you at church on Sunday!